I recently came back from stunning Barcelona; where perfect weather, wonderful sights and fabulous food made me believe I could quite happily never leave the City or need to be anywhere else in the world. Of all my wonderful eating experiences, the most memorable shall long remain my dinner at Ferran Adria's new 'Tickets' eatery... Indeed the hottest 'Ticket' in town.The restaurant is situated in the 'Para Lel' area, mainly residential, away from the main touristy parts of town. Fortunately we stumbled across it after a long lunch one day and begged them to turn my table of 2 into a table of 4 so some very good friends who also happened to be in town, could join our little dinner adventure too. I always maintain, that food tastes infinitely better when shared with friends... not to mention the fact that you can try far more dishes than if there were just 2 of you! Very fortunately, all our flirting and banter seemed to do the trick and they kindly accommodated our larger party for dinner.The restaurant itself doesn't look particularly glam or showy and in actual fact it does rather look like a West-end theatre ticket desk from the outside, except for the bizarrely attired doorman who is dressed like a circus ringmaster. Could this go some way to explaining the name and concept of the eatery? Not yet. Inside there is an open kitchen but also 4 other food stations, where Chefs are busily creating dishes using special giant tweezers, using sauces, powders, knives and trickery. Candy floss trees are being made and dotted with edible flowers, berries and grated lime zest and glitter. There is magic afoot here and suddenly you feel like a kid in a candy shop or even better like a winning golden ticket holder in Charlie's (not just chocolate) factory... Or maybe this 'Ticket' is Ferran Adria's marvellous food factory.
The menu is a simple paper leaflet with perhaps 5 or so dishes under several seperate headers; Snacks & El Picoteo, The Oysters, Los Ibericos Joselitos (Iberico Ham), Els Xuxis (meaning mouthfuls), Tapetes Del Mar y Del Tierra (Little Tapas' from land and sea), To Finish (larger savoury dishes), Pastres y Golosinas (Desserts and Candies). Our waiter was the very funny and flamboyant Xavier, who ensured that we don't refer to him as 'excuse me, hello, please or sir...' making sure we called him 'Chavvy' I'm aware that in Catalan it should be 'Xavi' but when it is said, it sounds like that ever-familiar English reference to the much hated Burberry-clad breed of folk that populate our nation, the Chavs. So 'Chavvy' it is!We are told how we must order (i.e. only in the order it appears on the menu), we are told how the food will arrive and later as each course arrives we are told specifically which tool we must use to eat the dish. A tad patronising, but I guess they wouldn't show any objection to me abandoning the provided pair of giant 'Tickets' tweezers (which you are reminded cost 20 Euros and can be purchased upon departure) but if I want to use a fork, I will use a fork and if I feel it best to use my fingers, then I know no one on God's earth could stop me. What I did find genuinely annoying is that I don't really drink wine (only dessert wine really) and I didn't want Cava or beer and despite their being a bar next door owned by them, they weren't able to magic me up a Mojito or the like. This was a tad disappointing and so I stuck to water and a syrupy glass of Lustao sherry throughout the night.
The first few dishes arrived in quick successcion and as we were starving, this was a good thing. 'Mini air-bags' stuffed with Manchego cheese and Iberian bacon, were delicate little mouthfuls of crispy air-puffed wafer filled with saliva-inducing combination of cheese and Iberian bacon; silly name but absolutely delicious. 'Jamon' de Toro: Home-salted Tuna belly painted with Iberian cured ham fat was curiously delicious. Your head tells you it is fish and yet because of the coating of ham fat, it really does make it hard to determine exactly what it is. This is when you know you are being "Adria'd" somehow; your mouth is telling you something completely different to your brain. 'Air-baguette' de Pernil (Pernil being the Catalan word for ham or Jamon) tiny little baguettes arrived beautifully wrapped in Iberian ham but when you bit into it, the pastry is not at all as expected and actually crumbles in a very delicate and pleasing manner in your mouth. Next arrivals were marinated salt cod with tomato nectar and black olive powder. I was worried about the punginess of this dish, given that it was essentially acidulated, uncooked salt cod (or Bacalao) but it was absolutely wonderful; the gently salted cod was a perfect marriage for the sweetness of the tomato nectar and the crunchy toast bases and olive toppings made each mouthful a revelation for me. 