”Barcelona Mornings and Els Quatre Gats” is available in the September issue of The Foodraveller magazine – p.15-16 for my piece.
The horizon in Barcelona makes you feel like the world is endless and you are exactly where its eternity originates. I was having one of my morning runs by the sea, watching the sunrise and feeling as if it was putting together my fragmented inner world. When I got home there was a man waiting outside the building where I lived. The peculiar thing was not his presence, but rather his suggestion. He offered to take me out for breakfast, because taking me out for dinner would have been too big of a cliché. Little did I know that his offer would be the less surprising feature of the day.
We went to Els Quatre Gats. Now, you might have heard the name but nothing comes closer to the actual experience of being in that place. The name translates as “The Four Cats.” Not only it is situated in the Barrio Gotico, which is the centre of the old city of Barcelona, but it also bears amazing history. I believe the official status of Els Quatre Gats today is a café. Upon entering, however, one could not care less about the status of the place, the atmosphere was mesmerizing.
It was 11 o’clock in the morning and the place was empty, except for an old man sitting alone and drinking his morning coffee. I saw that his fingers were all covert in different colours of paint. There was a straw hat lying by his side and he had that look on his face, fixated in the distance as if something was out there, something only he could see.
I figured he was a painter for no other person could be so detached from the present and yet live in it, so I asked him if he was a painter in my broken Spanish. He confirmed that he was a painter and asked us if we knew the story of Els Quatre Gats. I said that I had heard that it was some kind of an artistic meeting point and by the time I explained what I knew about the place the Continental breakfast that we had previously ordered arrived. The man invited us to sit with him as he started telling us the story of Els Quatre Gats.
The place first opened in the faraway 1897 and its main aim was to offer people a unique atmosphere with good music and affordable prices. It soon, however, attracted all the attention because of the spiritual relief that it provided. The founder of the place was Pere Romeu and he wanted to create a place where people would gather and would offer food for the soul.
Romeu did not see people as customers, but rather as individuals with whom sharing time and stories was the primary intend. In its earlier time Els Quatre Gats attracted artists of all kinds, the most prominent of them are probably Pablo Picasso and great Antoni Gaudí, also the poet Rubén Dario. They used to hang out there and it was there where the Spanish Modernism was born.
The painting on the wall “Ramon Casas and Pere Romeu on a Tandem” was especially designed by Ramon Casas for the interior of Els Quatre Gats, and even though the original is exhibited in the National Art Museum, a copy of it still decorates one of the walls. All the dark wooden chairs and tables, the little pots with little green plants, the yellow nuance in all of the colours that decorate the place make one imagine how all the people who had visited the place throughout the years have left something of themselves there, have had fun, have laughed, have fallen in love, perhaps, have shared stories and have shared their spirits with their companions.