Our previous visit to Barcelona two years ago was a decidedly mixed experience. Our most recent visit, however, was an appreciably better one. First and foremost, the restaurant has annexed several adjoining spaces, knocked down a few walls, and substantially expanded the space available to its guests. The main entrance is now on Farmington Avenue, eliminating the need of entering through a seedy rear alley. The seating is nowhere near as cramped as before, although it is still too close for those who might prefer a bit more privacy and dislike being privy to the personal conversations of adjoining diners. The noise level, at least in the room in which we were seated, is considerably lower than before, a most welcome change.
The group service, as before, was reasonably attentive and food items were served very promptly. For some inexplicable reason, the beverage service was extremely slow and protracted. Drinks ordered immediately after having been seated were not served until the appetizer courses were almost eaten, and a second bottle of beer did not appear until we were almost completely finished with the meal. How long does it take to open and serve a bottle of beer? In any event, the wine list is extensive, with a wide choice available by the glass, and the beer list offers a good number of interesting and excellent craft brews.
Another seemingly odd lapse is that the standard restaurant quality silverware (one three-piece setting with nothing being replaced after use) seemed totally inadequate to the task of eating such specialized foods. The knives were incapable of cutting anything more resistant than butter, and we were forced to tediously shred the tough dried meats with knife and fork to get them down to a manageable size. The very large dinner forks were far too heavy and clumsy to shell the mussels and other smaller items. A restaurant that has at least some pretense of being a fine dining establishment should be more attentive to such issues and provide eating utensils that are suitable to the task, not to mention replacing them after use.
It is difficult to assess the quality of the tapas dishes, since we opted to avoid those that were unsatisfactory on our first visit and try others that seemed more promising. This seemed in retrospect to have been a wise decision, since the tapas sampled this time around were far more carefully prepared than before. The recipes seemed to be more integral and balanced; we didn't have the impression from our previous visit that everything seemed to be lacking one essential ingredient.
All in all, this was a far more satisfactory experience than two years ago. We noted that several more locations, including one in Brookline MA, have been opened in the interim. We are planning to try some of the other locations of what has now clearly become a chain of eateries.