'Liquid Ravioli' were a strange and interesting idea; a gelatinous cheese ravioli (of sorts) that exploded in the mouth delivering a cold version of, well, a pasta-less raviolo. Tomato seeds and anchovies from the Bay of Biscay were not a dish of my choosing, although my dining companions loved it and of course it did seem ever so pretty and delicately arranged. No wonder they use tweezers, I couldn't possibly conceive of putting such delicate dishes together without a pair in my hand! Grilled razor clams with ginger, cayenne pepper and lemon 'air' were an interesting creation. Topped with what could only be described as a foam or 'spuma' if you're posh, this was the least pleasant of all the dishes. The lemon foam had an overwhelming soapy quality I would liken to Persil soap powder with abrasive lemon pungency. I love razor clams but found the lemon foam overpowered every other aspect and made the dish very unpleasant.Lobster 'unilateral' cooked with spices 'Al Andalus' was a simplebut lovely dish. A whole split, rather small, lobster with a buttery spice that was very enjoyable indeed, tail meat, claw meat, the lot... all very delicious, no trickery involved whatsoever. Nice to see that some dishes are straightforward; a brave step away from El Bulli style of cooking. Orange salade with Gordal olives, cumin and mint came enrobed in a strangely familiar dressing which we realised was not actually the Gordal olives themselves but rather the olive juice which was used to make a simple and very effective salad dressing. Something we can all recreate, I should think. Rabbit ribs with sparkling garlic mayonnaise (their words, not mine) was like the KFC of rabbit! Superbly crunchy and crispy outer coating with a punchy garlic mayonnaise. Not sure what the 'sparkling' bit was about, probably a reference to a little addition of Cava, perhaps? We may never know. White asparagus with black truffle juice and Iberian ham were lovely and juicy with a perfect pairing of little nuggets of Jamon and an earthy black truffle vinaigrette.The final savoury dish was the confit pork in olive oil with pork rib sauce and Iberian boiled ham; although a nice dish, this was by far the most plain dish of this evening's rather varied menu. It was nice enough but definitely not a show stopper. The desserts on the other hand were exactly that; 'Show stoppers'. Curious little concoctions in every shape, size and colour and the constant production of these intriguing candy floss trees made me crave dessert more than I have ever done in my entire life. Cubed watermelon cocktail, soaked in Sangria was simply more than words could say. A perfectly crisp, fruity, cleansing mouthful with a nice hit of Sangria... I couldn't think of a better dessert for a summer's day. But it was the 'Rottle de Crema Catalana' that kept getting my attention; pastry horns filled with Crema Catalana and crusted in sugar and a smattering of cinnamon. I thought they would be heavy pastry bites and filled with a heavy Crema filling, but the lightness was incredible. In fact, so light were they that I manage to inhale mine within seconds. Absolutely monumental! A dessert I will remember (and crave) for a long while yet.
The last two dishes were rather less serious and more fun than the the other two desserts. Cold and hot chocolate fritters (I do love a good contradiction!) Little round fried donuts filled with a ball of hard frozen chocolate ice cream that stays in tact until you bite into it, when it suddenly explodes in a burst of chocolatey goodness in your mouth. Last but by no means least, my candy floss tree or actually 'Arbol de algodon de Tickets' - most likely set to become the signature way to end your meal and at 5 Euros, why the hell not? Not much to say about the tree other than the number of flavours they had managed to get on this tree were mind-boggling. Lemon zest, lime zest, redcurrants, blackberries, blueberries, wild strawberries, edible flowers... it wasn't just a tree, it was a feat of culinary engineering that was done with such precision, you know you would happily have paid 20 Euros for it, without batting an eyelid.Wow. What an experience. I'm not even sure how on earth I managed to put it into words! The theme behind tickets became more and more apparent as the evening drew on; Cabaret posters on the wall, candy floss, circus lighting with Jamon suspended from the ceiling... it starts to make sense. Still, it is rather bizarre but only in the most pleasing of ways. The prices are surprisingly reasonable; after all the food that we managed to quaff, coupled with many glasses of wine, cava, beer and Sherry, the menu + service didn't amount to more than 60 Euro per person! A bargain if you ask me!
I would love to be able to come back here next year when the menu changes and see what else 'Tickets' will be offering, but I strongly suspect that I only managed to secure this booking by sheer luck and that once the reviews get out for 'Tickets' the world will want a slice of this all-singing, all-dancing, circus exravaganza that is Ferran Adria's newest sensation... Tickets.