My Dinners with Albert: 41°
It was like having dinner inside a Stereolab song. From the dots and loops, wow and flutter, and what were projections of des étoiles électroniques on strips of plastic that hung from the ceiling like small portals to otherworldly planets full of butterflies, statues and swirling starscapes, 41° is modern and whimsical, buzzing with the the same sort of cerebral experimentation and orchestration you find in the lush sonic swirl of Mars Audiac Quintet.
41° is named for Barcelona’s degree of latitude. It is in the Poble Sec neighbourhood, to be exact. The restaurant is, in long form, called the 41° Experience, but with the exacting level of detail and atmosphere that engulfs you in an almost new-age spaciness, the experience itself is one of 360°. It’s a small, intimate space—only 16 guests for the evening—with a few low banquettes and lounge-y club chairs. The staff fly around the small space like a murder of crows, dressed in black and swooping down with birdlike precision to remove empty dishes. Without fail, each of the servers—young, hip, and each one worldly in his own way—has a friendliness and ease that sits in harmony with professional courtesy. There is no stiffness or pomposity in the service; after a course where the plate was coated in a fall of vinegar snow and my utter lack of grace toppled a snowbanks’ worth onto the table, with a laugh one of them said “Merry Christmas!” as he cleaned it up. The jefe de sala, Sergi Vicente, was charming and effusive, ensuring that each degree of experience outside of the food was a pleasant one.
The winter menu which we partook in on April 2 ranges from Mediterranean to Japanese, Mexican, Nordic, Vietnamese, and Peruvian. The famous El Bulli olives make an early appearance along with some dried tomato and feta cheese. Dishes are named everything from Pizzicato 5 to Forest Floor. There are oysters, banh mi, sea urchin, spring green peas, beef tenderloin, black truffle, calçots, Iberian ham, and black cod in various compositions and constitutions. Wine and cocktail pairings selected by the incredibly talented sommelier, Christina Losada, alternate between punctuating and understating flavours with a thoughtful deftness that we truly appreciated by the end of the night.
It’s truly a beautiful restaurant, an experience that more than lives up to its name. Here are photos from our lovely meal. For the records, there are more than 41.