When we’re in Barcelona for the summer, we always visit Blai’s extended family out in a village in the Alt Penedès. It’s wine country and everywhere you turn you’re surrounded by vineyards, vines dripping with white or red grapes. Quite often we’ll eat in Cal Padrí, a restaurant we’ve seen rise from what was originally a large chicken shed, and we’ve seen the restaurant grow in popularity since it opened, both with locals there for the weekday menú del dia or non-locals out for a special day with a special menu or lost tourists who are looking to retrace the cava route they planned. Yeah, I wasn’t there but Blai had to help out some lost tourists while he was having lunch there one day; lots of the wineries in the region now welcome visitors. And Cal Padrí is indeed a lovely place to stop for lunch if you’re in the area.

On our last visit, it was a Sunday and hence the menú del dia wasn’t available. There was a weekend menu or what we all opted for, the menú degustació. This tasting menu consisted of three first courses, two second courses and two desserts…and all for €26,50. And that included bread, water and the house wine. Definitely a bargain as you’ll soon see. And not everyone at the table even has to order it.

We started with a little snack of pa de vidre (rubbed with tomato and oil for pa amb tomàquet naturally) and topped with slices of fuet. A good and classic start.

Pa de vidre amb fuet

Then the tasting menu began proper. Amanida de perles de foie amb maduixa i reduccio de vinaigre – A salad of foie pearls with strawberry and vinegar reduction. I’ve never thought much about strawberries in salads but they were perfect in here, a lovely fresh and slightly sour foil to the rich foie.

Amanida de perles de foie amb maduixa i reduccio de vinaigre

Coca de farigola amb seito i ceps confitada – A thyme coca with anchovy and confited porcini mushrooms. This was wonderful. I love flatbreads and flatbreads topped with delicious things are always welcome.

Coca de farigola amb seito i ceps confitada

Raviolis de mascarpone i alfabrega amb daus de tomaquet fresc – Mascarpone and thyme ravioli with diced fresh tomatoes. Those tomatoes are certainly fresh as they have a kitchen garden on the other side of the parking lot!

Raviolis de mascarpone i alfabrega amb daus de tomaquet fresc

Llom de bacalla amb crema d’Idiazabal i patata xip violeta – Cod with Idiazabal cheese sauce and purple potato chip. This was one of my favourite dishes with lots of creamy cheesy sauce with the mild cod.

Llom de bacalla amb crema d'Idiazabal i patata xip violeta

Anec mut del Penedes criat a Cal Padri rostit amb prunes i pinyons. KM0 – Roasted Muscovy duck from the Penedès with prunes and pine nuts. This is the signature dish of the restaurant as it uses ducks they raise on the premises (the farm has been there for years). The cooking style is very Catalan – the duck is roasted in pieces in its own juices along with the fruit and nuts. It’s simple but very satisfying. The ‘KM0’ denotes the distance the ingredients have traveled!

Anec mut del Penedes criat a Cal Padri rostit amb prunes i pinyons. KM0

And then there were desserts! On the left is Copa de mousse de xocolata blanca amb gelatina de mango – A homemade cup of white chocolate mousse with mango jelly. On the right, “Ou sorpresa de Cal Padri” – their “Surprise Egg” of meringue with vanilla ice cream. Both simple but both good.

Postres

Overall, a tasty tasting menu and quite a fun way to dine if you’re here on a weekend.

I’ve been a few times already in the past and each time I’d had their menú del dia, the lunch menu of the day – made up always of two dishes (the first is usually a vegetable/rice/pasta and the second usually a meat/fish) plus dessert, bread, water, and wine. I’ve just highlighted some of the dishes they offer here. This is all very typical everyday Catalan eating and it’s all very well cooked here.

A typical Catalan amanida (salad)

Salad

A saltejat (think stir-fry or saute) of green beans with piquillo peppers

Saltejat de Mongeta Verda amb Pebrot Piquillo

A simple but typically Vilafranca/Catalan fideuà

Fideuà

Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes and basil

Spaguetis amb Tomaquet Xerri i Alfabrega

Chicken wings with garlic and potatoes

Alas de Pollastre al Allet amb Patata

Stewed lean beef with mushrooms

Daus de Carn Magra amb Bolets

Homemade yoghurt cake with chocolate sauce

Coca D'Iogurt amb Salsa Xocolata

Crema Catalana

Crema Catalana

Now there’s the matter of actually getting there. Cal Padrí’s address states that it’s in Castellvi de la Marca, which is really a municipality in the Alt Penedès. Technically, it’s in a village that’s really only made up of three houses. The proprietor said that everyone really finds the restaurant using Google Maps. And so I’ll recommend that too. Also, you’ll need a car or a taxi.

