The Eye of Katya with Paco Solé, owner of the restaurant the 7 Portes in Barcelona

Paco Solé, the proud owner of the iconic restaurant, the 7 Portes in Barcelona, which has been in his family since 1942, has received numerous awards for his establishment. His father, who remained at the helm of the restaurant until 1971, passed it on to his son Paco Solé, who has been managing this unique restaurant ever since. Interview with Katya Pellegrino.

How did you come to take over your father's restaurant?

Paco Solé - © the 7 Portes

After studying at the Superior School of Engineers in Barcelona, the equivalent of prestigious schools in France, then in Economics and finally obtaining a doctorate to pursue an academic career, I didn't feel destined to take over my father's establishment at the age of 28.

But in 1971, my father, feeling a bit tired and wishing to retire, offered me the opportunity to buy the restaurant if I was interested. Logically, I thought it would go to my older brother, who at the time in Spain was considered the heir in a family. However, since he was working as a civil engineer in Madrid, my father offered it to me.

So, I bought it because I knew it very well from my earliest years and managed it like a business. We have a staff of 110 people and serve 200,000 customers per year, which requires thorough management.

I heard there was a love story behind the creation of this restaurant?

The terrace from that time - © the 7 Portes

Indeed, a charming love story originates in 1836 during the Industrial Revolution in Spain. A Spanish magnate, Mr. Xifré, having amassed a fortune in Mexico and then in the United States, decides to return to Barcelona after marrying the daughter of a banker.

After living in New York and Paris, when his wife arrives in Barcelona, she notices the lack of comfort, architecture, and ambiance she had experienced in the United States and France. Consequently, she chooses to let her husband work in Barcelona and settles with their son in Paris.

Deeply in love with her, her husband has only one goal: to bring her back to Barcelona. To achieve this goal, he undertakes the construction of the first modern building for rent in Barcelona. This building, with 7 columns (actually 8 with the entrance for deliveries) and equipped with running water, houses the first bourgeois café/bistro where a woman can come alone or with company to enjoy a snack.
The façade of 7 Portes at night - © the 7 Portes

Thus, the 7 Portes was born, perpetuating Catalan and traditional cuisine. In 1942, the establishment was acquired by Francesc Parellada Riera, owner of the famous Fonda Europa in Granollers (a hotel). With the help of his daughter Carmen and his son-in-law Joan Solé, he took over the management of the restaurant.

How do you define Catalan cuisine?

Paella Parellada - © the 7 Portes

It is an adult, generous, sophisticated, and very natural cuisine, matured using abundant raw materials prepared in various ways. It is based on the tradition of grilling, barbecue, paella, and the use of combinations of sauces, including mayonnaise, romesco (a sauce made from red pepper and nuts), and aioli. It's a gastronomy expressed in a rich and classic repertoire of Catalan cuisine, which includes dishes such as zarzuelas (stews of fish and seafood), noodles à la cazuela, or Catalan tripe.

You mentioned an emblematic restaurant. What makes it typical apart from its classic Catalan cuisine?

Barceloneta Hall - © the 7 Portes

Why is it an iconic place? Simply because we have significantly contributed to defining Catalan cuisine between 1930 and 1970. Moreover, our establishment houses a magnificent collection of 400 rotating paintings, including lithographs by Joan Miró and Antoni Tàpiès, as well as works by artists such as Ramon Casas, Planas Doria, Ricard Opisso, Salvador Dalí, Ricard Urgell, and Aurore Altisent. We even have a portrait of Fortuny.

Furthermore, our restaurant has welcomed prestigious clientele, whose presence is commemorated by plaques. Personalities such as Ava Gardner, Joan Miró, Pablo Picasso, Charlton Heston, Pelé, and many others have honored our establishment with their visits. Finally, we are fortunate to have a significant proportion of regular customers, representing more than 50% of our regular visitors.

What sets you apart from other restaurants?

Barceloneta Hall - © the 7 Portes

We have a history and authenticity that our peers do not possess. It is remarkable to note that our restaurant has existed since 1836! We occupy an iconic place and are among the 120 establishments in Spain listed as ancient restaurants. Our determination to survive and keep the restaurant open while preserving traditional Catalan cuisine has been unwavering. The only period of closure we experienced was during the Covid crisis, a particularly challenging ordeal for us. Additionally, we have contributed to culinary literature with the writing of eight books on Catalan cuisine. It is worth noting that there is a historical precedent, the very first manuscript on Catalan recipes dating back to 1324: "The Llibre de Sent Soví," a collection of medieval Catalan cuisine written in Catalan by an anonymous author. This manuscript of 222 recipes marks the beginnings of Catalan cuisine, highlighting its distinctive techniques such as "sofregit" and "picada."

You mentioned receiving awards for the restaurant. What are they?

Paintings adorning the restaurant - © the 7 Portes

Yes, absolutely. We have received the Gold Medal of the city, the medal for being an iconic restaurant, and recognition from the Fork.

How do Spaniards view gourmet cuisine?

Barceloneta Hall - © the 7 Portes

In Spain, visiting restaurants is not limited to simply tasting a menu composed of starter, main course, and dessert, as is often the case in France. We also appreciate the convivial aspect of sharing and the possibility of snacking at any time with friends. It's a different spirit, an alternative way of consuming. It is important to emphasize that, for us, going to a restaurant is almost a "national sport" after football (smiles).

Does the restaurant the 7 Portes plan any future evolution?

The facade of 7 Portes - © the 7 Portes

At present, I have reached the age of 80, and I have experienced remarkable evolution alongside the restaurant. I have observed the evolution of our clientele and the adaptation of our demands. Nevertheless, I still take great pleasure in managing the restaurant, and thankfully, my son Jordi supports me and will take over. We have established a tradition: every Tuesday, we gather as a family for lunch. We even have our names engraved to mark this custom.
Mars 2024
Restaurant the 7 portes
Passeig d'Isabel II, 14
T°: +34 933 19 30 33