The first time we went to Cal Pep was when we were in BCN last May. I had heard first hand from friends how great it was and had read numerous reviews touting the same. I looked up the opening time for dinner and made sure to be there 30 minutes early since I had heard the line builds quickly. After a much anticipation we filed in to grab our seat at the long bar facing the chefs and our servers for the evening. I will preface the next part with this- you are not given a menu and we weren't sure if you got to choose any of your meal, whether you spoke Catalan and/or Spanish or not but we decided to go with the flow and just let our server bring us what he thought we would like. The only guidance we gave him was, we eat anything and we want vino blanco. The meal was off to an ok start with padron peppers and a fried mix of seafood. Next came croquettes and then tortilla española. The meal continued along in that fashion, it definitely felt like we had been pegged for a typical tourist. Not to say it wasn't good but looking around at the Spanish and Catalan speaking patrons who were getting razor clams and tuna tartar and steak, we felt a little stereotyped. All in all, the meal was a bit of a let down. The service was excellent, but we obviously hadn't conveyed that we weren't your average Americanos.
Bringing you to the present, last night we were hoping to make it into El Xampanyet for a late (for us) dinner and to no surprise, it was packed at 9:30pm. So we thought "should we give Cal Pep another go? They will probably be swamped too, but maybe it's worth not writing off just yet." So we head over and it looks like we got lucky, only 9 people were ahead of us in line! Side note- no one in Barcelona is ever in a hurry to turn over seats so 9 people ahead of us meant an hour of waiting. While in line though we made sure to note all the amazing food things that we would insist we wanted. We finally sat around 10:15, the last seating of the night. Our server came up and asked "do you eat everything? may I order you the mix of tapas?" Part of me always wants to say "YES! I love when the server orders for me!" but I knew better here. We had to be more assertive. So we said "we were here a year ago and had a decent meal, but we want something different." We were delighted when he asked us what we actually wanted. We picked out botifarra with beans as well as padron peppers and left the rest to him. What came next was hands down one of our favorite meals in Barcelona. We had confit octopus with potatoes, berberechos in a briney, garlic broth, creamy tortilla española, sauteed spinach and squid and crema catalana. WE ATE IT ALL. We had a fantastic rapport with our waiter, he guided us to all the right places with our meal. At the end, he treated us to shots of an herbal Galician liqueur and cervezas as well as toast with chocolate and sea salt. He tried to keep us longer with offers of more shots and beer and chocolate, but we didn't want to ruin the fantastic feeling of that great meal with a hangover the next morning.
Needless to say, we couldn't have been more excited and surprised by trying Cal Pep again, it was totally worth the wait!