In Praise of Elsa y Fred

Named after the 2005 Argentinian movie of the same name (remade in 2014 starring Shirlely MacLaine and Christopher Plummer), this has been my favorite gastropub in my Barcelona neighborhood during my stay. It has excellent online ratings and deservedly draws a crowd of tourists and locals alike.

The restaurant isn’t large, seating 24 indoors and 10 outside, and it’s been fascinating from my perch at the end of the 10-stool, L-shaped, marble-topped bar to watch the imagination the staff brings to the delicate dance of seating patrons.

With and without reservations, almost no one is ever turned away. And, boy are they ever accommodating at Elsa y Fred: have a large baby stroller? Come on in. An electric Razor-style scooter, sure park it inside. A cello in a huge case? No problem. A dog? Come on in, we even have a water bowl for him right behind the bar. I actually saw ALL of these examples in the restaurant at the same time one day.

The all-female waitstaff of attractive young women, dressed in leotard tops and skirts, works incredibly hard. From taking orders, to tending bar, to clearing tables, to sweeping the floor, to cleaning the front door windows, they do it all. The are no runners, bussers, or bar backs. The kitchen, directly visible through glass walls, is staffed by young men and women who are very good at what they do. The dining room has a cozy, home-like feel and even when it’s packed, it doesn’t feel like a pressure cooker. Eclectic background music plays, though at times it can be hard to hear over the hubbub. On one of my early visits, I was delighted to hear Madeleine Peyroux singing Leonard Cohen’s Dance Me to the End of Love over the speakers.

They’re open from 8:30 am to midnight, so the full spectrum of food is on offer. The dishes served have the interesting quality of looking small and then filling you up. Their breakfast and brunch dishes are especially good and their Patatas Bravas, deep-friend potatoes covered with aoili and sauce, are truly outstanding – the best I’ve had in Spain. The food is cooked to order, so it’s fresh and hot, but it may take a little longer to arrive, so sit back and enjoy the vibe and your dining companions while you sip your beverage. WiFi is provided.

The Bravas are to die for

Like most restaurants in Europe, they use a wireless terminal to conduct credit card transactions at your table, so your card is always in your hands.

Yes, I’m wholeheartedly endorsing Elsa y Fred and I’ve spent several days and many hours during the last six weeks on “my” bar stool, observing it all and becoming semi-adopted by the kind staff.

Mostly I drink the nice Turia Marzen-style beer from Valencia, on tap, but I can attest that they also make a killer Gin & Tonic and have a nice selection of wines. When I leave, I shall miss this charming establishment but, if you’re ever in Barcelona, you shouldn’t. Reservations are recommended during peak hours, especially for groups.

5 thoughts on “In Praise of Elsa y Fred

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