Barcelona Bar Espresso opened in late July, and if you live in the Plateau, you’ve definitely noticed it. It’s bright red on the outside, warm and inviting on the inside, and, most excitingly for me, it’s Barcelona-themed. Hoo boy, do I ever LOVE Barcelona. I’m in the middle of a super-long, very cheesy post about the year that I spent there, and how the food that I ate there and the people that I met will forever be dancing around my brain.
When I saw that this new cafe had opened, decorated in bright red (my favourite colour), on Duluth (my favourite street), and serving cortados and pan con tomate, I had stars in my eyes.
I went in, and it happened to be their very first day. I hit it off with the owners, two lovely Catalan guys recently-arrived from Barcelona, and decided I really wanted to come back to interview them a little bit about their new space.
I can’t recommend this place more- go spend an afternoon there ASAP. If you need any convincing that this is a place with sunshine, soul, and spectacular food and coffee, here’s my interview with Ernesto Jimenez de Anda.
You opened just over a week ago, right?
Yeah, it’s been crazy! Just a little more than a week.
How long have you been in Montreal?
We arrived for good on December 13, 2015.
Duluth is an amazing street. What drew you to the idea of opening a place here?
I studied French on Drolet, at the Centre St-Louis, so I knew the area. It’s not packed like St Laurent, but it has a lot of personality- the little stoops, the shops- it’s special. The first time that I heard that this place was for rent, I fell in love with it. Four big windows, two big doors, lots of light, and so spacious. The floor is old but it adds character. I went to the landlord, who had his doubts about renting the place to a recent immigrant with no credit score, but I told him all about my project, and he believed in it. He gave me a chance.
Tell me about the food and drink offerings.
We did a tasting of several micro-roasters and went with Cafe Barista because we found that their coffee, one of their blends, is very similar to the one back home. It’s creamy but stronger than most coffees. We’re used to espressos, double, or cafe con leche. We also have the cortado, which is our signature drink. We do it the way we drink it in Spain. Cortado means cut- we’re just trying to cut the flavour of the strong coffee a little with a splash of milk. We’re not making a tiny cappuccino.
As for the food, if you’ve ever been in Spain, you must have fallen in love with the pan con tomate (Catalan: pa amb tomaquet) which is our signature dish. We also have baked goods from a local bakery delivered every morning, a different selection every day.
What inspired the design of the space?
I wanted something simple. My budget wasn’t big enough for a decorator so I did it all on my own. I wanted it to feel homey but modern, but also welcoming. Not going for the super hipster coffee vibe, just a beautiful, welcoming place. The red really represents Barcelona, its fashion, the vibrancy.
Why the Barcelona theme?
It’s a city that I’m passionate about. I love everything about it. If it hadn’t been for my partner’s job, I wouldn’t have left. I miss it a lot- it’s home. However, in Montreal, I have found a second home. It has its own vibe, it’s so unique. It’s the Barcelona of Canada. Artists, lots of food choices, drinking. People like that they hear English, French, Spanish and Catalan around here. I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how many Canadians speak Spanish.
In three words, describe your first Montreal winter.
Oh. My. God.
What are you most excited about with this new project?
I’m so excited about the comments and how people have welcomed me and the concept to the neighbourhood. Everyone has been very supportive. Even while renovating for two weeks, I got such great support, people coming by to take pictures, and just being so friendly.
What’s the cafe’s origin story?
I’ve always wanted to do this- have my own food-related place. Back in Spain, it was never the right time, there were never enough resources. When I moved to Canada, everything came together. In April, I decided to go for it, and I wanted to do it right. I had already gone through the whole process: research, taking business classes, finding out about the coffee scene in Canada and Montreal. I wanted to specialize a bit more- I was just a coffee enthusiast before- so I went to Toronto and enrolled in the Canadian Barista and Coffee Academy. At the same time, I started studying French, which is so important when opening a business here. In April, everything finally got started, and I started to go through the bureaucratic process.
There’s a quote that we have on the wall of the cafe: “tot sembla impossible fins que es fa”- it’s quote by Nelson Mandela written in Catalan. It means “everything seems impossible until it is done”. Opening the cafe was very intense nonstop work for months. There were times that I just wanted to drop it all because it was really tough, but I just gathered my strength because I knew what I wanted to do it, and I went for it.
I really believe that if you want to do something, you have to be the best. I don’t believe in mediocrity. I put everything I have, my resources and my soul, into this place. It reflects a lot of me and my personality, and I want people to feel that when they walk in.
Barcelona Bar Espresso is located at 80 Duluth E, open seven days a week.