Cal Padrí

Cal Padrí
Masia Cal Gori s/n.
08732 Castellví de la Marca
(Barcelona)

The closest large town is Vilafranca del Penedès.

Happy new year, everyone! We’ve been spending the last week and a bit in Barcelona where we were relaxing and working and I was mainly playing tour guide to my brother who was also visiting. It was a hectic but a very good visit. Before all the craziness though, we did have a couple days to ourselves, of which one was used for a trip to the historic city of Ripoll.

It was a two hour train ride there, which we whiled away by staring out the window at the beautiful scenery and trying to pop our ears as the train rose with the elevation towards the Pyrenees. It was cold in the town when we arrived but from the station we went directly to its famous monastery – the Monestir de Santa Maria de Ripoll. It was founded in the 9th century by the amusingly named Wilfred the Hairy (Guifré el Pilós) and was the main centre of religion in Catalonia until the 15th century. A few of the great Counts of Barcelona are interred there.

Untitled

Of particular note in the monastery are the tower (above) and the portal (below). The portal is a beautiful example of Romanesque sculpture and there was a bid to have it recognised by UNESCO when we visited.

Untitled

It was lunchtime when we finished at the monastery. It being a Monday wasn’t exactly helpful as we discovered that many restaurants were closed; even the tourist office was closed on Mondays! We wandered until we found one that was open and that space for us two to squeeze in. That restaurant was Can Canaules, on the ground floor of a beautiful Modernista building.

Cafe Canuales

As is usual for us, we went for the menu del dia, that wonderful and affordable set lunch deal offered throughout Catalonia. Here their menu was €12.50 and consisted of two dishes, dessert, and bread. Instead of including a beverage like most other restaurants though, they included a glass of juice or a salad.

And as is usual when Blai and I eat together, we split all our dishes. The first was Escudella de galets i tall de pilota, the classic Christmas soup which here was executed perfectly and was such a lovely meat broth to slurp on that cold day. The slice of meatball, one of the usual components that is cooked up in the broth, was delicious.

Escudella de galets i tall de pilota

Rossejat de fideus amb trompetes de mort, llagostins, sèpia was a simple but good saute of short noodles with wild mushrooms (the black trumpets of death) and seafood.

Rossejat de fideus amb trompetes de mort, llagostins, sèpia

They forgot our salads (service was a bit shaky) but an inquiry ensured that they arrived on our table.

Amanida

Of our second dishes, the first was Xai del Ripollès a la brasa, lamb from Ripoll served grilled and here with a side of fries. These made for some fabulous gnawing at the bone.

Xai del Ripollès a la brasa

The second second dish was a stunner – Bacallà amb salsa de tomàquet natural i panses (salted cod with tomato sauce and raisins). The combination sounded strange at first but the raisins really did work well with the tomato sauce and the tender cod.

Bacallà amb salsa de tomàquet natural i panses

Desserts were pretty good if on the sweet side. Flam was homemade and executed well.

Flam

The Iogurt amb salsa de gerds (yogurt with raspberry sauce) was at first perplexing with its crunchy grains of sugar. It turns out they hadn’t melted into the raspberry puree and though this was a bit of a fail, I secretly enjoyed crunching on the sugar!

Iogurt amb salsa de gerds

Can Canuales
Plaça Gran, 20
17500 Ripoll
Girona, Spain

We hastened to see as much of the small town as we could but it was terribly chilly and not long after lunch, we were looking for a warm place to sit. We ended up back in front of the monastery where there was a patisserie with a cafe within. This was Pastissería Costa.

I resisted their pastries overstuffed with whipped cream and had a hot chocolate with melindros, the Catalan cakey fingers that a perfect for dunking in the thick drink. These melindros were the best I’d had in a while – soft and fresh and with a gentle lemon flavour.

