Wine List Confidential: Veraz at The Barcelona EDITION

Douglas Blyde heads to The Barcelona EDITION hotel to give Veraz a visit. Instead of finding a culinary homage to Catalonia, he discovers a series of “challenging” dishes that put him in mind of the works of Picasso.

Located a zigzag from the Picasso Museum in Barcelona’s El Born district so perfect for playing spot the gargoyle, the sleek 100-bedroom EDITION hotel maintains a “gilded minimalism” which “suits” the Catalan capital “to a tee” according to Michelin, while A Hotel Life rightly praised the photographs at ground floor eatery and bar, Veraz. These capture “artists, dancers, actors, bullfighters [and] musicians by Spanish photographers (mostly women).” Meanwhile, the soundtrack brings energy, featuring Blondie’s Live It Up, and In Too Deep (Franc Moody).

Drinks

Veraz’s wine list was adopted, and until the consultancy recently culminated, adapted, by David Seijas, charming head sommelier of El Bulli for over a decade. Intended to be “easy-going” given the aim is “not to be the most expensive” list in Barcelona, Seijas’ selection includes a quintet of good value wines from his acclaimed Gallina de Piel project, reaped from Penedès, Navarra, and Ribeiro.

Accessed via a QR code, the selection opens with Cavas, including Codorníu’s Ars Collecta Grand Rosé Gran Reserva Pinot Noir, Xarel·Lo, and Trepat, followed by the method ancestral Partida de Creus XL, then sparklers belonging to the sluggish to pronounce CORPINNAT faction. Meaning “heart of Penedès”, such bottles including Enoteca Brut Nature 2002 from the venerable Gramona must be crafted from organic or biodynamic grapes grown in Penedès and aged a minimum of 18 months to belong to the classification. Champagnes, meanwhile, include Agrapart 7 Crus.

 

Still bins reflect the richness of Catalunya’s vineyards, ranging from Celler Solergibert Cabernet Reserva 2018 from Pla de Bages at €28 to Álvaro Palacios’ 2007 Colección Vila Viniteca 75 Aniversario Priorat (€435). From elsewhere in Spain, Palacios Remondo’s 2015 Quiñón de Valmira Garnacha from La Rioja will set you back €577, while the most expensive bottle on the list is Descendientes De J. Palacios’ La Faraona Corullón from Bierzo at €1,800, leaving Château Margaux 2003 in its slipstream by a full two Euros.

From elsewhere in the world, a bottle of 2013 A. J. Adam Hotberg GC Riesling from the Mosel costs €75. Other territories include Santorini for Assyrtiko Cuvée No. 15 (€72), while Milan Nestarec Klasika’s Moravian orange interloper Riesling costs €48. Fortunately, the €769 figure quoted for a bottle of Hamilton Russell Vineyards Chardonnay 2016 from South Africa was confirmed as a misprint.

Dishes

Veraz’s core chef, Pedro Tassarolo typically focuses on agreeable-sounding, conventional grills, such as the 40-day dry-aged rib-eye sourced from a dedicated butcher at Mercat de Santa Caterina with its nest-like wooden decorative frames, located beside this sharp-fronted hotel, as well as slightly braver tapas in the form of Gillardeau oysters, also charcoal-grilled. However, drawn like a magpie to the new, we booked in for the just launched, four-course menu devised by Martina Puigvert, who is the current holder of Michelin’s “Special Young Chef Award” at the two-starred, green-starred, Les Cols where she cooks with her mother, Fina Puigdevall. This is priced at €45 for four courses compared to €165 for around twenty courses at Les Cols itself, a two-hour drive north. This is scheduled to run alongside Tassarolo’s carte until 5th May, although we cannot see guests concerned with nourishment, not punishment, bothering with it for that long.

