Alkimia is located in Barcelona, the capital of Catalonia. It occupies the whole first floor of an impressive traditional palace in the centre of the city. This palace used to be the private residence of the first owners of the beer brewery Moritz, and it still now serves as its headquarters. There are no less than five restaurants in the building, and head chef Jordi Vilà designed the menu for all of them. The diamond in the crown of this gastronomic temple is of course Alkimia where Head Chef Vilà cooks himself every day.
The entrance is dark and theatrical, with a big staircase leading to a door that gives access to a strange art installation. Tubes filled with liquid and skeletons of fishes come alive through video mapping. The first impression upon entering the restaurant is making things very clear: this is no ordinary place.
The old halls of the palace, with sumptuous frescoes on the ceilings, have been completely renovated by Chu Uroz, a designer and art director with roots in theatre scenography. Architect office External Reference did a great job in realising Uroz’ vision, giving the restaurant an amazing visual impact. The main dining room has only six tables and ends in an open kitchen, where Vilà himself prepares all the dishes. The amazing attention to detail is also apparent in the plateware, that was designed by local porcelain artist Imuusk. The custom Laguiole knives proudly bear the logo of Alkimia.
Jordi Vilà discovered his passion for food while working in a local bakery as a teenager. He met his wife Sonja, the Maître d’hôtel of Alkimia, during his apprenticeship as a chef, and after a first restaurant in 1998 in joint-venture, they decided to open their own restaurant, Alkimia, in 2002.
Catalonia has a long and respected culinary tradition, most known for giving rise to El Bulli, the mythical restaurant of Ferran Adrià, that dominated the gastronomic world for several years with its molecular cooking.
Contrary to its name, the kitchen of Alkimia has never followed the molecular path. The basis of the cooking of chef Vilà is the product itself. Two scouts, one of which is a chef himself, constantly roam Catalonia in search for the very best ingredients. Most of the suppliers of Alkimia are small farms, that produce very limited quantities of the very best produce. This respect for the product is coupled with a relentless invention and search for new combinations of flavours, textures and colours. The kitchen is rooted in the Catalan tradition, with the typical Mediterranean flavours, but Vilà is not afraid to make unexpected decisions. The warm and no-nonsense personality of the head chef translates to honest and delicious dishes that always put the best possible product at their centre and bring it out in the best possible way. Highlights are the baby squids filled with black pudding, the scorpion fish prepared on the wood grill combined with oysters and a very surprising grilled lettuce dish with amazing floral flavours. Textures are varied and balanced and great care is put in the visual aspect of the plates. The crab dish with a swirling sauce of lemon and fish fumet with red cabbage, which makes it dark blue, transforming into bright fuchsia when the lemon is added is worth a special mention.
Guests can eat à la carte or choose between two tasting menus of 10 and 13 courses respectively. Sommelier Marta has created a very extensive wine cellar, with mostly carefully selected small producers. The wine pairings are flawless and pleasantly surprising. The prices are very reasonable, especially for the local wines.
The service at Alkimia achieves perfection. The staff is friendly, efficient yet never stiff. Restaurant Manager Sonja leads the team with elegance and simplicity. The theatricality of the decor is in perfect balance with the very personal and homey approach of the service. Guests are perfectly attended to while having the feeling of being able to concentrate on the food and the experience. It is worth noting that seeing the kitchen and Head Chef Vilà during the meal is a very nice extra touch, and it is very surprising to see how silent the kitchen is. The team works in perfect sync with just a few words and it is wonderful to see them act in unison.
Eating at Alkimia is quite an experience. No element of the senses is left untouched and guests go home with a glowing feeling of satisfaction.
Written by Joachim