Barlata: Tapas Not Entirely Worth the Wait
Updated: Nov 29, 2018
Over the past decade the tapas trend has continued to grow here in Austin. For those who like to graze, such as myself, the ability to order several small plates and share them with friends is the perfect dining experience. From a romantic evening for two, to a large group of friends, there is a certain old world charm to tapas that is hard to replicate with other menus.
Years ago there was a beautiful little tapas bar located on Lavaca Street in the downtown bar district which I frequented often. Sadly, as with many businesses, when the recession of the mid 2000’s hit it became a casualty of the economic crisis. Since that time I’ve been on the hunt for my next tapas obsession. So when I heard about Barlata I was thrilled to make my reservations.
Instead of waxing poetic about the food, which in any other review would be my main focus, let me cut straight to the point. My issues with Barlata really have nothing to do with the food itself, which was delicious. If served up in another setting, I would most likely return. However, I doubt I will be revisiting this establishment any time soon.
While beautifully designed upon first glance, the owners have crammed so many tables inside that, no matter where you are sitting, on a busy evening, you are mere inches away from the other guests. At one point the woman sitting next to us actually had to invite the waiter to sit down at her table because he was having to stand so close to her to take her order that she was becoming uncomfortable. Talk about awkward…
In addition, the customer service was extremely lacking. There appeared to be between six to eight different waiters, but for some reason it took an unacceptable amount of time to receive any portion of our order. The waiters seemed confused, even frustrated at times, visiting each other’s tables, but not responding to people raising their hands to make requests. Most of all I noticed our waiter failed to to check back in routinely with any of the tables assigned to him leaving his customers staring around in awkward uncertainty as they wondered if he would ever return. The energy in the restaurant felt edgy, the expressions on fellow patrons exasperated and annoyed. When expected to pay a premium price for the menu, one expects a certain level of customer service. I’m afraid Barlata has it all wrong.
Towards the end of our meal, realizing it was going to be impossible to order anything else in a reasonable amount of time, we decided to take our martinis and relocate to the patio, which has seen better days. The waiter, I suppose finally realizing our irritation, chased us outside with a desert menu. Ordinarily, at this point, I would have said no, but there was one item on the, a manchego cheesecake with fig and peach chutney that sounded rather interesting. Twenty minutes later we were still waiting for the slice of cheesecake. When it did finally arrive, it certainly did not live up to expectations.
The restaurant industry is a tricky one to succeed in – there are so many elements an owner must take into consideration from the flow of the tables down to the type of silverware used. Unfortunately a team of solid chefs cannot make up for deficiencies in all other aspects of an establishment. As aforementioned, the food at Barlata is not the problem. Is it the most extraordinary tapas I’ve ever consumed? No, but it was enjoyable. And in any other setting I would definitely give this restaurant another chance. However, my experience was so uncomfortable and frustrating that I will not be dining at Barlata again. If you are still interested in visiting Barlata, my advice would be to call and find out when the least busy night is so that you can have the full attention of your waiter, or sit at the bar.