BARCELONA Follow that Chef: How restaurants influence property

How a pair of chefs transformed a quiet neighbourhood into Barcelona’s hottest new food spot.


Follow that Chef: How restaurants influence property

How a pair of chefs transformed a quiet neighbourhood into Barcelona’s hottest new food spot.

“The thing I miss most about Barcelona is the food,” shares Gabriela Palatchi a born-and bred Barcelona designer who now spends most of her time in Istanbul with her Turkish husband. Although Gabi grew up as part of the wildly successful bespoke bridal dynasty, Pronovias, it is her passion for food that has inspired her from a young age. “I think deep down I am really a chef”, she laughs, ‘and that comes from growing up in Barcelona. The food scene has always been really good, I remember going out for dinner when I was 12 and tapas was just taking off.  Tapas comes from Andalucia originally, and around the time I was 12 it started to become popular in Barcelona. I went to school in England and every time my friends came to visit, they just wanted to eat tapas, so I started showing them around. It was the start of my path as a serious foodie. Now in Barcelona you get two types of tapas – there is the nouveau style, places like Tickets, Bodega 1960, Cañete, and Bar del Pla, and then there are these restaurants that are appearing that are doing amazing tapas fused with Asian food, which is just an incredible combination.”

When it comes to a passion for Barcelona’s food scene, Gabi is not alone. The city is now regarded as one of the top gourmet destinations in the world, its dynamic dining scene a big draw for a significant portion of the 44 million visitors it hosts every year. Some believe that it’s too big an influx for the city to handle; while it may provide a welcome boost to the economy and new opportunities for business, the tourism trend has altered the daily life of residents and shifted the dynamics of the business and investment environment. Many local entrepreneurs and long-term investors now seek city locations that balance successful business with the authentic beauty of daily local life that Barcelona does so well, giving rise to the evolution of neighbourhoods off the well-beaten tourist track.

The most notable of these is Poble-sec, a quiet residential neighbourhood that sits close to the water to the west of the centre. Much loved by locals, it combines modernist architecture with the Montjuic park, a verdant splash of green with hill-top views across the city, and the Miró museum.

Laid-back, residential, with artsy undertones, it was far from being considered one of the city’s hotspots. Then in 2011, the Adríà brothers of El Bullí fame chose to open their next restaurant Tickets on a quiet residential street, sparking a new phase of evolution for the barrio. You’ll still find families playing in the square while locals sip vermouth in the late evening sun, but in recent years Poble-sec has evolved into the city’s underground foodie haunt. Off the back of Tickets, the Adrià brothers have opened 5 more restaurants (including a vermouteria and tapas bar that offer more neighbourhood friendly options than the usual Michelin stars), and local chefs are following suit. Such is the change that locals now refer to the neighbourhood as “Barri Adrià”. This influx has been coupled by the recent revitalization of Avenida Paral-lel, which now boasts broad sidewalks and bike paths.

“If I was to buy anywhere at the moment, it would be in Diagonal in Poble-sec”, shares Gabi, “There are some beautiful modernist apartments and penthouses and the prices are still accessible.  I love the old modernist architecture of Barcelona, and of course, there is the food scene!”. Later this year, the new Sant Antoni market is set to open, combining a museum with bars and restaurants that will provide an alternative to the central market La Boquería. While prices have risen since 2011 in response to the Adriá’s banking on Poble-sec, it remains an interesting area to invest, with a strong margin for capital appreciation thanks to the potential the neighbourhood has for organic evolution and dynamic rentability. It’s a trend that has parallels in London with James Ramsden’s restaurant Pidgin, which opened on Hackney’s Wilton Way in 2014 when the area was still under appreciated and off-radar for a large part of the city. As the restaurant’s popularity grew, it pioneered the transformation of the street, paving the way for craft shops and cafes to open, which have continued to boost the desirability of the street and its surroundings. For investors looking for the next intelligent investment, the trend of tracking the movements of innovative local chefs could be just the ticket.

Read more: Gabi Palatchi’s Insider Spots in Barcelona