My partner and I decided to head over to the bustling Jalan Telawi area in Bangsar Baru one fine evening for the review of Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar. Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar (Mercat) was designed with the spirit of Barcelona in mind, from the chalkboard sketches depicting Barcelonan life to the traditional fare listed on the menu, as owners David Caral and Jorge Fernandez are very passionate about their home city and spared no expense to ensure every detail is in place to enable them to showcase the diversity of the cuisine.
“Spain is a small country, but the variety of food between the North and the South is amazing,” says Chef David. “We have a rich variety of food but people only think of the paella when they think of Spanish food. That’s not all we have!”
In Spain, dinner is usually served after 9.00pm, making it a long gap between lunch and dinner time. This is when the locals will indulge in tapas, which is more a social activity than actually filling your stomach. It’s a time to bond with friends and share good food and experiences, usually spent hopping from one tapas bar to another.
Mercat hopes to emulate the fun and introduce the tapas culture here in KL with a menu featuring reasonably priced tapas ranging from RM5 to RM25. The selection at Mercat includes favourites like the Panceta con espuma de patata (Spanish pork belly with potato foam and roast garlic) and Fideua (traditional noodle dish cooked in a paella pan with fish and seafood broth), while there are also tapas and platillos, or small plates, which are perfect for sharing.
Executive Chef David Caral hails from Barcelona and grew up with fond memories of family gatherings where his mother would make paella for everyone. His extensive experience in the F&B industry has brought him all over the world to work under legendary Michelin starred chefs such as Sergi Arola and Nobu Matsuhisa.
“Tapas is not meant to be fine dining,” explains Chef David. “You can come here for some quick bites and a glass of wine before dinner, or if you’re doing your shopping in Bangsar and you’re feeling peckish before your lunch appointment, we’ll be pleased to have you here. Mercat is a place for you to unwind!”
Service and Beverage Director Jorge Fernandez has honed his profession under prestigious brands such as the famed Hotel Omm and Barcelona’s top tapas bar, Bar Mut. Jorge actively participates in conferences and has visited world-renowned Spanish wineries to ensure that he can provide his customers with the best wines available and he’ll be delighted to offer you recommendations based on your preferences.
Now on to our dinner.
Chorizo, red wine and potatoes
Such pretty presentation! Now I love chorizo and this one was delicious! The red wine sauce went well with it while the potatoes with the tiny blobs of sour cream kept the dish from becoming overly rich. I think this would go great with a glass of red wine. Great start to the meal!
Potatoes with spicy tomato and aioli (in the foreground)
Beautiful beautiful presentation for a very traditional tapas dish! I really didn’t want to share this as they were crazily addictive. The crispy potatoes topped with sour cream and sprinkled with chives were perfect to go along with some Spanish beer.
Asparagus with asparagus foam
Here’s where I need to take a moment and tell you that I really like the presentation at Mercat. It’s different, very attractive and very Instagram worthy! And best part is that the food tastes as good as it looks! The stalks of asparagus went well with the asparagus foam which was topped with tiny bits of olives and more chives (seems like chives is an ingredient the chef likes to use!).
Baby squid with edamame, tomato, potato foam and onions
Tenderly cooked baby squid in potato foam and a vinaigrette, paired with edamame, small chunks of tomatoes and onions. A little mix of Eastern and Western ingredients here. Did it go well together? You bet it did! The contrast of flavours and textures worked out just fine, and you’ll get a variety of flavours when it touches your palate. This dish goes great with a dry white wine.
Iberico ham tartar served with crispy toasted bread
I just love Iberico ham but I’ve never had it this way before. The ham was blended with olive oil making a sort of paste or spreadable “jam” which goes with the super thin slices of toasted bread. The earthiness and gaminess of the ham with the olive oil made this a very suitable dish to go along with beer!
Roasted eggplant with goat’s cheese
Now this was certainly an interesting dish! It didn’t look like eggplant at all and that’s because it was blended with goat’s cheese. Creamy yet with the slightly smoky taste of the eggplant, this was an nevertheless very pleasing on the palate.
Fish of the day: Snapper with eggplant and mushroom with garlic sauce
Another super Instagram worthy dish! After all the tapas, we had only enough room in our tummies left to try one (1) main (had to leave a bit of space for dessert) and we chose the fish of the day which was snapper. A perfectly cooked slab of fish which rested on some eggplant and mushrooms which all came together with the sauce.
Mercat’s wine list is stocked with top-notch Spanish wines handpicked by Jorge, and we were recommended the two (2) below to go along with our meal.
This wine is made from Monastrell grapes and has a complex nose of spicy, floral and fruity scents. This is a full-bodied wine with a broad texture, firm tannins and a medium finish. Goes great with the meat dishes like the Iberico ham!
Made from Macabeo, Xarello and Parellada grapes resulting in a fresh and crisp cava that goes great with seafood dishes!
We also tried Mercat’s signature cocktail – Siderit gin paired with juniper, cinnamon and orange peel garnish. Definitely not your ordinary gin and tonic and full of flavours – citrus and floral. Gins such as Siderit from the North of Spain are carefully paired with aromatic garnishes to complement their botanical characteristics and served in balloon glasses. Mercat has other variants of gin and tonic cocktails too so if you love this cocktail you should drop by and try a few of their creations.
After a nice big meal, I relished having a digestif to help it go down and we had the Red Yzaguirre vermouth served with vintage soda siphon which is placed on each table and you can add as much soda as you want to the vermouth. It was a sparkling with slightly sweet and bitter notes, ideal for sipping after a meal!
Mercat is a nice tapas restaurant and bar where you can chill over some tapas and have some drinks over some good conversations with your friends. I think it’s great that a restaurant like Mercat opened in Kuala Lumpur and really give us KL-ites a feel of Barcelona without us having to travel all the way there. If you’re looking for some Spanish fare that’s a bit more unique and less common than what you’ll get at the other (somewhat more well know but highly commercialised) Spanish restaurant in town, well you might want to try out Mercat.
Mercat Barcelona Gastrobar is located at:
51G, Jalan Telawi 3,
59100 Kuala Lumpur,
Telephone: 03-2201 5288
Mon-Fri: 4pm – 12am
Sat-Sun: 12pm – 12am