By
Ariana Díaz Celma

Finally somebody makes good on bread with tomato, that second level side that so well matches all meals, always relegated to the role of extra. Now, Bar Nou was born to claim pa amb tomàquet as a main dish, one that can star in meals and leave the other foods in a secondary role.  On first thought it seems obvious, but we’ve had to wait until 2015 for Miguel Angel -alma máter at Casa Mariol wine cellar- to account for it with a room that wants to give this ritual the status it deserves. The atmosphere couldn’t be better: waiters are dressed as Maians -when exactly did we agree that uniforms should be tacky and boring?- and the music selection is managed by our friends at Discos Paradiso, whose crates hold some of the most suggestive records in town. You can ask pro-level dusty fingers about it.

Bar Nou gets a minor classic as is the bread with tomato to give it the prominence it deserves

But let’s head back to the topic at stake: Bar Nou and it’s simple gastronomic offer, which has paradoxically set the local foodie scene on fire. This dish, known for not following a script or set schedule, becomes the hub of a menú that offers a little bit of everything. Right in the middle you can find the types of bread, salt and oil to turn this classic into an absolute hit based on customization. Such VIRGUERÍA designed by Montse Guillén, founder of FoodCultura with his significant other, artist Antoni Miralda, and pioneer of the tapa format on the other side of the Atlantic – it was her who opened the first tapas bar in New York-. Joined in this gastronomic crusade by Pablo Albuerne, who comes from a background in reliable and established kitchens such as Can Fabes or Bar Cañete.

But let’s go back to Bar Nou, this luminous space located in downtown Barcelona, up until very recently teeming with hostility and poorly maintained businesses. Start with their Bloody Mary, which includes shrimp, radishes and olives; couple it with their snails cooked in aromatic herb’s butter or the rustic chicken croquettes; to move, in a matter of seconds, into the thick of it. We recommend sampling one of their boards, be it cheese, homemade cured meats orjamón de bellota (acorn ham, the top of the line when it comes to jamón serrano), always with bread with tomato aplenty. From their egg section highlights are the potato and onion omelette with pretzel topped with tomato as well as the fried egg with pork belly and dark bread with tomato. Other instant classics are the lamb ribs, the Spanish style garlic rabbit, the fried fish, octopus cracklings, the ribeye steak or the exquisite butifarra (traditional sausage from the Cataluña area) on a bagel. We also recommend you don’t leave the shed without tasting one of their desserts, like the cookie-based Sacher Torte or the floating island, a spectacular meringue pie. The best thing about this place is the bill always floats between 20 and 25 euros.

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Besides the food, the concept, the dressing and the music, there’s other facts we like to remember about Bar Nou and we believe they are worth pointing out. First off, the neon sign that welcomes visitors, a work by artist Jordy Van den Nieuwendijk which signals from far out (it measures 2 m by 4 m, impossible to miss) where we are. Ana Dominguez led the graphic identity development and the wise interior -which replicates the classic catalan dome in an updated and wood-based design- is the work of MAIO studio.   

By the way, the ceremony surrounding bread with tomato even has it’s own decalogue at Bar Nou, followed by many as if it was the Ten Commandments. Wanna know about it?

1-. In our shrine “pamtomaquer” rules.

2-. It shall not be called bread with tomato if it’s not prepared with love and generosity.

3-. It shall be the star, not the sidekick.

4-. One slice, tomato, oil: our ‘comfort food’. You shall eat with your hands, if you will.

5-. You know what they say: in order to be original, you shall go back to your roots.

6. There is not only one type of bread, nor only a type of oil. The fun is in the variety.

7-. Meet up for bread and tomato. It’s cool. You’ll want to do it.

8-. Bread with tomato is our banner, and smells great.

9-. Democratic, inexpensive, honest:   what you see is what you get.

10-. Bread, tomato and oil shall be the new good, nice and inexpensive.