Les Quinze Nits – Barcelona
There’s never been a restaurant more embedded in my memory as Les Quinze Nits in Plaza Real, Barcelona, Spain. More particularly, I remember every nuance of the dessert that I had there, the dessert that started my culinary passion. I even waited in line a second night in a row in order to experience that same bliss. However, that was six years ago and although the restaurant still remains nothing is the same!
Located in a beau
tiful plaza off Las Rambas in Barcelona (the main pedestrian walkway connecting the port to the rest of the city) this giant restaurant has been around for almost a decade and it still has a line-up at the door. It is recommended in every tourist guide as the one restaurant to eat at for the value and the true Catalan cuisine. But things are no longer rosy, food is no longer good and the service is shameful.
After waiting arou
nd for about 45 minutes we were seated in a dining room upstairs only to realize that the line-up was just for show and they wanted to appear busy while this dining room sat empty. Seating a big number of people at once can only mean that the kitchen will be overloaded with orders at the exact same time and therefore most of the meal is precooked or even worse – frozen. And we were right!
We started with an appetizer of Catalan sausage and potatoes being very intrigued by the local fare but received a pile of soggy home fries with a pathetic drizzle of what resembled a very poor store bought Caesar salad dressing. Tiny morsels of cheap sausage scattered throughout the damp spuds made the dish even more embarrassing. For our mains, we ordered a rare steak with fries and a “local” dish of shrimp and Iberico sausage sauteed with mushrooms. I won’t get into the details of how pathetic the seafood dish was with its four frozen shrimp (funny how Barcelona is a port city and it receives more than enough fresh seafood daily) and the microwaved medley of vegetables that accompanied it. I will however mention that my companion received a piece of meat that was raw and cold on the i
nside and upon his request for a little more time on the grill, received a grey microwaved piece of shoe leather. Being hopeful that at least my dessert with be the only redemption for this joke of a meal, I ordered my kryptonite, the Crema Catalana. This dessert is the Spanish version of a Creme Brulee but much more refined (no offence to those taking offence right now). A silky vanilla custard (runnier than its French alter ego) with a slight hint of cinnamon served with a caramelized sugar top (crispy) and sitting in a bath of caramelized sugar syrup. What I got that evening was a chunky vanilla pudding made from powder making this meal one of the worst I’ve ever had.
Only to make matters worse, the service was horrendous. Only one server took orders for an entire dining room with the rest of the staff being food runners that handled plates and glassware like barbarians. On several occasions we saw their fingers nearly dipping into customers’ drinks while the glass was being moved in order to place a plate down. The service was slow and scarce with everyone pretending not to notice when bei
ng called or even asked a question. Our particular server had the audacity to be patronizing while we complained about the numerous issues with our meal. It was the only time we felt so outraged that we spoke out and our issues were nearly laughed at without any sort of attempt to fix their mistakes.
I was mortified having included Barcelona as the final stop on our tour of Europe only because of this restaurant. Only because of this phenomenal dessert. But there is a lesson to be learned in all of this and it’s to be cautious of your dining surroundings. My memories of the place overtook reality and I didn’t pay attention to the signs of a restaurant overwhelmed by its customers. I definitely do not recommend this place to anyone and hope my little review will keep at least one person from wasting their money on their less than mediocre food.