Saturday, December 05, 2009

Espai Sucre - Dessert restaurant in Barcelona

Since I first heard about this dessert only restaurant in Barcelona I have been dying to visit, or the one in New York. That's right, folks, DESSERT ONLY!! So when a work trip to Spain finished on a Friday I decided to extend my stay by 24 hours and fly to Barcelona to eat at this mythical restaurant where your tasting menu keeps serving up dishes that are sweet. I was also pretty keen to get to Oriol Balaguer and some of the other hot chocolatiers of Barcelona.

I emailed Espai Sucre the day of my arrival and was delighted with their prompt reply that yes, they could offer me a table for one.

When I arrived I could see why it was so easy to get a booking. There was only one other table occupied in the room, with an English couple. Hmmm, ok. Fair enough, dessert only restaurants aren't going to be EVERYONE'S cup of tea. (I suppose...)

The Maitre'd was very pleasant and had perfect English (and Spanish, French and Portuguese). There are tasting menus with savoury courses as well but I took the view that olives and beetroot featuring in the ingredients counted as my veg and I should just go for the BIG dessert menu (5 courses). The Maitre'd even let me switch one of the desserts for another one. Disappointingly, the restaurant appears to be sponsored by Cocoa Barry and, while I don't dislike Cocoa Barry chocolate it's not spectacular so I also steered clear of the Chocolate Menu. The one chocolate dessert that appeared later made me glad I did.

The first course had me so excited; interesting combinations with intense, fresh, fruit flavours with great contrast in textures. That's a liquorice foam you see below, the combination of apple, liquorice and salty yoghurt were superb.

“Marialuisa” cold soup with green apple and spicy yoghurt ice cream

Sadly, this dish was the exception to an otherwise ordinary “meal” as the courses got progressively more weird.

Red wine "baba",pear and saffron

This red wine sponge tasted like soggy, slightly bitter bread. The cubes were pear jelly and fried parmesan; the latter, sadly, were over-crisped and mostly just tasted burnt. The red wine sorbet was nice, as were the cubes of pear, but couldn't lift the sogginess of the centre piece.

"Idiazábal" cake with cherry + beet and black beer
This dish had one good component: the crumbled dry chocolate cookie, though it was full of cacao nibs so I didn't finish (so I might have a hope of sleeping later). The cherry layer underneath was pretty nice too, but lost with the white oblong that was a smoked cheese cake. Ick. Equally ick was the quenelle of beetroot sorbet, tasting of, surprise, surprise, frozen beetroot juice. Why would you? The black beer foam also was just as described, but again did nothing for the dish. Where was the thought behind this? A selection of bizarre components that together became worse than their individual parts.

Extra virgin olive oil cake, white peach, green olive and “San Simón”
Another failure of soggy cake. The peach jelly cube and peach sorbet were sublime though. Why the chef thought a green olive caramel crisp, green olive slick of sauce and goats cheese cream would add to this, I have no idea.

Empyreumatic 2
This dish was a feature of coffee, tea and chocolate. The earl grey granita tasted like old tea that had stewed for too long, the crisp was burnt and the milk chocolate mousse just highlighted that they should have opted for a better quality chocolate than Cocoa Barry. Sigh. I remember liking the jelly parts but I can't remember if they were coffee or liquorice. There was just way too much going on.

At least the petit fours had some highlights. The bayleaf and pineapple slushie was delicious and the black pepper marshmallow was excellent too. I wasn't so keen on the curried biscuit.

Sadly, my excitement for eating in a dessert only restaurant had been punctured by reality. You would think if a restaurant if going to focus on sweets it would have some sensational offerings. My suggestion? Save your money and just order some extra desserts in one of Barcelona’s other fantastic restaurants. Maybe one of the heaving ones I walked past on my way to this barren space. Then you’ll get a better atmosphere as well.


Kavey said...

Eek, not appealing at all!

A few years ago in Bordeaux there was a simple restaurant near the language school we were attending - we ended up their for meals a few times, with our fellow students.

And they had this dessert buffet of miniature desserts, I think it was 10 euros back when that was approx £6. For as many as you wanted.

So for lunch I'd have a light starter from the regular menu and then that dessert buffet!

The desserts were miniature but top quality with beautiful little creme brulees, mousses, rum babas and all kinds of delights.


Jennifer said...

Now THAT sounds good!

I enjoyed more the cheeky tasting I got at the patisserie school in France a month before. And the desserts I got from Oriol Balaguer were incredible - that post still to come! Cest la vie - I was glad to have tried it for myself!