The Optimist’s motto is simple: ‘We grill things’. But spend one evening in the Barcelona-chic restaurant and bar, and you’ll realise it’s more than just charcoal and smoke that meets the eye. It’s about travel, discovery, a love of adventure and above all, the overflowing hospitality, heart and soul from The Optimist team.
The last point is no surprise given that The Optimist is run by Pirata Group’s Christian Talpo and Manuel Palacio, the charismatic and hard-working pair behind restaurants such as Pirata, Pici, TokyoLima and MEATS. At The Optimist, they’ve drawn a line on the map directly from Hong Kong to northern Spain – the first to bring the authentic asador-grilling experience that’s a trademark of this region.
The Optimist occupies the first three floors of the same building that houses the group’s Italian restaurant, Pirata. Securing this location wasn’t easy – according to Christian and Manuel, the venue only came about through sheer perseverance and optimism, which later became the inspiration for the name of the restaurant. Some might even call it a good luck charm.
If you came to The Optimist for typical Spanish cuisine, you’ll need to look elsewhere. The menu foregoes paellas for authentic asador dishes that form the foundation of the northern Spanish diet. Follow your nose to the second floor where the aroma floating off the charcoal grills is enough to make your mouth water in anticipation.
Select your choices from the exquisite meat and seafood on display, and sit back as the grill masters work their magic. If fish is what you’re after, you can’t go wrong with the grilled turbot, arriving at the table with sweet, tender flesh hidden beneath a layer of fried garlic and chilli flakes. Meanwhile, meat lovers should go straight for the 45-day dry-aged txuleta ribeye steak, wonderfully charred and served on the bone with a side of roast peppers and baked potato
It’s not just steak and seafood that gets the smoky treatment at The Optimist. The black truffle rice, baked in charcoal with wild mushrooms and sharp parmesan, is a fan favourite. As is the charcoal-roasted chicken, with juicy, moist meat that’s been flavoured with a mix of bright Mediterranean herbs.
Charcoal-grilled dishes form the basis of the menu at The Optimist, but there’s still a wonderful small plate selection for eager tapas lovers. If you’re swinging by for drinks and some light snacks, the ground floor bar area is the best place to settle in, armed with one of the bar’s signature gin and tonics and plates of croquettes, spicy padron peppers and chorizo.
Here leafy hanging plants, green ceramic tiles and street-facing glass windows create a cosy indoor-outdoor vibe that’s ideal for happy hour drinks or sunny weekend lunches. With expertly made cocktails and a delicious spread of dishes crowding the table, it’s hard not to feel optimistic as you dive into a true northern Spanish feast.