EAT - DRINK - BE MERRY
El Celler De Can Roca - Girona
Do you think there is real advantage in going into battle with your brothers? I’m sure that England were stronger in ’66 because we had both Bobby and Jackie, Bobby belting them in and Jackie voracious in the tackle. Look at the indefatigable and inseparable Millibands. And who could forget the unlikliest of siblings in Paul and Bamber Gascoigne?
El Celler De Can Roca is also a family affair, run by three brothers who came in the restaurant game by virtue of their grandparents who ran one very near to the site of this swish modern eatery in Girona. Girona is in Spain, or rather it’s in Catalonia, which may or may not be in Spain according to who you talk to, oh and don’t talk in Spanish, they don’t like it. I have to say we came to chose El Celler for two reasons, it’s a cheap flight from Luton and El Bulli is now closed. So we ended up in the fourth best (according to the San Pellegrino Top 50 at that time, it's now May 2013 Number 1) www.theworlds50best.com
The three brothers, Joan (savoury), Josep (liquid) and Jordi (sweet) are the minds behind this magnificent venture. They have developed the concept of emotional cuisine, combining local ingredients with both classic and innovative techniques to create food which not only satisfies but also evokes memories and feelings in the diner. I know this sounds like pseuds corner but this is top quality food which does more than just fill you up.
I won’t go through all of the twelve courses (we had the Feasting Menu) let alone each of the seven ‘snacks’ that came as appetisers, or the thirteen glasses of wine that accompanied the meal, there are websites dedicated to this menu, search them out. But some of the highlights included a bellini bon bon, a small cold sphere of what seemed like frozen orange chocolate which when bitten filled the mouth with a miraculous apricot bellini. Something amazing happened with the brioche with porcini and pot au feu broth, it was simply not possible to get so much loveliness out of something apparently so simple. There was an onion soup, yes really, of such divine intensity and cheesy deliciousness that I nearly fainted. A beautiful filet of sole with ‘Mediterranean flavours’ which were five delightful sauces, fennel, bergamot, orange, pine nuts and green olives. These guys have deconstructed a lemon sorbet by pulling the flavour out of the ice and serving the two together as a ball of crunchy snow and a distillate of lemon sauce. Then came a pudding which had its own perfume, yes, they’ve had perfumes made to match the food. What terrific fun.
On the wines we had a cava with the snacks and then a glass each with the twelve courses, a glass being about a mouthful and a half. They were very well matched and they are not afraid of using slightly sweeter wines or sherries (of which there were two) to compliment the dishes.
There were of course low points. The very first ‘snack’ was a caramelised olive stuffed with an anchovy, the combination didn’t work for me despite the novelty of them being served hanging from their own bonsai olive tree. The baby squids were lovely although they sat on grey brown gelatinous gravy.
The toilets were like a sauna, apparently they don’t do winter out in Catalonia. Also the size of the feasting menu was a bit much and it did feel a bit relentless at times, but then it is a feasting menu. But these are all very minor points way out weighed by the positives.
Imaginative, challenging, brilliantly executed, both subtle and intense, delicious, evocative, welcoming, well designed. These guys are at the top of their game this is a fantastic place.
Feasting menu €134 per person
Wines to match € 60 per person
Total including extras and tax € 438