The Adrià Brothers of the once famed El Bulli have opened an unforgettable restaurant in Barcelona called Tickets. I would say the restaurant is a tapas bar with a modern gastronomy bent. The only bad thing I have to say about this ambitious restaurant is how difficult it is to get a reservation. You can only reserve online on their website, two months to the day. The tables fill up within seconds, and the site often crashes, so be persistence. Once you are in, it is easy sailing. This 1 Star Michelin, and top 50 worlds best (last year #42, this year #29), is not stuffy or pretentious. On the contrary, it is a casual, fun-filled, big top circus themed restaurant. It has the most innovative and tasty food that is prepared right in front of the diners. We were lucky enough to have a counter seat right in front of the chef de cuisine, and had an excellent vantage point for the prepping. You can choose between the a la carte menu or let the chef “surprise” you. There is no tasting menu, per se. We chose the surprise menu which was similar to an Omakase experience. Not every guest gets the same dishes. Each course arrives with an explanation and devouring instructions like: pop in your mouth, or two bites. Every single creation was filled with intrigue and exciting flavours. We did not have one disappointing dish.
The sommelier was knowledgeable and chose the perfect wine for us.
We had about 29 courses in all, including our desserts. We could have gotten more dishes if we desired, but as it was, we had to roll happily back to our hotel. I won’t mention every dish, as there were so many standouts, but I will give you a few of our highlights.
One is a special dish that originated at El Bulli – liquid olives that explode in your mouth with the most intense flavour! Every restaurant in Barcelona serves tomato bread, a toasted bread that is rubbed with fresh tomatoes, but none as fine as Tickets, theirs comes with thinly sliced Iberian ham. The air waffle made from basil, cheese and pine nuts was very good. The king crab salad presentation looked like a giant spider, served in a ceviche mayonnaise with a romesco sauce, avocado and tobiko. The quality and freshness of the crab was unparalleled. The oysters, which were shucked right in front of us, had different sauces – one with a kimchee and one in a melon emulsion. Another fabulous dish is the mini eel ciabatta, which is lightly fried and served with a chipotle mayonnaise.
One of my all-time favourite octopus dishes was here, called, “crunchy octopus”. Served on top of a glass box, filled with sand and sea shells, it is topped with crunchy panko breadcrumbs in a kimchee mayonnaise and served with pickled piparraks. Another knockout dish is the Peking suckling pig served on a cappuccina taco leaf, with micro greens and hoisin. You roll it up and eat it like a taco. We ended with a full-size spicy lobster – cooked to perfection.
After these dishes and many others we were escorted to a “secret” private room which reminded me of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. It was like a whimsical, enchanting candy forest. (Not everyone gets to go to this room so please ask if you can.) On our table there was a red rose in a bud vase, with a lichy, raspberry and rose water jelly sphere. When the waiter asked how many desserts we had room for, we bravely said three.
Again, I noticed every table received different desserts. We tried a beetroot yuzu cake with herbs and flowers. The next presentation came under a glass dome filled with smoke, housing a baklava filled with pistachio cream. You can watch the chef in the open kitchen, filling the baklava and preparing the smoke. Next up we had a chocolate eclair which was a dried meringue with hazelnut praline. To top off this extravaganza they brought over a candy cart, and you could select as much chocolate, rolls, gels and candy as your heart and stomach desired.
Our evening had so much attention to detail in a fun ambience where we really felt welcome. Every dish was creative, whimsical and unique. Tickets is a palette adventure with everything cooked to a toothsome delight. It was an unforgettable experience, and a must visit for anyone interested in food. My favourite meal in Barcelona!