Restaurante Casa Varela 1986
The success story of Casa Varela 1986: Eating out with owner Toni Varela
Scroll to the bottom for pictures of the new refurbishment ↓↓↓
Casa Varela 1986 is a restaurant on the outskirts of Barcelona in neighbouring L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. Toni Varela took over from his parents a number of years ago and quickly turned it into one of the best restaurants in the Barcelona area, pushing the boundaries with ever evolving creative dishes. Today we sit down with the man himself and ask him about surviving the pandemic as a business owner, and his journey to success.
What is the history of your restaurant? How did you get started?
Toni: From an early age, I’ve always loved the catering industry and dreamt of having my own restaurant. I spent some time away from my parents’ restaurant developing my cooking skills and came back to help when my mother became ill. Back then, I started with organising football nights, when games would be shown. Experimenting with different dishes, sandwiches, tapas, menu deals and terrace service.
What is your current role?
Toni: I’m the trainer, director and head of operations. My two teams, kitchen and front of house understand their roles really well, which gives me peace of mind.
How would you describe the type of cuisine at your restaurant? Is it Mediterranean?
Toni: No, not Mediterranean. It’s mine! Whatever I like or envision, I create. I never studied cuisine officially, so I take whatever inspires me. My team and I love creating new dishes. When we think of something new, we discuss it together, start the creation process until we have something amazing.
Where do you get the inspiration for your dishes?
Toni: Inspiration often comes through mistakes. For example, our tuna tartar came about due to a plating error. It’s now one of our customers’ favourites.
What is the one ‘Must Try’ dish on your menu?
Toni: Only one? I like all of them, but the broken eggs with ham and foie is very significant because it was the first dish I created, where everything started.
If you want a surprising dish: Red prawn tartar
Loads of flavours that gel together: Pork tacos
The most thought through dish, that took over a year to create: Nigrini (ham and Tuna).
If I have to choose just one though, it would be the pork tacos. I had them recently and they were spectacular.
What did you learn from the pandemic? How did it affect your business?
Toni: It taught me a lot. The most important being that you should do what makes you happy because we are not here for that long. It brought out the best in me. It gave me time to pause and think. My team and I decided to create a more reduced menu which included croquetas, octopus, calamari, and a variety of rice dishes. It was actually the paellas that saved us. When the pandemic hit a second time, we increased the menu options by offering à la carte again. I’m super proud of my team, who have worked so hard throughout this period.
Which other restaurants in Barcelona or Hospitalet would you recommend? And why?
Toni: I recommend Granja Elena, Malcoa and Mug Restaurante, all in L’Hospitalet de Llobregat. They all adapted and stayed open during the pandemic. In fact, I commend all of the restaurants that managed to survive by working hard and offering their best.
Where is your favourite food holiday destination and why?
Toni: I love Spain, but if I have to choose a foreign destination, that would be Italy.
What one ingredient could you not live without?
Toni: [speaks to the chefs] Pimentón de la Vera? (paprika) or foie in its hey-day? Now kimchi [laughs] …actually, rice! Rice is the star ingredient.
What do you like to do when you are not working?
Toni: Looking for new recipes. I’m always thinking of how I can come up with new ideas for the restaurant.
Last but not least, what are the plans for the future of Restaurante Casa Varela 1986?
Toni: We’ve purchased the space next door to the restaurant. We’re going to knock down the wall and create a bigger kitchen and slightly bigger restaurant. Construction will start December 2021. We’ll still offer our all-time favourite dishes and continue to surprise our customers with new and exciting creations.
N.B. This interview took place in November 2021. The refurbishment is now complete and open for bookings. Check out the pictures below:
More pictures after the refurbishment: