Sunday, 6 May 2007

Restaurants in Vilanova: Gas 26 – lounge inspiration

Vilanova has quite a number of stylish restaurants working with chinaware and glasses of classic brands on tables laid with crisp white linen. While many of them show interest in modern cooking techniques like foams and taste contrasts, very few of them strive to be trendy. Gas 26 (address: C/ Gas 26; phone: 93 815 74 29) is a refreshing exception in having picked up international influences also beyond what comes on the plate.

A couple of years ago, the whole concept of dining out was transformed. What earlier had been eating halls were turned into public living rooms where the focus was shifted from the food to the total experience. Places like the Buddha Bar in Paris or Bed Supper Club in Amsterdam, were the trend setters in offering sofas and relaxing lounge or chill-out music in the dining area.

At this time, I was living in Thailand with my family and while prejudice has it that Asians are just copying what Westerners come up with, a more positive interpretation is that they are fast to be inspired and rethink. Lounges rapidly popped up first in the exclusive areas of Bangkok but then also on many of Thailand’s exotic beaches. It is true that the outdoor versions were quite pale replicas when compared to the originals, but vital ingredients such as the music, the colours and the finger food were all there.

To find the same atmosphere in Vilanova is not possible. Our local xiringuitos, the kiosks along Platja de Ribes Roges, might look a bit like lounges from the distance, but as soon as you come closer you start to see the flaws. The music they play tend to be the radio and while they rent out beds and low tables on the beach, you have to make do with all but cosy standard seating when you eat. We still occasionally go here for a beer or a soft drink, but have learnt not to order food, since we have always been disappointed.

Instead, the place in Vilanova where I get the strongest lounge feeling is Gas 26. In order not to disappoint anyone, my wife wants me to underline that this is above all a proper indoor restaurant. She is true in so far that you can not squeeze in sofas and armchairs in an establishment which barely has space for ten tables. At the same time the husband chef and wife waitress who run the place make many references to where they have found their inspiration and I think that they deserve some praise for a good job. A bare and lit up stone wall serves as a historical contrast to minimalistic decorations in silver and white. To stress the modernity, instead of decorating with textile, here you find disposable alternatives and especially the grey napkins truly feel like linen. The focus in on the food but it is the selected lounge music, played a bit louder than in other restaurants, which adds the final touch.

As always in Spain, children are welcome, but I honestly do not think that this is a good place to bring them – the place is simply too small for them. With Vilanova standards Gas 26 is an up-market establishment serving creative versions of Mediterranean food (€ 10 for starters and € 18 for mains), so we prefer to reserve it for special occasions. I am happy that there is at least one restaurant in this town which helps me to recall nice memories from lounges elsewhere in the world.

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