Xocolata amb Melindros

The pastry Blai chose was topped with cabell d’angel, which translates to angel hair. This stringy (hairy!) looking sweet is made from pumpkin and you’ll find it in many Spanish and Catalan pastries. I need also mention that all their pastries were wonderfully fresh.

Pastry with Cabell d'Angel

On our way out, we also purchased a bag of moixaines, a biscuit that originated in Ripoll. The name translates to ‘caresses’ and it also goes by the name of carícies (‘fondles’). These little rolls are made with the same wafers as neules but these are filled with a hazelnut and almond paste. Yes, they’re as delicious as they sound!

I forgot to share this photo of moixaines from Ripoll. The name translates to 'caresses' and they are wafers filled with a hazelnut and almond paste.

Pastissería Costa
Plaça Sant Eudald, 7
17500 Ripoll
Girona, Spain

Untitled

Ripoll was a lovely town to visit in North Catalonia but if you do visit in the middle of winter, as we did, wrap up warmly! And to see more, perhaps time your visit not to occur on a Monday.

It was my first Easter in Barcelona and I was looking forward to trying out all the foods of the festival. As with most events and festivals in Catalonia, there are particular foods and dishes that are eaten and that are sometimes only available to buy at that time of the year.

Botifarra d’ou is available all year round but is particularly popular around Carnaval, the celebratory days before Lent (Quaresma in Catalan). This firm pork and egg sausage is eaten cold, sliced, and tastes just as you expect – of pork and egg. It’s tastier than it sounds!

Botifarra d'Ou

During Quaresma, bunyols de Quaresma are available at pastry shops and as desserts at restaurants. These fried sweet puffs of dough are airy on the inside (giving them their other name of bunyols de vent – “of wind”) and it’s difficult to stop at one!

Bunyols

What got Blai very excited though was the mona de Pasqua – an Easter cake that he hadn’t eaten for a number of years. This is a traditional mona – a ring of slightly sweet bread with hard boiled eggs embedded. Other shapes can be made too; there’s another popular variant where the eggs are piled in the middle of the ring like in a nest. They are usually given by godparents to their godchildren on Easter Sunday and the number of eggs on the mona would usually be the age of the child, usually up to about 12-13 eggs. Blai’s cousin told us of one mona with 30 eggs that he saw at one pastisseria – it covered an entire dining table!

A Traditional Mona de Pasqua

Nowadays though, these are less popular as people turn to cream cakes like the one below we shared with Blai’s family and extended family. The coloured feathers seem to be popular with all pastisseries in Barcelona.

Chocolate Mona Cake

Chocolate mones are also very popular – Blai remembers only chocolate houses being available when he was younger but today’s chocolate mones also reflect popular culture: the variety ranges from the ever popular Barcelona football team …

Chocolate Football

…to films like Tintin…

Tintin Boat!

…and all the way through to Spongebob Squarepants (he’s very popular in Spain and goes by the name Bob Esponja).

Spongebob's Pineapple

Overall, Catalans are not very religious but due to Spanish immigration from Andalucia to the city, there is still demand for religious processions such as the two I went to see on Good Friday (Divendres Sant) – one was dedicated to “Nuestra Señora de las Angustias” leaving from the Església de Sant Jaume and the other was for “la Hermandad de la Macarena” and “la de Jesús del Gran Poder” departing from the Església de San Agustín. The two processions met at the cathedral before returning to their initial churches. While they didn’t meet with the same wild reception they would have received in Andalucia, it was still interesting to watch.

Our Lady

Untitled

I’ll end this post with an Easter egg/chocolate mona I saw at Pastisseria Takashi Ochiai, a brilliant Japanese/Catalan pastry shop. It’s possibly the best Easter egg I’ve ever seen: it’s a ninja shark (with uh… smurfs)! Do also see his Totoro egg!

Ninja Shark Egg!

We made it to Barcelona! There was no trace of snow on the runways or near the terminals at Heathrow when we left and when the plane made it off the ground (only one hour delayed), there was indeed a sigh of relief from me. This year, we were joined by my brother and it being Christmas, there was much family feasting together. I’m still trying to recover from all the wonderful overeating.

