Gerbard: Barcelona’s Best Game Menu
Gerbard (named for the original owner, Gerard) is a beloved institution in Sarrià, the leafy upper Barcelona village-turned-neighborhood. Soccer stadium, concert venue, art gallery, and culinary hub — just about everything good that happens in Sarrià happens at this tiny side-street bar and restaurant run by Nacho Haro and Mar Palaus. The faithful clientele includes an eclectic international posse of writers, artists, musicians, bon vivants, and ne’er-do-wells from around the world, all devoted to Nacho and Mar and their open-hearted embrace of their unruly flock of miscreants.
The Gerbard game menu, served Sunday middays, is a tour-de-force combining partridge, quail, hare, venison, and wild boar in a variety of tastes and textures conceived and concocted by Mar, whose wild animal credentials turn out to be both surprising and profound.
Great-granddaughter of Lluís Soler i Pujol, the founder of Plaça Reial’s legendary Museu Pedagògic de les Ciencies (better known as “The Taxidermist”), Mar Palaus grew up surrounded by gazelles, mountain goats, butterflies, owls, hawks, eagles, squirrels, badgers, skunks, and an endless chaotic enumeration of wild beasts that included gorillas, rhinoceros, and elephants.
“My grandfather was also a taxidermist, as are my father and brother, so there were always lots of animals coming through the house, so there was plenty of wild meat in the kitchen,” Mar recalled. “The zoo would let us know when they lost an animal to old age or whatever, and we had first refusal on everything from grey squirrels to elephants.”
The Pedagogical Museum of the Sciences, at the northwest corner of the elegant neoclassical Plaça Reial just off the lower Rambla, has been a legendary address throughout twentieth century Barcelona — a standard visit for curious children and a magnet for celebrities, from painter Joan Miró to Salvador Dalí (who famously ordered 200,000 ants) to Ava Gardner (who had a fighting bull’s head stuffed there).
Mar Palaus, chef and alma mater of Barcelona's Gerbard.
Gerbard’s game menu begins with a hot and cold redleg partridge salad with fava beans, baby greens, and crispy onion in a mustard dressing. The next course is a hare risotto with red and green peppers and black trumpet wild mushrooms. Wild quail follows in a marinade with lime and orange citric sauce. The venison in a Port reduction sauce with strawberries is Mar’s favorite chapter, the sauce a secret combination of Port wine and venison juices with a ginger, soy, and maple syrup teriyaki.
“The key is getting the right texture: not too thick, not too thin” explains Mar even as she confesses that the recipe came about by accident when a pot of teriyaki fell into her pan of port reduction.
The final, darkest, and most fragrant dish in this unique-in-Barcelona-and-maybe-worldwide menu is the civet de porc senglar, wild boar stew, a slow-cooked ragout with a singularly woodsy, swampy flavor nearly redolent of black truffle.
A Don Jacobo Rioja crianza (a sturdy blend of tempranillo, grenache, mazuelo, and graciano grapes) served by the magnum stood up well to all five players in this memorable medley of wild things that, at a mere 35€ ($39), richly deserves to be a fixed point on Barcelona’s gourmet compass.