I've just spent two weeks in Barcelona for work; you'd think in a city so full of restaurants you'd try to get to as many as possible, but actually I enjoyed Bar del Pla so much, I went twice.
We experienced both sides of the spectrum; perched at the bar, and sat down properly in the back dining room. No prizes for guessing where had the better ambience, but since both times they were full and we had a short wait, we weren't being picky. Pan con tomate, a staple of the Catalonia region, was rich with pulp and twinkling with salt crystals. A squid ink croquette was startling in colour, but as good as any I've had; melting inside, crisp outside. Long, thin peppers, blistered and hot replaced the usual padrons. These were spicier than their more squat counterparts, and we spluttered often.
I'd never have ordered the 'mushrooms and wasabi' if I hadn't been so vegetable-deficient by this stage of the trip. Man I am glad we did. Chestnut mushrooms, shaved incredibly thinly and served raw, mingled with pieces of strawberry, curls of a sharp cheese that might have been manchego, and slivered shiso leaves - all drizzled with a wasabi-scented dressing. It sounds completely bonkers doesn't it? It was so, so good. A simple tomato salad featured firm, large chunks of the sweetest fruit, heightened by great olive oil and sherry vinegar. We flicked more salt crystals off.
Asparagus were grilled until tender, a smokiness imbued within them. Romesco sauce, made with red peppers, almonds, bread and olive oil blitzed to a coarse, red paste is another Catalonian speciality, and added richness to the vegetables. We devoured this. I'm not sure the cress added much (does it ever?).
From the larger 'granny's cuisine' dishes, I only ordered this dish because @jmdale01, who'd recommended me the restaurant, said to; on the menu, it was labelled 'Iberican Cheek Café Paris' and it didn't sound particularly exciting (more baffling...), but the perfectly cooked cheeks, fork-tender and gelatinous were in its' braising juices that tasted lightly curried. Almond-scented croutons topped the dish which added a surprising, slightly sweet dimension, while the potatoes remained al dente, ideal for swiping up extra sauce. This was a real highlight of the whole trip.
'¡¡¡A Tapa of Tripe!!!!' was how the menu described this cast-iron dish of, well, tripe. Cooked with chorizo, the pieces were gooey and frilly in the mouth. I liked it, though less so when it repeated on me through the night. My companions were apprehensive, crying off with mumbles of being overly full to take it on.
Both times I was surprised how cheap the bill was; with ample of their delicious white rioja and tip, we barely scratched £25 a head. Well worth a visit. Or two.
Bar Del Pla
Carrer Montcada 2,