Friday, February 10, 2006

El 4 Gats in Barcelona, Spain

For a restaurant with such a feline name, one might be forgiven for expecting to see all things cat-like, bad-taste or beautiful, decorating ‘El 4 Gats’. The name of this restaurant and café bar, located in Barcelona’s Gothic Quarter, a stone’s throw from La Rambla, is in fact a cunning play on words and the only thing obviously feline is the wrought iron sign, decorated with the obligatory four black cats, and the odd, rather than overwhelming, cat painting or fairly tasteful piece of cat-inspired memorabilia. ‘El 4 Gats’ is actually Catalan slang meaning ‘a few people’ and the restaurant has a long history of gathering ‘a few people’ together within its adorned, tiled and panelled walls. A few of ‘the few’ can actually be seen on these same walls and, if not, their works of art might be.

‘El 4 Gats’ provided a home to the Modernist art movement in Barcelona. Pere Romeu who performed at ‘Le Chat Noir’, a successful cabaret joint in late 19th century Paris, decided that he wanted to recreate the atmosphere of the Parisian restaurant in Barcelona. ‘El 4 Gats’ was born and opened on 12th June 1897 in the current building, designed by the architects Puig and Cadafalch. Pere Romeu was determined that the restaurant would become a meeting point for the avant-garde - bohemian conversationalists and artisans. His desire came to fruition and over the years a variety of poets, musicians, architects, painters and designers have passed through the door. Indeed, in 1899, a young Picasso began to frequent ‘El 4 Gats’ and later held his first exhibition in the restaurant. Despite differing widely in terms of their artistic preferences, Picasso shared his love of the restaurant with another notable Barcelona resident, Gaudi.

The restaurant staff may appear rather brusque and unwelcoming as they sort the wheat from the chaff on arrival by grilling guests on precisely what their victual intentions are before sitting them down. It’s a bit like meeting the prospective in-laws for the first time. Those of serious intent, in other words those who have come for ‘cena’ rather than a mere snackette, are ushered through the café bar/ cerveseria into the rear dining room, which is galleried, in more ways than one. The head waiter must be stickler for organisation as you are seated at rotationally-ordered tables around the dining room. You can almost countdown, using the emptying tables as your clock, to the next staff changeover.

The restaurant menu covers a range of traditional Catalan fare accompanied by a good selection of wines which emerge from the wine racks holding up the diners on the mezzanine floor above. The service is reasonable but do check your bill as three tables were overcharged at the time of my last visit. No doubt genuine mistakes, but rather a lot of mix ups for one sitting.

At the front of house, the café bar bustles with locals and tourists alike dipping their churros into hot chocolate or sampling one of the beers available on the extensive drink’s list. It’s fun to nose around the whole place and see if you can spot a masterpiece, although most are now reproductions…better still you could sketch your own and see if the barman will accept it in lieu of a few Euros.


Carrer de Montsiò 3 bis
08002 Barcelona
Telephone: 933 024 140
Opening times: 1pm-1am everyday
Nearest Metro: Catalunya
Three course meal (incl. wine) for two people: €90
Tips: Live music a regular feature


iceheart said...

Take me to Barcelona! Take me with my gato!

Anonymous said...

When I entered for lunch alone, they said "Arriba!" and pointed the way upstairs to the very back where I had to lower my head to avoid hitting the ceiling. Appetizer and dessert were pretty good, entree was very tough beef, but I was still thrilled to be there. Only about 10 euros and included wine and mineral water. Can't complain.

Anonymous said...

it sounds like a wounderful place the area sounds spectacular! i am curently studing picasso at school. i do hope to one day visit this restraunt. i do hope that when you aultar this page you could includ the meun, that would be a great help to me and others, i guessi will have to go to this restraunt and look there (he,he)but thank you for the insperation.

by becca x =] a girl currently studing picasso and the four cats x

Anonymous said...

Good dispatch and this mail helped me alot in my college assignement. Say thank you you on your information.

Anonymous said...

Service was super friendly when we were there. They seemed to appreciate our trying to speak Spanish and helped us order a good meal reasonably priced.

Anonymous said...

My hubband and I ate there a couple of years ago, it was lovely and the service was excellent. I have just recomended it to my sister, who is in Barcelona now.

Hels said...

I am in Barcelona as we speak. The food and wine have been excellent everywhere, but El 4 Gats is more atmospheric. Many thanks.