In the early- to mid-nineteenth century, a powerful Catalan business man, Josep Xifré, commissioned the Porxos d’en Xifré building in Passeig d’Isabel II. When the plans were being drafted, Xifré was very clear that the building should have arcades (“porxos” in Catalan) similar to those of the main squares of Paris and the emblematic Rue de Rivoli.
The new building housed Xifré’s home and offices, as well as a large, luxury cafe. This establishment had seven doors for the public, and an eighth door for staff and goods.
Xifré found a prestigious restaurateur to manage the cafe, and in 1836, Josep Cuyàs opened the establishment under the name “Cafè de les 7 Portes”.
At a later date, the business was passed to Joan Biscamps, and then to Bertomeu Grau. It was not until 1929 that the chef Morera took over the management of the cafe, and made it into a restaurant. The name was changed to “Restaurant de les 7 Portes” and the establishment became one of the most popular in the city; and a meeting place for journalists, intellectuals and politicians, among others.
At the start of the 1940s, Morera decided to sell the business. In 1942, a group of traders from the Llotja exchange, who were regular clients of 7 Portes, persuaded Paco Parellada – owner of the legendary Fonda Europa in Granollers and member of one of the best-known families in the restaurant and accommodation business in Catalonia since 1771 – to take over the restaurant in Barcelona, along with his daughter Carme Parellada and son-in-law Joan Solé. With this team, the restaurant entered one of its most successful periods.
The succulent paellas, a collection of traditional Catalan recipes such as pèsols ofegats (stewed peas), fish and seafood casseroles, and inventions such as the pijama (a dish created by Paco Parellada and inspired by Escoffier’s Peach Melba) made the restaurant into a showcase of popular cuisine, served generously.
The food, combined with a new style of service, made 7 Portes one of the most popular, best-known restaurants of Catalonia.
In 1980, Francesc Solé Parellada took over the management of the restaurant, continuing the Parellada family’s tradition of over 300 years in the catering business. He inherited the practices of excellent customer service, generosity and good cuisine that were so strongly advocated by his grandfather, the famous Paco Parellada, one of the best-known names in Catalan cuisine. Francesc Solé Parellada has brought the restaurant into the twenty-first century.
It is not easy to maintain the continuity of an emblematic restaurant that is over a hundred years old, but this has been made possible by the ability of its owners to adapt to changes in the different periods. In 2016, Restaurant 7 Portes will celebrate its 180th anniversary and its future is guaranteed.
Restaurant 7 Portes is situated in a building of national architectural interest, and has been a privileged spectator and the focus of many historical events in Barcelona. The building was the first in the city to have running water, and was the subject of the first photograph to be taken in Spain.
The restaurant’s walls have been witness over the years to many celebrations, great stories, important decisions, intimate moments.... and all kinds of celebrities have sat at its tables. Over fifty Nobel laureates, artists like Picasso, Miró, Alberti and Dalí, musicians and tenors including Plácido Domingo, writers, actors such as Robert de Niro and Harrison Ford, scientists like Alexander Fleming, are just some of the names on a long list of clients and friends.
Plaques in our rooms mark where some of these celebrities sat.