Barcelona: bubo and bubo bar
“Tourists come in and want to know, ‘Is it a jewelry shop?' ” says Carles Mampel, the 39-year-old award-winning pastry chef behind bubo and bubo bar. His establishment is actually a one-two punch of haute chocolatier and new-wave tapas bar near the Basilica Santa Maria del Mar, deep in Barcelona's El Born neighborhood, but “people eat with their eyes,” he says.
bubo bar, top, with its gray flannel benches and lime green wall, is all sharp edges and minimalism. Low glass cases hold glittering macaroons, exquisite stacks of chocolate confections and sugar-encrusted marshmallow bonbons.
Indeed, though they hold glittering macaroons, exquisite stacks of chocolate confections and sugar-encrusted marshmallow bonbons, bubo's low glass cases and urban architecture looks more like a high-end jeweler than your typical pastry shop.
Yet Mr. Mampel's artistic sweet renderings remain completely accessible. A low table, presenting options of espresso or Champagne, encourages snacking, especially on the little chocolate bonbons in curious savory flavors (like tomato bread) for 85 euro cents each (about $1.12 at $1.34 to the dollar), and the gorgeously executed, seasonally changing, miniature petits fours (75 euro cents apiece), like a berry custard perfect for Thumbelina with strawberry, blackberry and raspberry.
Next door, bubo bar, with its gray flannel benches and lime green wall, is all sharp edges and minimalism. The wait staff fits the décor: attractive, a little distracted, a little punk. The menu reflects the aesthetics of its sugary neighbor. A tortilla española is served warm and stuck on a fanciful straw (1.95 euros). A grilled eggplant and feta salad with pine nuts (3.95 euros) goes well with a tomato infusion and fried-bread dipping sticks.
For dessert, wander back to bubo for more sweets, like a tartalata de xocolata (chocolate tart), a thick bittersweet chocolate mousse on a biscuit topped with a swirl of chocolate “noodles” (3.35 euros).
Mr. Mampel, who slides between Catalan, Spanish and French, with a dusting of English, started out catering and still prepares feasts for events. Since bubo opened in June 2005, he's been swamped with offers to franchise his concoctions.
“I don't have a favorite,” he says, rubbing floury hands together. “I don't love sweets.”