Bar El Pollo, Spanish, El Raval

From the outside, Bar El Pollo looks like a bar de la toda la vida. From the inside as well. The glass is plastered with stickers from different brands and businesses. Vintage Moritz paraphernalia dots the space. And a black and white photograph of a smoking Rita Hayworth, the namesake for the Gildas that are piled up in the display fridge, hangs on the wall. The entrance is flanked immediately on the right by two Gaming Machines. A long aluminium bar runs lengthways into a small restaurant at the back—simple brown tiles for flooring and paper tablecloths. The menus are simple printouts from the till fixed to the sides of the napkin dispensers. The font on the printouts is so small that I tilt the dispenser backwards and forwards to decipher it.

I am firmly in the “you can’t tell a book by its cover” camp, and I assume from what I have gleaned on the socials that Bar El Pollo will be good. I have noticed a recent trend to take over old bars and cafes and keep the dated design intact (Bar La Camila in Gracia is another example). I assume it partly has to do with cost and partly with preserving a part of the city’s rapidly eroded history.

The owner is Basque, and the oozing egg tortillas and the blackened wobbly cheesecake on the bar announce this to the trained eye. We order the tortilla with canned tuna. The top has been sliced off and filled with a whipped tuna mayonnaise filling. It appears more liquid than solid to me, “as it should be”, our thick bearded server assures us. We have a tomato salad (8€) composed of peeled, deeply red tomatoes, served in broken morsels that make me wonder if the tomatoes were thrown against a wall instead of sliced. Larger shards of tuna are interspersed in between, along with capers, black olives and some sweet white onion, sparse enough that I find myself fishing for them. The whole thing has the look of an unmade bed. I love this dish.

We follow with calamari (24€). Served whole on an aluminium oval plate and sliced thickly, then dressed in green stripes of herby dressing. It makes me think of that M.C. Escher painting of the unravelling face.

It feels like the right place to have the Secreto Iberico (19€) with spinach. It’s grilled, perhaps a little too long, as it has started to turn up at the sides.

A popular place, even at lunchtime, Bar del Pollo starts to feel too hot, so we leave without trying the prominently displayed Basque cheesecake at the entrance. A mistake, no doubt. On the other hand, I have another excuse to return shortly.

Bar El Pollo
Carrer del Tigre, 31.
08001. El Raval

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