I just asked Blai’s mother about what is traditionally eaten here in Catalunya over the holiday season; this was only my second Christmas in Barcelona as I usually visit for New Year’s. Well, Christmas Day eating traditionally includes escudella i carn d’olla, a two part meal that comprises the first part of the meal. Part A is the escudella, a rich meaty broth in which galets, the traditional pasta shape, are cooked; Part B is the boiled meat and vegetables that were cooked to make the broth. The second course is usually a roast bird of some sort. The next day (that’s Boxing Day to most of us but it’s also the feast day of Sant Esteve – aka St Stephen), the meal would include canalons, a dish of Italian origin that the Catalans have taken to their hearts, and the filling would be made of the leftovers from the day before. I was looking forward to it all!

On Christmas day, the big lunch was with Blai’s extended family in their village outside Barcelona; Blai’s aunt had gone all out for the delicious meal. We started with homemade wild boar fuet (a type of dry cured sausage particular to Catalunya) and home cured olives (I think they were arbequina, judging from their size).

Wild Boar Fuet Home-Cured Olives

For the first course, there were the most delicious canalons (yes, on Christmas Day. This family switches things up!). The Catalan canalons are always served in bechamel – there’s no tomato sauce here. The filling is of meat lightened a bit with bechamel. It is rolled within canalon wrappers and then drenched in plenty of bechamel; Blai’s aunt added fresh wild mushrooms to the topping. Gorgeous!

Canalons

For the second course, a roasted bird; that day, it was a duck, served with delicious pan-fried pears, plump prunes and toasted pinenuts.

Roast Duck with Pears, Prunes and Pinenuts

Finally, for dessert, among all the other sweets was a large platter of torrons. I always overdo it with torró (the very sweet and rich confections made mainly with almonds) in Barcelona and so never bring any back to London!

Torrons

The next day, St Stephen’s Day, or Boxing Day, was celebrated back in Barcelona. As we had canalons the day before, this was the day we would have escudella i carn d’olla. The delicious broth with galets was made all the more exciting by its being served out of a tureen that was at least 150 years old.

Escudella

Escudella

That was swiftly followed by the carn d’olla (the literal translation is meat of the pot). The huge platter of boiled meats included chicken, pork, lamb, botifarra negre (black/blood sausage) and a huge pilota (a big meatball of pork that’s divided up between the diners). The equally huge platter of boiled vegetables held leek, carrot, turnip, parsnip, potato, cabbage and chickpeas. Boiled meat may sound boring but it’s all quite delicious and I love the variety involved.

Carn d'Olla

That’s my serving there.

Carn d'Olla

The second course (though it already feels like the third by now!) was a most delicious vedella amb suc, a kind of beef stew. Here, Blai’s mother stewed roast beef slices with the most meaty mushrooms I’ve ever encountered, all in a gorgeous thick sauce. I must learn to make Catalan stews!

Vedella amb suc

Vedella amb suc

A fruit I always seem to associate with Catalan winter feasts is pineapple; slices of the most perfectly ripe pineapple always seem to end most Christmas meals. That and torrons, of course. One is never far from torrons during the festive season.

Pineapple and Fork

I hope everyone had a lovely Christmas celebration too, wherever you were. Now, what are your plans for New Year’s?

ETA: If you’re in London and are keen to try escudella i carn d’olla, Rachel of Catalan Cooking is hosting a pop up supperclub event on January 15 where you can try it. The menu looks good!

Last weekend was our first wedding anniversary and to celebrate this happy occasion, we headed for lunch at the best known restaurant in Girona in Catalunya – our big blowout for the end of July. I’d made the booking at El Celler de Can Roca, the 4th best restaurant in the world (if this ranking is to be believed), way back in January. It was a much less stressful affair than trying to get a booking at El Bulli – I just sent an email to them requesting a booking and they sent one back confirming it. Of course, with the restaurant being in another country, it was also a bit of an excuse to have a long weekend away. (I was mentioning to Blai that booking a restaurant six months in advance to celebrate a first wedding anniversary must seem overly optimistic in this day and age!)

