Pere Romeu and the painters Santiago Rusiñol, Ramon Casas and Miquel Utrillo, opened the 4 Gats on 12 June 1897 at the nº 3 in Montsió street, on the bottom of the Casa Martí, building designed by Josep Puig i Cadafalch. It was the height of the modernist movement. The place was born mirroring the city of Paris, with the referent of the Parisian cabaret the Chat Noir of Rodolphe Salis.
The architect Josep Puig i Cadafalch was clearly inspired by European Gothic when, as a 28 year old at the height of his career, he built the Casa Martí.
The building is faced in brick and has outstanding large stained glass windows in a facade that is dominated by the sculptures of Eusebi Arnau and forged steel work by Manuel Ballerina.
The statue of San José de J. LLimona that formed part of the facade was destroyed in 1936. Some of Puig Cadafalch’s other works in Barcelona modernist style are the Casa de les Punxes and the Casa Amatller in Paseo de Gracia.
During the years that the establishment was open, it wasn’t just a place to eat and drink, it was used as the central point of reunion where many activities were performed: Chinese shadows puppetry at first, hand puppets and puppets later, gatherings, concerts, literary evenings, art exhibitions, contests. The 4 Gats became a meeting point for the artistic, ideological and cultural vanguard of the city.
However, it was not all just reflection and thought, and as Santiago Rusiñol would say, the most important thing in life is to “Feed the spirit”. Pere Romeu reflected this in the food he prepared and would sit down with his clients afterwards to spark off discussions on “how to save the world”.
Participants included such illustrious people as Gaudí, Joaquim Mir, Isidre Nonell, Ricard Canals, Adolf Mas, Manolo Hugué, Isaac Albeniz, Enric Granados, Lluis Millet and Ricard Opisso.
Els 4 Gats was a versatile establishment which served as the springboard for many young artists, as for example Casagemas, who took profit of all the possibilities that the place offered him. Another attendee was a young 17 years old who had just come to live in the city by the name of Pablo Picasso. Picasso was to hold his first Solo Exhibition in the restaurant in 1899 and In 1900 Picasso was asked to design the cover of the Menu for 4 Gats, which later featured a portrait of Pere Romeu by Ramon Casas.
Picasso did a series of Modernist-style sketches in flowing lines. The gently curved outlines flesh out the serenely elegant figures portrayed.
Food and drink served at all hours!
This phrase from Pere Romeu identifies the spirit of the 4 Gats kitchen, and is still true to this day. The front area of the restaurant is available for informal drinks and meals, and there is also a larger rear dining room which has a Bohemian air for relaxed lunches and dinners.
There is an elaborate and keenly-priced set lunchtime menu served from Monday to Saturday, and for those who wish to enjoy a Typical Mediterranean meal the á la carte menu has a wide selection of dishes.
A restaurant for a 4 Stray Cats!
The idea of the 4 Cats name came when Miquel Utrillo and Pere Romeu were giving shape to the new restaurant. They had still not decided what to call it and so asked friends and acquaintances for their ideas. The responses were diverse, but one of those that came up time and time again was, loosely translated into a English: “it’ll just be you and 4 stray cats! (4 Gats) referring to the lack of customers who would frequent the place. They liked the idea of his expression, which is why this popular Catalan saying became the name of this iconic restaurant.