The bodega side of La Pubilla del Taulat’s split-personality operation is no ordinary wine shop. While one wall is lined with hundreds of bottles from all over Spain, it’s the wall opposite that commands attention, with its row of massive casks. After nearly disappearing over the last few decades, bulk wine is back. And though customers these days are more likely to tote their wine home in big plastic jugs, the garrafa, the straw-covered flask of old, is making a comeback too. Besides the cheap tariff, there’s another upside to buying wines in bulk: custom wine blending, straight from the cask.
Jesús López runs the bodega – and sells his own Catalan wines and cava there too – while his brother, Miguel, and Miguel’s husband, Toni, run the tapas bar adjacent. La Pubilla del Taulat was always a fixture in the Lopez brothers’ lives: the second owner of the bodega, which opened back in 1886, was Angel López, the brothers’ father. The shop has long been a kind of landmark in Poblenou, and Miguel and Jesús have devoted themselves to upholding that legacy. Their efforts will soon be recognized: the Barcelona city council is planning to award La Pubilla with a distinction given to historic shops: “Guapos Per Sempre” – Beautiful Forever.
The tapas part of the operation got its start in 1969, when Angel restored the space next to the bodega. Miguel helped out and learned to cook octopus and the other seafood specialties for which the tapas bar became known. He’s now in charge of the kitchen, while Toni works in the front of the house, making customers feel at home in the cheerful, easygoing dining room.
Locals still talk about the shellfish that made this place famous in the 1970s: big clams en conserva from the Atlantic, supplied by Lafuente, the family-run company that now runs another venerable shop in the city, Colmado Quilez. Among La Pubilla del Taulat’s most celebrated seafood offerings are octopus cooked Galician-style with olive oil, salt and paprika, wonderful Mediterranean sea snails with a fresh and simple vinaigrette of olive oil and lemon, fresh cockles, squid and cuttlefish and delicate salted shrimp, along with a variety of classic tapas. Everything is prepared and cooked to order just behind the bar.
The tapas bar’s latest attraction are the superb Cantabrian anchovies, a globe-trotting dish that combines the preserved fish montadito-style (stacked) with sun-dried tomatoes in a thrilling herb-scented olive oil vinaigrette on top of a slice of bread. The dish traveled from Italy to Argentina over a century ago, and then recently hop-scotched back to Europe. Miguel gets asked about this recipe frequently but has wisely kept silent on the topic.
Poblenou (“new village”) has always been associated with the factories and their workers that were the backbone of this neighborhood in the last century. Since then, it’s become known more for innovation (in the high-tech, communication and medical industries) and culture and has transformed into a quiet place to live, with the promise of ocean breezes just a five-minute walk away. Families, old neighbors, new office workers and young people gather in this gay-friendly venue to raise a glass of vermouth de la casa (enhanced with a few drops of bitter orange) over a few thoughtfully prepared dishes that speak of the nearby sea. And when they’ve downed the last of their drinks and mopped up the remaining crumbs, they might then return home with their own personalized garrafa of wine.