El Celler de Can Roca

After a journey to Girona from Barcelona on a crowded train (turns out every person with a Eurail pass goes to Portbou to cross into France), we arrived in the city with about an hour to get ourselves to the restaurant. If you’ve got sensible shoes, the walk takes under half an hour and we had enough time to wander through a gorgeous park on our way there. The restaurant is located in the new part of the city in a residential area and if it’s your first time to Girona, I would encourage you to give yourself more time to explore the old centre too.

The Kitchen's on the Ground Floor

The Restaurant

I love that the restaurant is family run – three brothers Roca are involved: Joan the head chef, Jordi the pastry chef, and Josep the sommelier – and that hints of the Catalan cuisine they grew up with are prevalent in their cooking. Their restaurant is absolutely gorgeous – and from what I’ve read, it’s believed that the move to this new space a few years ago was one of the main factors that pushed it from two to three Michelin stars. We were seated at a generously sized table with a wonderful view of the central “courtyard” space. As you can see from the photo below, the tables were well spaced and it’s impossible to feel crowded.

View From Our Table

Almost immediately after we had settled in, the activity commenced around our table. Glasses of cava were proffered and duly accepted – hey, we were celebrating after all! Then came out own little olive tree, with caramelised olives stuffed with anchovies hanging from its branches. What a fun presentation and it was a great start to the meal.

Cava

In an Olive Tree

Soon after came little Campari and grapefruit truffles that were to be popped into our mouths immediately so no photo for you. I remember a very strong alcoholic hit as the contents burst in our mouths and I giggled at the surprise of it all.

Huge menus were brought to us (in Catalan and in English and I’ll give both names for the dishes here), followed by even more little snacks: fried anchovy bones in a rice tempura and sesame and cocoa crisps. The menus were a little unwieldy and I almost knocked over my champagne with mine but luckily Blai saved it in the nick of time. But really, we had no need for menus as we’d already decided what we were having in advance – the festival menu, advertised online as consisting of 9 savoury courses and 2 desserts, their largest tasting menu. The waiter taking our order looked every bit as excited as we were for ordering it! Soon after, the sommelier came by with his wine menus but Blai turned him down and he looked not at all offended that he was not required. In fact, he looked positively happy – there are no problems ever to be had at this restaurant!

Anchovy Bones in Rice Tempura

Sesame and Cocoa Crisps

After a little wait, the first of our courses arrived – the Truffled Brioche with Pot au Feu Broth (Brioche trufat amb brou d’escudella). Now, thanks to the menu, we already knew the names of all the dishes that were to come; however, a lot of the names were quite vague or obscure and while we might know we were getting a brioche, we had no idea how that brioche was to be served and so the meal still remained a surprise throughout. This soft steamed brioche was filled with a garlicky, truffley liquid filling and was topped with lots of shaved black truffle – a beautiful mouthful. The escudella broth was a wonderfully rich and meaty hot drink.

Truffled Brioche

Escudella Broth

More snacks that didn’t appear on the tasting menu showed up. I loved the omelette with a bursty liquid centre containing caviar while Blai’s favourite was a meaty and olivey truffle thing whose details escape me. Actually, it was described to us as an olive but I suspect this was because it looked like an olive as it certainly didn’t taste of it – I think something was lost in translation there.

Omelette with Caviar and Meaty Olives

Another waiter then came by and presented us with a huge trayful of breads – olive, nutty, seedy, oily, round, sliced, buns. It was difficult to choose! We each chose variations of the most unhealthy sounding of the lot – a millefeuille of bread with olive oil (mine) and with tomato (Blai’s). They were indeed lovely and came apart in oily tender layers. A little warmer would have been better but I do understand that it would be near impossible to keep that tray of breads warm at all times.

Millefeuille Bread

The second course of the tasting menu was the Cherries with Fatty Tuna and Ginger (Cireres amb ventresca de tonyina i gingebre), which turned out to be a cold cherry soup with various bits and pieces. That cherry in the middle wasn’t a cherry but a cherry and yogurt ice shaped like a cherry – too cute! And its intense fruitiness did go well with the very fresh fatty tuna.

