Barcelona been a giant in the culinary realm, attracting chefs who seize the opportunity to work in some of the best restaurants in the world. Naturally, it also welcomes its fair share of food enthusiasts who are keen to immerse themselves in the iconic dining scene.

You’d be hard pressed to meet someone who doesn’t mention ‘that trip’ to Barcelona; it’s just one of those places that never fails to leave an imprint. Sydney Restaurateur Andrew Becher is one person who has fond memories of the city, going on to encapsulate his own experiences in Parlar, a new Catalan-inspired eatery in Potts Point.

“On all my travels throughout Europe, I always stopped by Barcelona,” he says. “You could say I have a long-standing love affair with the city. I love the Catalonian coastline and surrounding regions, in particular the Perpignan area of Southern France, which has a strong influence on Parlar’s cuisine.”

Becher is also behind Franca Brasserie, with the restaurant’s Executive Chef Jose Saulog joining Parlar in the same role. Saulog speaks to Hospitality about riffing tradition, tweaking flavour profiles and why snacks are the way forward.

Chef Jose Saulog began his career as an apprentice in Vancouver before he moved to Sydney to work at Glass Brasserie and later, Tetsuya’s. A stint at Bells at Killcare followed until an opportunity to open a game-changing restaurant in Germany presented itself.

“I went to Hamburg to chase the Michelin star dream and helped open a restaurant called Lakeside,” says Saulog. “We won a star in our first year.”

The chef made his way back to Sydney and was part of the opening team for Franca Brasserie, working his way up to the executive chef position over the years. Now, he’s also heading up Andrew Becher’s latest restaurant Parlar, which is conveniently located next door to Franca on Macleay Street.

It marks the first time Saulog will focus on Catalan cuisine, and the chef says he’s more than up for the challenge. “If you do one thing forever, you have blinders on,” he says. “It really helps turn the gears and expands everyone’s minds. I get ideas for Parlar, but then I think, ‘Maybe this is for Franca’.”

Parlar’s approach reflects the backbone of Spanish cuisine: simplicity. “A lot of us have travelled through Europe, and Barcelona is a must-visit place,” says Saulog. “I’ve been there a few times and really fell in love with the cuisine; it’s by no means fancy — it’s honest and humble.”

Parlar’s menu hasn’t taken the traditional route, with the team making the decision to start with the basics and veer a little off course. “We’re putting our own spin on it using the best Australian ingredients we can find, but we’re sticking with basic Catalan flavours,” says Saulog.

But that’s not to say the format is unlike what you’d experience in Spain. “There’s a lot of snacks, tapas, pintxos — whatever you want to call them,” says Saulog. “Snacks and small plates have been big here over the past 10 years, but they’ve been doing them forever in Spain because that’s the culture.”

And that means liberal use of iconic produce from paprika to jamón Iberico and Ventresca tuna belly, which is used in a mayonnaise. “It’s so rich and fatty with so much umami,” says Saulog. “It’s a far stretch from your typical tinned tuna.”

Every venue has its signature dishes, and Parlar’s is a tossup between the anchovy churro and kingfish with orange. “We all know anchovies and churros, but together, they’re quite unique,” says Saulog. “It’s your basic churro recipe without the sugar and there’s crème fraiche and chives as well.”

While flavour is number one, Parlar’s orange interior fitout is mirrored in the kingfish dish, which combines the protein with sturgeon caviar, fresh orange and smoked tomato oil. “It goes so well with the room and the dish really pops,” says Saulog.

There’s also fideuà, a Catalan version of a paella made with pasta instead of rice. “It’s a big highlight here, no one else is really doing it,” says Saulog. “It’s quite seafood-rich and tastes like paella, but it’s pasta. It’s really crunchy on the bottom, too.”

The dish perhaps exemplifies what Parlar is all about — a dining experience that toes the line between familiarity and innovation.