Located in the heart of Barcelona’s Eixample district and a stone’s throw from the city’s infamous Passeig de Gràcia, the iconic hotel El Palace Barcelona is now the home of Chef Rafa Zafra’s latest restaurant, Amar Barcelona.
Formerly known as The Ritz Hotel, the in-house restaurant Amar Barcelona is Zafra’s very own homage to Catalonia in partnership with Anna Gotanegra and Ricardo Acquista. With the capital of the region being famous for its unique character, fabled history, and the birthplace of many a creative mastermind, Amar (meaning to love in Spanish) is a place where history and modernity mix to pay tribute to the enduring spirit of Barcelona.
The restaurant itself occupies an emblematic space within the hotel, as it was once a majestic ballroom frequented by many a famous face from the roaring ’20s circuit. Dating back to 1919, this historic room has been thoughtfully reimagined by skilled local interior designers Elena Prats Rubies and Eva Pous. Original features such as low-level chandelier lighting, decorative cornicing, and an opulent gold finish throughout are combined with a contemporary midnight blue colour palette and sophisticated, plush soft furnishings to create a luxurious, casual-come-palatial vibe. It’s the type of place you could easily go to for an impromptu romantic evening, a special occasion, or a dressy cocktail at the bar with friends.
Amar Barcelona reflects a new era of fine dining venues in the city and speaks of the love that Andalucia-born Zafra has for the local produce, especially the seafood. A theme that forms the foundation of all of Zafra’s eateries, seafood in all its shapes and sizes, is visible from start to finish on the menu, even adorning the walls of the golden corridor that leads into the restaurant entrance.
At Amar Barcelona, guests are invited to experiment with raw, marinated, cured, steamed, grilled, sauteed, and stewed versions of local seafood such as oysters, clams, crab, caviar, prawns, mussels, and fish, as well as prime cuts of meat like the paper-thin slices of cured Galician blonde beef. Highlights would definitely be the fresh oysters with a choice of dressing – we opted for Ponzu and Bloody Mary, which were both equally well balanced against the raw oyster flavour. The specially selected Marennes-Oléron oyster menu is dedicated to friend and mentor Albert Adriá, who Zafra claims is a pioneer who “constantly takes oysters to new gastronomic heights.”
Other noteworthy dishes were the spider crab cannelloni with the roast chicken reduction and sea urchin – a twist on a classic Catalan dish that once featured on the original Ritz menu, as well as the langoustine carpaccio “tribute to El Bulli 1995”. All executed with finesse and purity that Rafa is known for.
Close attention has also been paid to curating a food and wine menu that is sensitive to regional produce and producers. It tells an honest story focusing on quality and purity to which both the locals and international diners can relate. For the opening of the new restaurant, Zafra has teamed up with sommelier Diana D’Urso from Heart Ibiza, who has created an excellent wine list of than 400 wines and champagnes, some of which can be seen in the striking wine cabinet that divides the dining room from the kitchen.
Meanwhile, heading up the dessert station is young pastry chef Cristina Ramón who trained at L’Atelier together with Eric Ortuño. Overseen by Víctor García Vilar, the dessert menu reimagines Catalan classics but with a lighter, healthier modern touch.
Along with the rest of the principal team at Amar Barcelona; head chef Gonzalo Hernández Meroi and the assistant chef Victor García Vilar (Estimar, Tickets, Heart, Els Brancs and Cala Jonda), Pablo Wübbe Centeno and Carlos Besteiro in the dining room, and Pol Perelló, most have already spent a long time working alongside Zafra to form a close-knit culinary family – something that is palpable from the moment you walk into Amar Barcelona. This sensation of a family underpins the entire experience at Amar and El Palace Barcelona – a melting pot of fine produce, talent, dedication, commitment, enthusiasm, and, of course, the thing that binds it all – love.
Although still in its early days, Amar Barcelona has certainly left a lasting impression, and we will definitely be going back for more!
To find out more about hotel El Palace Barcelona, Amar Barcelona or to reserve a table, go to www.hotelpalacebarcelona.com/restaurants-bars/amar-Barcelona