10 oct. In the Melic In The Gothic Quarter
Strolling the streets of the Gothic Quarter or shopping in the numerous boutiques of the area, it is always a good idea to take a break. Walking is tough work, and as the late Luciano Pavarotti said, “One of the best things in life is that we must regularly interrupt our labour and concentrate our attention on food”
Without straying too much from the old town, one has an obligatory date in the Melic del Gòtic grill restaurant, at number seven in calle Montsió. The restaurant building has a long past and occupies what is left of the fifteenth century Montsió convent of Dominican nuns. It was part of the south wing of the building and the rooms were initially meant to be penitence cells, later being used as wine cellars.
You enter a narrow, typically medieval, rustic-looking space with expose
d stonework. You are immediately met with a blend of aromas dominated by the scent of hot embers. This stirs the appetite, soo
n to be satisfied by any of the grilled meat dishes, salads or pasta that are on offer.
While savouring the food, let’s talk a bit about the history of the convents. One can agree that from a religious point of view, their wine cellars weren’t the most spiritual of places, but they were a place of wine culture that transmitted a certain sense of prayer and spirituality to consumers of their beverages. In those times, bread and wi
ne formed the duet par excellence of food, and its consumption extended across all the social classes.
A jump of two centuries of orations and monastic activity brings us to the French invasion, which put an end to the place as home to the congregation. The convent became a warehouse for works of art looted by the troops.
Once the French were defeated towards 1830, and with another armed conflict underway – this time the Carlist Wars – the convent was used as a barracks. In order to cover maintenance costs, the national militia decided to open a dance hall there, which was a huge success and soon became a theatre.
Together with the Amateur Dramatic Society, an organisation of armed liberal citizens of the epoch and an initiative of Manuel Gibert in 1837, the Teatro Montsió was founded. It was the first incarnation of what was to become El Liceu, whose first opera would sound to the musical score of Norma, by Bellini.
The Liceu grew and so lack of space meant it had to move to La Rambla, occupying the former convent of the Order of the Trinitarians, where it still stands today.
A few good dishes cooked over hot embers, wine and a touch of spirituality may even lead you to hear the chants of the nuns or the operas that sounded within the walls of the convent. Bear in mind t
hat according to the legend, each time a piece of stone falls from the convent of Montsió, the spirit of goodwill appears in the building.