Cherries with Fatty Tuna and Ginger

The next course came in a clear sphere and its contents were masked by the smog going on inside. This was the “Escalivada” with Anchovies and Smoke of Ember (Escalivada amb anchoves i fum de brasa). The lids were removed with a flourish, with the waitress waving the smoke towards our faces and its fabulous scent of charcoal barbecue had me almost dip my nose into the bowl. The escalivada turned out to be spheres of each of the usual vegetables: red for tomato, green for pepper, black for aubergine and white for onion, all sitting in the juices that form when escalivada is cooked. While each element tasted delicious, the dish was a bit samey-samey at the end and as Blai pointed out, it didn’t improve the real escalivada dish in any way. Still, it was an unique presentation but was the least interesting dish of the afternoon.

Escalivada with Anchovies and Smoke of Ember

The Charcoal-Grilled King Prawn (Gamba a la brasa) sure sounded like it was going to be quite simple. It was far from simple. There was the grilled prawn, its head sitting in a pool of prawn veloute. There was a line of a thick prawn stock reduction. There was also what the waiter called the “land prawn” – that strip of sand with weeds in the front. That sand was like the best prawn cracker ever, all powdered, and had bits of seaweed, samphire, and cute, crispy, little green “plants” all on there. The grilled prawn too was superbly fresh with subtle encouragement given to you by the little moist towelettes provided to pick up the head and suck it – mmmm, prawny. I adored this dish and its quirky presentation.

Charcoal-Grilled King Prawn

Charcoal-Grilled King Prawn

Then there was a hot soup course – Onion Soup, Crespià Walnuts and Comté Cheese (Sopa de ceba i nous crespianes amb comté). Perhaps the heat of this dish was a little odd for summer but it was still delicious. We were presented with bowls of a thick caramelised onion sludge, a lump of walnut bread, bits of walnut and fennel leaves, all very prettily decorated. A waitress then came along and poured over a thick and cheesy soup of Comté cheese and walnut. It was intensely cheesy and then oniony and in a way, an interpretation of a French onion soup.

Onion Soup, Crespià Walnuts and Comté Cheese

The Sole, Olive Oil and Mediterranean Flavours (Llenguado amb oli d’oliva i sabors del mediterrani) course was presented as the most delicate fillet of sole, cooked perfectly, served with five sauces; from bottom to top, these were fennel, bergamot, orange, pine nut and olive. The gorgeous way it was presented reminded me of a very efficient filing system, complete with little labels on the tabs! The “label” for the olive sauce tickled me the most – it was a little sugar pastille filled with extra virgin olive oil that coated the tongue as it was crunched. All the sauces were delicious though special mention must go to the beautifully floral and fragrant bergamot.

Sole, Olive Oil and Mediterranean Flavours

The name of this dish really had us guessing for a while: Baby Squids with Onion Rocks (Calamarcets amb roques de ceba). Rocks? Onion rocks? Was it going to be hard? Luckily, what arrived only appeared to be a black rocky island surrounded by a “sea” with tiny tender squids (xipirons). The dark rock was a moist bread and underneath was more onion confit – the sweetness of the onion and the sweet/saltiness of the squid and its broth paired well. I really enjoyed this dish.

Baby Squids with Onion Rocks

I suspected that the next course, the Red Mullets with Suquet (Catalan Seafood Stew) and Lard (Rogers amb suquet i sagí), was cooked sous vide or using some other similarly low and slow cooking method as the fish flaked away yet appeared raw and translucent. I loved the way this preparation caused this usually strong flavoured fish to mellow a little and we both really enjoyed this. The potato gnocchi on the side were lovely too though nothing very new or different.

Red Mullets with Suquet (Catalan Seafood Stew) and Lard

I was surprised to see steak tartare on the menu because… well, I have no idea why. El Celler de Can Roca’s version, specified as from 2009, was Steak Tartare with Mustard Ice Cream (Adaptació de steak tartar amb gelat de mostassa 2009). Anyway, it was made of veal and was like no classical French tartar. The little yellow bubbles on top were a mustard ice cream while each of the souffle potatoes on top was flavoured differently: there was chive, curry powder, smoked paprika and Sichuan pepper. Hidden between the big bubbles were a bit of spicy tomato sauce (the waiter announced it as ‘ketchup’ to our neighbouring table to their shock and horror!), capers, and a tiny chewy sack of Oloroso sherry which resembled a raisin but oof, what a hit of sherry that was! The dark sauce at the bottom was a thick veal reduction. Eating this dish was such fun as we started at the bottom and worked our way upwards and every bite tasted different for all the bits and pieces hidden throughout. Really excellent.