Given Les Cols’ dishes landed here after Seijas’ consultancy concluded, pairings tonight were enacted by another David, the helpful and charming manager, David Moscosco, who visited Les Cols pre-pandemic. Dinner began with very promising, highly truffled butter, enriched with pork fat, to be slathered on excellent bread. And then the curtains sadly opened on Puigvert’s quartet, commencing with the first of two liquid dishes. “A subtle sweetness” comprised “textures” of onion, including a roast strip arranged almost like the nose of a knock-off Picasso, with an eye of liquorice syrup. The main issue, alas, was not of slightly infantilising presentation, nor flavour, but temperature given the earthenware bowls for this and the subsequent dish conducted heat away from the soup fast, rendering the overall mouthfeel not dissimilar to that of Angel Delight, albeit without the keen to please reward of the famous powdered dessert mix. Alongside, Moscosco poured Seijas’ own Ikigall 2022, a modest blend of Xare·lo, Malvasía, and Moscatel which gently attempted to burrow through though lacked the horsepower to do so.

Next, “from the henhouse right to the dish” comprised slow-cooked egg, and pools of green pea, red pepper, and carrot, within a potato and tuna emulsion, although the original dish appears also to contain black truffle. Although it was interesting to taste the sheer flavour of each component, once these had been inevitably stirred together, the effect was of ectoplasmic albumen. Bodega Menaje’s Verdejo, also from 2022, had slightly broader shoulders than the previous white, though appears memorable at the time of writing more for its artistic snail label than contents, reinforcing how hard it is, perhaps, to match liquid with liquid. The brioche alongside the chicken coop dish was, however, feather-light, reinforcing just how good the pastry team is at the hotel.

If dishes thus far had been slightly challenging, though with engaging aspects, then the next act felt like a dare from the transplanted Les Cols kitchen to Veraz’s diners. “A salty fish always present in the mountain cuisine” comprised, here near the sea, albeit translucent salt cod fillet, brandade in sticky fish skin sauce, with raisins and an identifiable clear discharge. The olfactory effect evoked a high hamster cage. What might be a brief, heartfelt moment on the 20-course menu of Les Cols to honour a paisan-type dish seemed to have become ungainly when dialled up to main course proportions in central Barcelona. Curiously, the wine poured alongside seemed to have been selected at random, being the substantial, tannic, Viña Pomal 2015 Reserva Rioja, which mercifully managed to eclipse the more shrill aspects of the brandade. It was thrilling to watch the table of American guests adjacent attempt to befriend, even intellectualise, the dish, though they too left the majority for the dishwasher to deal with.

Finally, “from the vegetable garden and served as a dessert” involved several takes on the humble carrot, including whole and hard to cut, and slices flavoured with cinnamon. Although the whole dish had a faintly mushroom-meets-meat undertone, the sliced carrot itself proved pleasantly festive-seeming given its spicing, which was rather nice when taken in combination with Codorniu’s celebratory Ars Collecta 2020 Rosé. However, this reviewer is getting fed up with the arrogance of overtly savoury puddings.

Last word

Our experience tonight brought to mind the words of one of the UK’s best, most independent, though least acclaimed, restaurant writers, Chris Pople when he visited El Bulli fifteen summers ago. Then, he compared his albeit 20-plus course journey in Roses to the White Album by The Beatles. “It’s one-third brilliant and listenable (Blackbird, While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Dear Prudence), one-third challenging and experimental, but still just about accessible (Happiness Is a Warm Gun, Julia, Glass Onion) and one-third bizarre, unlistenable trash (Wild Honey Pie, Why Don’t We Do It In The Road?, Revolution 9)…”

The brilliance today stemmed from Moscosco’s steady, considered service, while the certainly “special” food playlisted by Puigdevall veered from challenging and tone deaf, to the culinary equivalent of unlistenable. We wonder, therefore, as hinted, if the venue will be able to sustain these odd dishes until the summer, or whether Tassarolo will be allowed to take back full control of his kitchen and menu before then.

Best for

  • Cocktails at Punch Room by Diogo Ferreira
  • Bespoke Padró i Família vermouths
  • Regional Spanish wine, including sherry

Veraz at The Barcelona EDITION – Av. de Francesc Cambó, 14, Ciutat Vella, 08003 Barcelona, Spain; +34 936 26 33 51; editionhotels.com

This article originally appeared on the drinks business.

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