By David Naveira
On an unassuming alley tucked off Passeig de Gràcia’s high-end retail sprawl, Barcelona’s latest addition solidifies Barcelona’splace as the gastronomic epicenter of the Mediterranean. El Nacional is a macro-gastro project housed in a former parking garage extending over an incredible 2,600 square meters (28,000 sq. ft.).
This high-end food court for the suit-and-tie set and ladies-who-lunch has become the talk of the town thanks to its discrete soft opening. Its reservation book features Catalunya’s most important last names vying for a table and a chance to get there before the space becomes another tourist-mobbed Boqueria.
Designed by local interior design superstar Lázaro Rosa-Violán, El Nacional mixes downtown edge with an air of casual vintage sophistication. The brainchild of Lluís Cañadell, propietor of Boca Grande, and real estate and hotel group SB Grup, El Nacional is the culmination of a six million euro investment.
The space takes aim at tourists with discriminating tastes while serving as a backdrop for local power lunches with stiff drinks and firm handshakes. Under its soaring eight-meter high ceilings, El Nacional houses four elegant bars (Beer, Wine, Oyster and Cocktails) and four restaurants, with each space creating its own vibe. Choose from tapas to paella and fresh seafood to steaks under the watchful eyes of chefs that include Carles Tejedor of Via Veneto.
More New York than Barcelona, it is yet to be seen how the space will find its place in a city packed with world-class restaurants. Will it become a buzzing foodie emporium and magnet for visitors searching for authentic gastronomy, or rather just another hyped-up, “must-see” stop for bankers with expense accounts and Mobile World Congress attendees?