Lying on the busy streets of Jalan Telawi sits a chic restaurant known serving some of the most authentic Catalan cuisine you will find in Kuala Lumpur known as Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar. This eatery serves some of the most unique Spanish cuisine, and you know of its quality because it’s frequented by the Spanish themselves. One of the best quality of this place is the wide selection of Spanish gin they carry.
As you walk past the entrance, you are greeted by open air tables on the outside, with Salvadore Dali greeting you before entering the inner restaurant premises. The pushcart bar on the outside is peppered with a selection of different liquors, and the menu with a plethora of unique and original Spanish tapas.
Mercat is helmed by Catalonian executive chef David Caral, who boasts an international experience from restaurants from around the world. He has extensive experience from kitchens such as the Ritz Carlton, Sheraton and Harrods, and in some of the world’s top culinary cities such as Madrid, London, Miami and New York before making Kuala Lumpur his home. His past mentors include working with Michelin star chefs like Sergi Arola and Nobu Matsuhisa. When asked what is his restaurant’s philosophy when it comes to cooking and what his favourite dish on the menu is, he states: –
“Personally, I believe you need to respect the ingredients. With the best ingredients, and the best quality you can get according to what is in season. We serve 100% authentic Spanish food. No fusion confusion. Of the Spanish cuisines, we specialize in Catalan cuisine. My favourite dish really depends on the day, just like music. But if I had to choose, I would say the Pincho Murano. I would say my favourite ingredient to use would be olive oil and salt.” — David Caral, Executive Chef of Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar
The menu at Mercat is quite extensive, with many Spanish staples, which includes some very unique tapas. There is also a selection for Dish of the Day and Wine of the Week. Some fan favourites would include the Arroz Negros (Black rice) and the Patatas Bravas (Spicy potatoes).
Cheese And Meat Plates
The first dish, a cold cuts platter, was the Mix De Embutidos Y Quesos (Mix of Meats and Cheese) consisting of jamón ibérico, jamón serrano, salchichón iberico, chorizo ibérico, fuet, manchego, caña de cabra, ahumado and special cheese. The selection of meat and cheese were unadulterated and flavourful, especially the jamón ibérico with its acorn flavour. The serrano was lean and crisp. The fuet, a Catalan dry cured sausage had a metallic flavour to it, which was interesting. The spanish manchego’s medium hard cheese was nice and firm, and the ahumado, a smoked cheese, was pungent. Of all the cheese, the caña de cabra, a goat cheese, stood out.
The second dish, a tapa, was the Patatas Bravas (spicy potatoes), consisting of potatoes with a spicy tomato aioli. The cylindrical morsel was fluffy and light and went well in one bite.
The third dish, a tapa, was the Chorizo Al Vino (chorizo in wine), consisting of Spanish chorizo cooked in red wine. This dish has bits of baby potatoes cooked with the chorizo, which had a nice intense flavour.
The fourth dish, a tapa, was the Croqueta de Jamon Ibérico (iberico ham croquettes), consisting of minced ibérico ham with cheese and potatoes. These crispy croquettes had a nice sweet and savoury flavour, and is quite heavy for something quite small.
The fifth, dish, a tapa, was the Boquerones Fritos (fried Spanish anchovies), consisting of battered fresh anchovies. The boquerones, a type of Spanish anchovy, were served with an aioli and was both crispy and fresh at the same time. As a Spanish tapas place, Mercat has delivered on this simple and humble dish.
The sixth dish, a tapa, was the Pollo Al Ajillo (Catalan style garlic chicken), consisting of chicken thigh meat stewed with garlic and rosemary. This Catalan signature was robust and juicy, and had a nice chewy skin with crispy garlic slices.
The seventh dish, a tapa, was the Pincho Moruno (Moruno skewers), consisting of thick cut pork belly slices, marinated with the Moroccan spice ras al hanout. As the south of Spain is tinged with North African and Middle Eastern Mediterranean flavours, this dish is a perfect blend of all that flavour. The meat was perfectly cooked, with a nice juicy spicy flavourful bite. The spicy and piquant flavour did well for the thick slabs of perfectly grilled pork belly, leaving you wanting more. This was probably one of the best dishes on the menu, and comes highly recommended.
The eighth dish, a tapa, was the Pork Sliders, consisting of a 3 mini burgers filled with a pork patty, manchego, red peppers, roast onion served on a brioche bun. These sliders were perfectly cooked, with the pork patty almost coming apart in your mouth too easily. The peppers added a nice little sweet kick, and the burnt onion, some sweet umami. The brioche complemented the dish. Another highly recommended dish.
Dish Of The Day
The ninth dish, a tapa, was the Fardos, consisting of iberico ham and truffle cream served on a crispy wafer. This dish has a nice truffle punch, which complemented the savoury acorn flavour of the iberico ham, served with an apple compote.
The tenth dish, a rice dish, was the Arroz Plancha, consisting of the rice crust from the cast iron pan. The rice is cooked like a paella, with only the bottom bits served for that extra umami flavour and texture. The dish was served with potatoes and jamon iberico. The rice was still creamy and flavourful from the prolonged cooking, ensuring a fluffy texture on the inside. The outer layer formed a crispy skin which enveloped the rice giving a nice mix of texture and charred flavours. The jamon and potatoes balanced the dish out with its starchiness and sharp acorn flavours. Please do request if this can be made as it is a dish of the day, which is quite a pity.
As any Spanish eatery, Mercat has chosen to cater to the other favourite Spanish past time, drinking. Mercat also has the largest collection of Spanish gin served in Kuala Lumpur. When asked why they chose to serve so many types of gin, Caral quipped: –
“Spain is the second largest consumer of gin in the world. This is why there are so many varieties of gin in Spain. We carry some of the most famous Spanish gins like the Prior BCN gin.”
The first served was the Red Sangria Mercat, consisting of citrus fruits and red wine. This classic is done well, and has that heavy and sweet flavour from the citruses used.
The second cocktail, a sangria, was the White Sangria Mercat, consisting of strawberries and white wine. The white wine sangria was more delicate and had a unique sour sweetness from the fermented strawberries.
The third cocktail, a gin and tonic, was the Brooklyn Gin, an American gin. This citrusy gin was a little heavier in flavour, and was served straight up with tonic and a celery stick.
The fourth cocktail, a gin and tonic, was the Prior BCN Gin, a Spanish gin. This gin has a tinge of herbiness to it and went well with a tonic and lemon rind. Quite remarkable for a gin that isn’t too bitter or heavy.
Mercat carries a number of Spanish and international gins, including some of the rarer ones like Nordes, and Copperhead.
The Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar Experience
One thing that Mercat has managed to do is the deliver that authentic Spanish experience, and you know this to be true by the complements it gets by its Spanish customers. Their dishes are original, light and perfect for dinner and drinks. When asked what their approach to service is, Caral said: –
“We try to give a great experience to anyone who comes to Mercat. We want to deliver an experience as the same one you would get by going to any tapas bar in Barcelona.”
You really don’t have to look much further for that authentic Spanish cuisine.
51, Jalan Telawi 3,
59100 Kuala Lumpur
+603 2201 5288
12.00 pm to 12.00 am
| PHOTOGRAPHY BY NICHOLAS NG | WEBSITE: MERCAT BARCELONA GASTROBAR |