La Rambla de Poblenou, the grand, tree-lined boulevard that runs through the neighborhood of the same name, is populated by young families, groups of friends and chummy neighbors who have been seduced by the peaceful village atmosphere and the proximity of the beach. In this charming setting, we find El 58, also known by its French name, le cinquante-huit, recently opened on the ground floor of an old house – formerly a traditional bodega that sold bulk wine, and now one of the most delightful tapas bars in the area.
The bar’s owners, Jerome Misan, a Frenchman, and Amos Martínez, Catalan by way of Valencia, met while working together at Hotel Diagonal 00 in Barcelona, the former as lodging director and the latter as the executive chef. When Misan was looking to start his own personal project, he found in Martínez, with all his professional cooking experience (such as at Dos with the Torres twins, Monvinic with Sergi Meia, and ABaC with Xavier Pellicer), the perfect partner to join him on this adventure.
Misan has lived in El Clot and Poblenou for 16 years and knew it was the right location for the kind of place he wanted to open: a casual spot with excellent, thoughtfully prepared, uncomplicated food served in a warm atmosphere and at gentle prices (the menu del día is just €10).
Misan has decorated El 58 with comics and art. The sock-monkey-like stuffed red dolls – all named Quim – hanging from the walls and flying through the space were made by architect and artist Aleix Antillach. The usual scene here includes kids playing, young parents sampling tapas, and friends holding forth while clutching refreshing gin and tonics in the backyard (a glorious setting on fine spring days). Drinkers can refresh their vermuts with the old-school soda siphons that can be found throughout the bar.
Martínez has created a mix of traditional and contemporary tapas and platillos (little dishes to share, not strictly tapas) with some international touches (French and Asian, mainly). There are more than 30 different tapas listed on the blackboard, and from them, it’s clear that Martínez knows how to combine ingredients in ways that are not only felicitous but also surprising (in a good way, of course) and that he knows how to highlight the best qualities of each ingredient he uses.
The menu changes according to season – and sometimes the weather, even. With the arrival of warmer days, the traditional winter stews of butifarra and chickpeas have made way for lighter fare. Popular tapas include the salmon mini burgers, marinated fried chicken with wasabi-honey mayonnaise and the terrific patatas bravas, inspired by those of renowned restaurant Bohemic, made with a caramelized-garlic mayonnaise and another sauce of dried tomato, paprika, Tabasco and caramelized onion, among other ingredients. We also love the Andalusian-style eggplant, battered, fried and perfumed with honey and rosemary – it’s a dish that transports us straight to the Mediterranean.
Fish and seafood hold a prominent place on the menu, as should be the case in a restaurant so close to the beach. Martínez serves Japanese-inspired sashimi – silken slices of tuna, salmon and scallop – as well as salmon tataki and a delicate cod carpaccio pointed up by olives, trout eggs and orange. He also offers locally caught shark, which he marinates and fries to just the right tenderness and spices with cumin, a touch of smoked paprika and other spices.
We’ve only just scratched the surface on Martínez’s long list of tapas, and we look forward to returning to see what else he has cooking – as well as to soak up some sun in the backyard, gin and tonic in hand.
Editor’s note: To celebrate the our 2019 neighborhood guide, we will be republishing dispatches from the less-visited areas – like Poblenou – that our correspondents are planning to explore this year.