Originally published in the Barcelona Metropolitan magazine October 2015
In 2013, Bruno Balbás, along with three good friends, founded the Lolea Sangria brand in Zaragoza with the goal of reclaiming a drink that they loved; a drink whose reputation and virtue had been sullied by too many generic versions and too much tourist pandering.
Sangria Lolea is an artisanal, bottled libation that is made with only real ingredients and comes in a variety of styles, from the recognisable Lolea Noº 1 (a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, orange juice, lime and cinnamon) to the sparkling white wine-based Lolea Brut with wild apples and elderflower—a refreshing blend that always instantly piques my appetite. Not wanting to miss out on the action, Barcelona superstar chef Albert Adrià even requested his own Lolea Sangria style, dubbed La Cala. A step up from your average summer sangria, La Cala leans towards the vermouth aspects, evoking the flavours of the Mediterranean with strong hints of rosemary and cinnamon.
Casa Lolea, on the top fringe of Barcelona’s ever-evolving Sant Pere neighbourhood, is one place where I might actually order a sangria. This smart little vermuteria, with its handsome red, white and black colour scheme, elegant tiled floors and exposed bulb fixtures, offers vermouth, wine, cocktails, artisanal Lolea-brand sangria and delectable versions of some very classic tapas and aperitivo dishes.
Living just down the street from this inviting outpost, it’s not hard to convince myself to pop in for a couple of house specialities such as the salty-sweet, vermouth-marinated mackerel, tender homemade mojama (dry-cured tuna) with orange and almonds, succulent sardines in escabeche, marinated salmon blinis with yogurt and truffle honey, semolina truffle risotto, creamy foie gras mi-cuit with black volcanic salt, or confit bacalao with olivada and capers.
A good mix of local and foreign patrons frequent the compact dining room, with the dozen or so tables consistently filled, from 9am for coffee and pastries, to 1am as leisurely dinners finally come to their satisfying conclusion.
Opened in November 2014 by Balbás and his wife Sofía Matarazzo, along with chef Ramón Miracle, Casa Lolea represents the flagship of what may become a multi-location brand. Their goal is to hone the Casa Lolea concept locally before opening more of the same throughout Spain and then globally. The menu and restaurant design were crafted around the idea of enjoying a meal without rush or pretense, where the fresh food and artisanal drink go together in sublime harmony. With a wide offering of drinks, bites, plates and desserts, at Casa Lolea sangria is always in season.