For those of you who have yet to familiarize yourselves with the wonderful cinematic masterpieces created by this phenomenal director, Wes Anderson is responsible for the following works of genius: Moonrise Kingdom, The Darjeeling Limited, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and my personal favorite, Grand Budapest Hotel, just to name a few.
I am a huge fan of his work, so you can imagine my excitement when stumbling upon this Mendl’s. I was strolling down Viladomat one rainy day, when I saw a café that I had never seen before. Today, Mendl’s is one of my favorite cafés in Barcelona. I decided to conduct an interview and get to know the owners, Judit and Toni, find out about their inspiration and affinity for Wes Anderson, and hopefully help put this month-old place on the market.
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Interview with Mendl’s
ShBarcelona: Where are you two from and what made you decide to open a café here in Barcelona?
Judit and Toni: Mataro, which is about a 45-60 minute train ride, one-way. We still live there and make the commute to Barcelona every day for the café. We started out having a clothes store, seeing as I (Toni) studied graphic design, film, hospitality and hostelry, and even cooking courses. We decided we wanted more than just a clothing store, left said store in February, and the dream for the café was born in March. We’re still selling clothes, out of the closet by the bathrooms in the café, that are from our clothing store. The closet is actually from our apartment! (Judit was attending to customers at this point, but I was told she studied hospitality as well).
SBCN: Could you explain to the readers where the name Mendl’s is derived from? How and why did Wes Anderson inspire the idea for a café?
J&T: Wes Anderson is a really abnormal director with a very calculated vision. The focus of his movies, both in a cinematic sense and a literal camera lens sense, is always very strange and chaotic, but it has a certain style. His style inspired our café because we wanted to have something that was different and unique. As Wes Anderson’s popularity and fame is growing, we wanted follow in similar footsteps: have an interesting bar, with good food, a comfortable atmosphere, and a uniqueness that we hope to keep growing.
The name Mendl’s comes from the bakery in the film “Grand Budapest Hotel”. The heroine and baker of the film, Agatha plays a major part in the movie. We like how there is always a strong and brave female character in his films; that is very important to us.
SBCN: Your interior design is a perfect combination of all of his films. Did you get help or who was in charge of the design? Where did you find such unique furniture?
J&T: Our furniture is all second-hand or passed down from family. For example, some of the particular items, such as some of the clocks, vases, mugs or glasses in the café, are hand-me-downs from our grandmothers. The furniture, however, is all second hand, from flea markets, and even from our own apartment. The sofa is probably the most modern thing that we have in here. We actually put everything together in this café apart from the flooring. The walls, the painting, we started from zero. Everything in the café was bland and white, and we began painting and working really hard for three months.
SBCN: Was it hard finding the place and doing renovations?
J&T: This place was actually our 5th option. The paperwork was a nightmare; especially for two people who have lived in Catalonia their whole lives. The government made it near impossible, and there were times when we wanted to give up. We decided one day that we weren’t going to let it defeat us, and that we would endure whatever paperwork and difficulties were ahead of us. It was definitely worth it in the end.
SBCN: Let’s talk about your menu. I love that it is a passport! What type of food would you say Mendl’s offers? What food item are you most proud of and is most frequently ordered? Do you all have any regulars yet?
J&T: Although our food isn’t elaborate and we don’t have a traditional menu, it is made with high-quality products, traditional Catalan dishes, and with different varieties. We would put it under the category of “Slow Food” with a Mediterranean influence. We are especially proud of our coques, or flatbreads, which are made with a delicate artisan Spanish bread called “pan de cristal”.
We have 10 different croquettes, all made with high-quality ingredients. We cook everything ourselves, and all of the items on our menu are artisan or handmade. We focus on quality, and we are willing to spend more money on high quality products in order to please our customers. After just one month of being open, we have 4 or 5 customers who have been coming every single day!
SBCN: I know that a lot of new restaurants and cafes are starting to take a farm-to-table approach when it comes to buying ingredients. Do you buy your ingredients locally or are your products organic?
J&T: We obviously look at the quality of our products before we buy them. That is the main thing we focus on actually, and we definitely try to buy organic and sustainable products. However, what is most important to us is that our products are locally grown because we like to see where our ingredients are coming from. We have brands that we trust and have been using since we were children, and we continue to support those local companies.
You can find this gem of a café on Viladomat 94, in the neighborhood of Sant Antoni, taking the Rocafort (L1) metro stop.