ReturnVegan, Veggie & Locally Sourced Food - An Interview with Mónica and Irene from El Montana Cafè Restaurant
It’s not news to us, but it continues to surprise visitors to our little corner of Barcelona. Montana Colors has operated its own café and restaurant for more than a decade. Right next door to the Montana Shop Barcelona - Born, the Montana Café Restaurant serves vegetarian and vegan dishes to locals and visitors alike for breakfast, brunch and lunch. During the rest of the day, it’s a meeting place for many writers from the city, residents of the neighborhood and curious passers-by. We caught up with Mónica and Irene, the head chefs and the people who best know the stories and the secrets of this endearing establishment.
Can you introduce yourselves?
I come from Venezuela but I have been here for a long time. I had taken a pretty basic cookery course, but since I've been working in this restaurant for so long I have learned a lot thanks to my sensei Monica. I've been working here for five years or so.
I’m from Barcelona. I’m actually a graphic designer, but 25 years ago I got into cooking, by chance. I've been at Montana restaurant since Jordi decided to open it, I think 12 years ago.
Monica, were you part of the development of the restaurant?
M: This restaurant was mine, but for some reasons it wasn’t going well. Jordi Rubio used to eat here and we ended up joining forces. After a year or two, I was very tired of the responsibilities beyond cooking, and at that point Montana Colors took the place over and it became El Montana Cafè Restaurant.
How many people work here?
M: The team right now consists of four people: two waiters and two cooks. Mónica Gutiérrez, Irene Bou, Claudia Bhole and Manel Barragán.
What kind of food do you serve?
M: Well, right now we are a vegetarian-vegan restaurant. The meals we make follow this philosophy. We make fairly traditional vegetarian food, although we include more modern products from brands like Heura and Beyond. We make cuisine that we believe in.
How do you plan the menu?
M: We serve vegetarian, balanced menus. We use any protein that doesn’t come from animals. Basically raw vegetables, cooked vegetables, legumes, cereals and other types of protein that comes from processed food.
Where do you source the ingredients?
M: Mainly from the Santa Caterina Market, which is right next door, in the heart of El Born neighborhood. They are all local products and 90% of what we cook is fresh food. Obviously there are products such as rice or soybeans that come from other types of suppliers, but we buy the vast majority of ingredients from the local market.
What are the most popular dishes?
I: I think the Beyond Burger, the vegan sausage, the vegetarian burrito and almost all of our soups.
M: The salads too. Now we also have the “vegankini” that is really popular: it’s a sandwich with vegan cheese, tomato and fresh basil. We also have omelettes for breakfast at the moment, an English breakfast with a vegan sausage and eggs.
How about the homemade desserts?
M: All the desserts in this restaurant are made by us, they come out of our kitchen. We make everything from vegan cakes to carrot cake and cheesecake. There are customers who come to our restaurant just for the dessert. It’s hard, for example, to find a restaurant with a lunch menu that will serve you a freshly made tarte tatin.
What kind of customers come to the restaurant?
I: Our customers are quite young. Before, more people came from offices to get a lunch menu, but now more younger people are coming, from 20 to 30 years old.
Are there any regulars?
M: Before, there were. Since the pandemic and more people started working from home, about 90% of the regulars have disappeared.
Do you have any funny anecdotes from your time here?
M: If it were really funny it would be kept secret! What happens in Montana stays in Montana. We use the Las Vegas rules.
Have you have any famous visitors?
I: The chef Carles Abellan comes often.
M: The Terrat team also used to come: Berto Romero, Andreu Buenafuente and Santi Millán. Until they changed studio. Javier Bardém came here a long time ago, before he started going out with Penelope Cruz.
I mean other types of artists!
M: Everyone has been through, from Os Gemeos to Martha Cooper.
What artwork do you have at the restaurant?
M: The mural you see in the restaurant is by Sergi Bastida. There’s a painting by Keno, another by Zest, one by Puke, a small piece by Omega and another mural by Kamil Escruela.
In the bar there’s work by Os Gemeos, a mural by Aryz and a character by Rime MSK. There are also model trains painted by Sawe and other Barcelona writers.
We used to organize monthly exhibitions of work by younger artists, but they’ve been put on hold for obvious reasons.
Have there been any exhibitions that were particularly memorable?
M: It’s normally young artists that exhibit here and I’m not very familiar with the current scene. I’m more familiar with the previous generation of writers. However, one of the last exhibitions we had was by Save, a veteran writer from Barcelona with a bit of a complicated life story. That was really charming but was also very melancholic.
ShareMay 03, 2021