Cal Pep

cp.12.0726.21.crema

WANT: The best tapas, seafood, and steak in a Barcelona

Occasion: Perfect for a casual dinner that is guaranteed to impress your date or friends

Neighborhood: El Born / La Ribera

Location: Plaça de les olles, núm. 8, 08003, Barcelona

Website

Phone: +34 933 107 961

Email: calpep@calpep.com

Reservations: Only accepted for groups of 4 – 20 people, call +34 933 107 961 or email calpep@calpep.com

Hours:

Monday: 7:30 pm – 11:30 pm

Tuesday – Friday: 1 pm – 3:45 pm7:30 pm – 11:30 pm

Saturday: 1 pm – 3:45 pm

Sunday, Saturday dinner, Monday lunch, holidays, and last three weeks of August: closed

Prices: Expensive (around €50 for dinner and wine)

Menu: None

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I had exceptionally high expectations for Cal Pep before coming here. Travel guides, as well as online reviews, are pretty unanimous in their praise of the restaurant. All of my friends who had already dined here could not help but rave about the place. When I first went, I was confused what all of the fuss was about. There was a large crowd waiting in the modest bar area, breathing down diners’ necks as they ate.

I was surprised to find out that the long line was for getting seats at the lively, packed bar. Travel and Leisure explains that “the counter’s the place to be, with the burners six feet away, in the heat and excitement of the kitchen.” In American culture, eating dinner at the bar of a restaurant is generally regarded with distaste, only acceptable for solo diners or desperate customers who can’t get a table. By contrast, Spanish people tend to prefer eating at the counter where they can see and interact with the chefs preparing their tapas. When my two roommates and I explained to the staff that we wanted to eat at a table, they were able to seat us immediately in the back room. So, at one of the seven tables in the cozy room surrounded by brick walls and wine bottles, our love affair with Cal Pep began.

Virtual tour:

The waiter began by explaining the concept of having no menu. Cal Pep’s website also justifies why it lacks this essential element of traditional restaurants: “We work every day with the fresh products of the day. For that reason, every day we have different products in the kitchen which makes it very difficult to develop a set menu.” Accordingly, just like at its sister restaurant Passadis del Pep, we let the skilled Cal Pep team curate our meal for us, bringing out plate after plate of some of the city’s best tapas to share. My favorite dishes include the tuna tartare, fried calamari, fried artichoke, and the steak with potatoes. Cal Pep’s fried artichoke was the tastiest artichoke dish I have ever had. My IMG_6859roommates and I agreed that it might even be better than french fries, which is saying a lot if you know us. The best dish in our opinion, and the dish that keeps us coming back to the restaurant time and again, is the steak. Although chef and owner Pep Manubens is known for his “impeccable Mediterranean seafood cooked in a simple manner retaining all its flavor,” this meat dish deserves the same, if not more, credit. The mouthwatering steak pieces accompanied by sliced potatoes are seasoned and cooked to perfection. Manubens once again has somehow transformed a simple dish into a craving-worthy plate and I highly recommend telling your waiter at the beginning of your meal that you want this.

In addition to serving some of the best tapas in Barcelona, Cal Pep also offers a friendly atmosphere to guests. One amiable waiter – who I have had the pleasure of getting every time – jokes around with diners, pretending to tip their water and wine glasses each time he comes to the table. With Manubens’ culinary magic and friendly staff , it is no surprise that Cal Pep is rated as “extradorindary to perfection” by Zagat consumer surveys, which gave its food an impressive rating of 27/30. The restaurant guide advises, “Be prepared to line up for a seat at the extremely long counter, but the Screen Shot 2015-04-06 at 10.50.38 PMhighly rewarding, unbelievable meal is worth the wait and the splurge.”

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