Restaurant ・ Spanish・Catalan
Editor's Note: Catalunya moved to Central in late 2018 and is now known as La Rambla by Catalunya
Catalunya gives the feeling that it should be found in a much more happening neighbourhood. Somewhere more scene-y, perhaps with a waterfront view, like Collyer Quay in Singapore, where the original Catalunya can be found. Its Hong Kong branch, however, is located on one of the quietest streets in bustling Wan Chai, which gives it a hidden gem vibe. The room is welcoming, done in vibrant shades of red, and the space is also large, though tables are still closely put together enough that it is difficult to walk to the bathroom without accidentally hitting the back of various other diners’ chairs on the way. The clientele varies, though we find the ambience is generally more light-hearted and merry during the weekend brunch sessions.
The tapas menu at Catalunya is large, and for first-timers, perhaps a bit intimidating. One should always start with the Cantabrian anchovies with the pa amb tomaquet. We love these tiny little fishes, which almost have a buttery texture, having been luxuriating in the olive oil for so long. They go perfectly atop the crispy and tart pieces of tomato bread. We also order a plate of gran reserve jamon iberico, Spanish ham that is 100 per cent bellota, but were disappointed with the dry and tough pieces of ham. We also started with a trio of French raw oysters: the most interesting-looking of which was the one topped with a clear gazpacho jelly. However, there is nothing acidic in the jelly to suggest it is made with tomatoes, and although intriguing, turned out to be a bit disappointing. Similarly, the oyster with the Japanese ponzu was also unsuccessful, as the sauce was just too salty, and completely overwhelmed the oyster. For those that need a bit of carb with their meal, a very pleasant surprise were the bombas, which were spicy, smoky, piping hot and just overall, very delicious. The signature bikini sandwiches, with ham, truffle and cheese, were bites of the most decadent comfort food, with the ham much more mellow and buttery in this rendition than earlier. As there were only two of us, we could not order the whole suckling pig, and therefore settled for the tapas version. While it was quite tender with a sweet purée, it needed more jus and the skin is not as crispy as it could have been. What one must order at Catalunya, with no exceptions apart from a seafood allergy, are the Mediterranean red prawns. In all our visits to Catalunya, while the consistency and quality of other dishes might have wavered, these have never once disappointed. The prawns always reach that perfect mid-point between sashimi and fully cooked; while sucking on the delectable heads truly give a new meaning to the overused term “food porn”. We would recommend ending the meal on such a high point.
Catalunya has an unusual policy of not allowing their guests to try their wine before ordering it, not even those by the glass. Still, the wine list is appealing with its selection of Spanish wines from different geographical regions, and it also offers a good range in price points and styles.
We were informed by the receptionist that the restaurant’s official policy is that if a customer did not double-confirm their reservation the day of the booking, their table will be given away summarily, leaving a rather unwelcoming impression. It is a shame, as some of the floor staff are actually quite warm and good at what they do.
A meal for two with wine comes to about HK$2,500. For anyone who has had tapas in Barcelona, this would seem extortionately over-priced. However, this is Hong Kong and given there are not many other options in the city, that’s just the price you will have to pay for authentic tapas.