L'Espina is a restaurant that's just opened its doors and is already giving us plenty of reasons to get to know it well. It's been a long and arduous road getting to this point for the L'Espina family, and part of that is down to its opening up on a spot where a neighbourhood Chinese restaurant did over 30 years of business.
And is there anything more original, especially in an area where more than 50 types of Asian restaurants have opened in recent years, as is the case around the Sagrada Família? So, Javier and his wife, after trying out a score of local spots in the area, battled bureaucracy to renovate a space that had been doomed. Despite its rookie status, L'Espina will win you over with its warmth and the simplicity of its cuisine made with quality local products.
The daily set lunch menu will set you back just €8.90 and you'll get well-made yet unpretentious dishes in the style of Catalan cuisine and fresh market cooking – and this is the genuine article, not just a marketing plan. The day we discovered the place, we decided to try a combination of the set lunch and regular menus because we really wanted to try the botifarra sausage with chickpeas that didn't come with the set lunch. We were glad we did: the chickpeas were peeled, meaty, not mealy at all, and incredibly tasty. It's a simple dish, sure, and typically Catalan, like habas a la catalana, also treated with the same care and respect as their fellow legumes. The de rigueur croquettes were an excellent starter, crispy on the outside and done to perfection on the inside.
But the star dish of the day, which was on the set menu, was a chicken chilindrón (cooked with tomatoes and red peppers). The generous portion of chicken was right on the money for juiciness, flavour and tenderness. There wasn't too much pepper, and just enough of the well-selected skinless tomato to soak up with bread, which also gets top marks for quality.
It's nice to find a place that seems like it's on the right road with its first steps out of the gates. If they stick to their philosophy of serving 'a simple, healthy meal with flavour that stands out in the neighbourhood', they should be able to enjoy the same success as they are in this first stage. They're open for dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights, and Sundays at lunchtime there are the excellent cannelloni. Be sure to try the paella and rice dishes on Thursdays.