TICKETS: La Vida Tapa

Sunday, 13 January 2013

When Ferran Adrià announced the closure of El Bulli two years ago, I don't think I was alone in feeling I was missing out. No doubt I was! Tickets, his venture in Barcelona along with brother Albert would go some way to fill the culinary void. Yes, it is totally geared for tourists, especially dining so early in the evening (amateurs) but I just couldn't refuse.

Dining at such an early hour (7:30) by Spanish standards, was perfect for me to sneak a pic in. I thought the bright orbs hanging around the place were rather neat

Tickets is the tapas bar and adjoins bar 41° where you can have a pre-dinner tipple. The first things that you'll notice about the place are the vibrant interiors. Everything about it lends itself to a festive, circus-going atmosphere which you have been invited to attend (by booking online precisely 2 months prior!). You are even welcomed by the 'Ringmaster' (read: maître d') wearing a gold embroidered, red coat. The heavy presence of coloured tiles, a tribute to more traditional Spanish stylings (they really do love a good tile here). 

Excuse the blur, but I couldn't leave this one out - dodgy as it may be! The Iberico ham, displayed on its stand right next to our table. I LOVED when the chefs would come out and carve it right in front of us. The ham is left there all the time, uncovered. Imagine the fat content! WaH!

Sat at a banquet table by the window, we were able to admire the place and of course had a view of the kitchen (so me). At each place setting was a share plate, but also a set of tweezers which I thought was quirky. Not knowing when or how to use them when feeding oneself I often resorted to using my fingers, but I'm okay with that. Faced with the lengthiest tapas menu I had ever seen, in Catalan we were somewhat at a loss. And surrendered ourselves to the whim of our waiter, the affectionately known "Special suggestion". In doing so we traversed the menu several times over and before we knew had chowed down on 19 (!) different tapas, in the quickest succession. We were trying our darndest to keep up in order to comprehend the next dish (spoken in lispy Catalan). It was like a tornado. What just happened?! 

Here's the pictorial checklist of some of the highlights:

The charity Tickets' olives. An Adrià classic appropriated from the kitchens of El Bulli. Only seven (!) Andalucían olives are used to make each sphere. You can't even imagine how intense that olive flavour was, incredible. A must to start. For each jar of olives sold, a donation is made to El Casal dels Infants, an initiative helping young people in need.

Seasonal seaweed tempura with its vinaigrette jus. With local produce they have made a Japanese inspired snack that is utterly addictive. The tempura batter is so light.

Mini airbags stuffed with manchego cheese. Warning: if you are lactose intolerant, you better say so! These unassuming fried parcels were filled with molten manchego cheese. Pungent but delicious in that serving size.

Slightly spicy tuna belly cone with lime zest. This one was unbelievably pretty, delicious, everything. The freshness of the tuna here was paramount and the flying fish roe tops it all off. Massive tick.
Being such a fan-girl of artichokes (crazy person), I knew they couldn't go wrong with this dish. Slightly heavy on the cheese, giving it an extra richness the artichoke hearts were cooked so well. I probably ate most of this one. Teehee!

Avocado cannelloni with crab and cream sauce. Ah! This was so divine, we had to divide it to the millimetre when the waiter told us there was crab involved. Perfectly rolled, the avocado was the perfect accompaniment to the creaminess of the crab. Sesame seeds in the mix are a perfectly suited aromat.

So good they should be illegal, oysters with sherry vinegar, tarragon and olive oil caviar (nice molecular touch). Props to the chef these were the best oysters ever. So fresh they really need nothing done to them except to be shucked. That vinegar gives you a little kick and left us smiling even wider.

On a custom designed plate sit the gorgeous razor clams in escabeche, saffron pearls and soy sauce shards. Scarcely seen in Australia, they are adorable to see sold in the markets, in cute little netted baggies. These were really yummy with the saltiness from the soy. The texture is much firmer than most other shellfish but still tender. 

It was a big ask but we couldn't help compare this to the oysters we had just eaten. Oysters with its pearl and sea lettuce water. Up to his usual tricks, the pearl was edible and bursts in the mouth with sea-saltiness. Though it looks a treat, I found this one rather salty. It needed lemon or some other tang, but I'll just shut up now.

Staring at that bloody Iberico ham all night, I was busting to try some of it! We finally had our chance: confit potatoes with pork rib jus and boiled iberian ham. Delicately shaved slices of ham on a bed of soft potato, topped with pimentón. This ham was exquisite - literally melt in the mouth. A ham to remember, let me tell you (can't believe I just wrote that).

Pretty much the greatest taco ever, the new stylings of the 'mollette with double chin'. The suckling pig filling was so lush.  You know what I mean.
In case you hadn't already, you should probably be renouncing vegetarianism about now. 

Cheesecake with lemongrass sorbet. It took us the longest time to figure out what the sorbet flavour was, but it was so good! The cheesecake, disguised as a fruit had a lovely delicate cheese flavour. It's all about the cake's density or lack thereof. The amount of crumb was just enough.

Et finalement chocolate cake (tribute to Antoni Escribà). A nod to schmancy Michelin starred plating, the chocolate twigs are a familiar and welcome sight. The cake was more a light mousse disguised in cake form. Light in texture and of   DARK chocolate it was an obvious winner. The young strawberries provided a nice contrast. On the table next to us, a couple had ordered the cotton candy tree, literally fairy floss adorning a branch (let's hope it's a clean one). So adorable, like something from Alice in Wonderland.

By the end of the evening we were royally stuffed. We eventually had to pull the plug as we were eating our fill. No, OUR FILL. After demolishing 19 tapas plates we needed a good hour of rest and to process the delicacies we had just eaten. Though on the pricier side, Tickets is definitely an experience that I will treasure for the rest of my days. The seafood tapas here are a triumph and is a testament to Adrià and his team. I wouldn't expect any less from such a world class chef and master of Catalan cuisine. The execution of each dish, 'tiny' as they may be is so perfect it leaves you wanting more. And boy did we indulge! Roll up!

Signed, sealed, delivered! I so wanted to take a pair home with me!

Thanks for reading!
Love, Gourmand.


  1. Ooooo, what a treat! I am actually heading to Barcelona in February so I'll have to visit. Fortunately I'm a complete tourist (amateur!) so should definitely be able to get a table :) PS those oysters are making my mouth water!

  2. Oh my goodness. This place sounds and looks absolutely incredible! The food almost doesn't look real! Really awesome. xx



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