Steak Tartare with Mustard Ice Cream

Our final savoury dish was the Lamb, Peach and Apricot Terrine (Xai amb terrina de préssec i albercoc). The little cylinder was put together from tender morsels of braised lamb neck and the rich meat was beautifully complimented by the apricot conserve and peach slices. A cheese foam on the side gave another extra umami hit to the dish. That crisp of lamb skin was just divine – as thin as tissue paper and crispy and so rich and lamby. In a way, the dish seemed wonderfully simple for what I expected from El Celler de Can Roca but it was utterly delicious.

Lamb, Peach and Apricot Terrine

The Lemon Distillate Sorbet (Sorbet de destil·lat de llimona) announced that the sweet dishes were about to arrive. Rather stupidly, after reading the name of the dish, I expected just that – a little scoop of an interesting lemon sorbet in a dish. But duh, this restaurant doesn’t have three stars for nothing. The sorbet was lovely but it was the extras that were more interesting. The scoop of iciness sat in a pool of lemon cream and hovering on top of it was the thinnest crisp of honey that you can imagine. This was sensational and we only wished the portion was sized more like a full dessert! With our sorbets, we were also presented with a paper cone spritzed with a perfume. I’d heard that Jordi Roca, the pastry chef, was known for his dessert interpretations of famous perfumes but our waiter told us that this time, it was the opposite; he developed the dessert and then a perfumer crafted a scent from it. And so, that rather delectable scent was unavailable for purchase (I’m going to send an email to them asking again).

Lemon Distillate Sorbet

Perfume

Our first major dessert was a Rose Soufflé (Souflé de roses) with lychee sorbet and guava. The souffle was a light as air foam that just gave enough of a rose hint without it being too overpowering and this floral note complimented the fruits well. Hidden within the mixture were a couple of the most fragrant wild strawberries, which were a lovely surprise.

Rose Soufflé

Orange Colourology (Cromatisme taronja) was our final dessert and it was indeed a plateful of orange. That lump of carrot was actually fashioned out of orange ice and egg yolk ice cream with lots of apricot eau-de-vie – quite an alcoholic ending! A fresh carrot compote, orange segments, and beautiful pastilles of orange sugar with liquid centres finished this very different dessert – I never expected to enjoy a sweet preparation of carrot.

Orange Colourology

And that brought our tasting menu to an end. I spent a greedy few minutes wondering if I should order another dessert off the a la carte menu (as another table did) but closed the menu and settled for coffee. Blai asked for a tea and was presented with the most amazing tea menu we’d ever come across in a restaurant.

The Tea Menu

And then they came along and set this down on our table for us for our wedding anniversary! A freshly made sugar swirl and a candle!

For Our Anniversary

As spectacular and unexpected that was, it came with this box which got more attention from us. Hello, petit fours! It was only in hindsight that I realised that the little macarons, of which there were four, were based on classic perfumes, their names given above the combination of flavours. Each was a lovely little bite but our favourite was the intense yuzu milk chocolate at the bottom of the box.

Petit Fours

Mini Macarons and Chocolates

The coffee was excellent, very smooth and among the best I’ve sampled. Blai’s tea though was more exciting – a whole teapot was brought along with a little sample of the dried and steeped oolong tea leaves. An explanation was also given of the treatment the tea had received (steeped at 80 Celsius, if I remember correctly); I do like that they take their tea seriously!

Coffee

Oolong Tea

Soon, it was time to go – we were the second to last table to leave but don’t be mistaken, we were never rushed out. Reluctantly, we made our way to reception where we were presented with our bill. This meal cost us a little over €300, not cheap but I didn’t grudge the expense – it was 4 hours we both greatly enjoyed. If I could describe our meal at El Celler de Can Roca in one word, it would be this: fun! Honestly, I can’t wait till we have a chance to go back. We’ll be saving our pennies again!

Happy anniversary again, Blai! (Whoooo – one year married and nine years together!)

El Celler de Can Roca
Carrer Can Sunyer, 46
17007 Girona
Spain