A pair of young entrepreneurs have restored a Barcelona bar to its former Art Nouveau glory – reviving the architectural language of fin de siècle society.
Bar Muy Buenas is in El Raval; a bohemian, inner-city neighbourhood mostly known for dubious drinking dens. Despite traces of its Modernisme details, such as a curved wood façade and wall separating bar area and dining room, it was an unenticing space.
But Enric Rebordosa and Lito Baldovinos, who specialise in acquiring emblematic, yet neglected bars and turning them into hot spots, jumped when they heard it was up for rent. The pair spent two years restoring their time capsule haunt.
‘The process was a much archaeological as it was artistic,’ says Rebordosa, who studied art history. ‘One thing we didn’t understand was the date Bar Muy Buenas appeared on the records (1928), as Modernisme had fallen out of favour by then.’
When the glass sign over the front door was taken down, they found another sign underneath bearing the name ‘S Rafols’ – a trader in salt cod around 1904. This explained not only the locale’s lavish style, but also the marble counter with its chiselled out sink and water fonts, which were used to clean fish.
These elements now form part of the Barcelona bar’s beguiling narrative, where it’s impossible to spot the difference between old and newly sourced. Rebordosa spent a year waiting for the old patterned cement floor tiles to come onto the restorers’ market, and mirrors, shelving, chairs and tables were specially made in small workshops and laboriously treated with patinas.
‘We avoided interpretation,’ adds Rebordosa. ‘Though if I had known it was going to be this complex I may have reconsidered. I think we are a little obsessive.’
The pair allowed a little slack in the upstairs lounge, where the original sign hangs over a more contemporary bar coated in wooden discs inspired by the tile work of Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Vicens. Here, clients can drink obscure Catalan-made aguardientes, liquors and spirits, which Rebordosa and Baldovinos also hope to revive.