Good news for lovers of French bistro cuisine: two Parisian entrepreneurs, Julien and Valérie Boillot, have set out to conquer the most discerning palates in Barcelona with their restaurant, L’Atelier. Their goal is to offer traditional French bistro cuisine that's simple, quick and very tasty. That might sound like quite the challenge, but there's also a gap in the market to fill since Jean-François Ferrié's La Maison du Languedoc closed down. During my visit, I ordered from the well-priced set lunch menu, which doesn't feature every dish on the main menu, of course, but Vincent Tommasini, the young but experienced Catalan-French chef, promises there will be increasingly more options. On the regular menu, dishes that are worth special mention because they're so well-executed include the starter of duck rillettes – tender, well-crafted and served with excellent bread.
For the main course, I just had to try the onglet, which was a great choice – a juicy cut of beef with glazed shallots and very French mashed potatoes with butter and fresh parsley that brings to mind the extravagance of Paris. Another of the sure-fire hits is the steak tartare, the most emblematic dish of a French bistro. Tommasini promises to add other dishes to both the set lunch menu and the main menu, such as ‘blanquette de veau' (veal stew); ‘cassoulet’, a rich bean dish from Toulouse; and ‘petit salé aux lentilles’, a simple but delicious winter dish with salted pork rib and lentils. But you'll also find a superb beef stew called ‘pot-au-feu', as well as loads of items from the wonderful world of offal.
The servers, led by Céline, are magnificent and know their trade well. Everything runs smoothly, and the wine menu – they have good prices by the glass – is more than satisfactory in its variety, range and prices. The desserts consist of good French pastries and, of course, include an excellent plate of carefully chosen and well-presented cheeses.