El Celler de Can Roca is a three Michelin starred restaurant in Girona Spain and in 2013 it was voted the best restaurant in the world. It’s run by three brothers; Joan the head chef, Jordi the pastry chef and Josep the head sommelier.
We had to book eight months in advance to get a table and that was just for a weekday lunch – it’s a popular place you could say! After a twenty minute stroll from our hotel (we stayed at the URH which I would thoroughly recommend) we arrived at the restaurant which looked beautiful from the outside.
We were taken straight to our table and at 12:45 we were one of the first to arrive – we seemed to be there before most of the staff too. It was a gorgeous restaurant with most tables facing inwards to a glass encased courtyard filled with trees meaning the whole place was flooded with natural light. Once the rest of the staff and fellow diners arrived it had the perfect atmosphere too; relaxed and not at all stuffy.
We started things by perusing the drinks list which came in three huge books; red, white and spirits. It even had its own plinth on wheels that was left table side so you could browse in your own time. Its size and my lack of knowledge frightened me a little but that needn’t have been the case. Inside, many wines featured at around the 20 euro price mark – incredible value. We opted for the local VRM 07 priced at 19.83 which was delightful.
Two menus were available; the classics menu priced at 150 euro for eight courses or the feast menu priced at 190 euro for fourteen courses. As we’d travelled such a long way we opted for the latter.
Things kicked off with some delightful amuses. A little globe that was like a paper Chinese lantern was removed to reveal five little mouthfuls each inspired by different countries; Mexico, Peru, China, Morocco and Korea. The latter with its crispy panco breadcrumbs and bacon being our favourite. They were all impressively intricate and utterly stunning.
Next, an olive tree was brought to the table where we were told to pick off our own caramelised olives hanging from little hooks. The flavour from such a tiny olive was intense – like an explosion in my mouth. Little Carpano bon bons filled with grapefruit and black sesame followed. The liquid inside filled with Vermouth gave a strong wallop of alcohol which was lovely.
Crispy shrimp crackers were next alongside a little spoon of artichoke omelette. The tiny shrimp were barely noticeable on the crispy wafer but the flavour wasn’t so subtle; it had a big and bold seafood hit. The artichoke omelette had a gooey yolk centre which was divine.
Continuing the small bites BIG flavours theme, we were presented with some truffle bon bons and truffle brioche. Both reeked of the stuff in the most pleasant of ways. The brioche balls were light fluffy pillows filled with a truffle cream which left us wanting more….and more.
A generous and masterful selection of breads was next. Particular highlights were the thin ciabatta sticks and the olive brioche rolls that were light and buttery. No butter was provided (must be a Spanish thing!) but some delightful olive oil was more than gladly provided upon request.
Our first proper dish was a vibrant little number which featured a whole heap of ingredients; pumpkin puree, parsnip, quince jam, turnip potato, carrot, violet potato, comté cheese, porcini gnocchi and hazelnut tofu all atop a clear vegetable stock. The result being a delicate and well balanced blend of flavours which was as light as anything. A total taste of Summer.
“White asparagus and truffle viennetta” was really lovely – who knew that a white asparagus ice cream could taste so good? I could eat tubs of the stuff and the black truffle worked surprisingly well with the coldness of the ice cream.
Chestnuts and smoked eel was an interesting one; the charcoal grilled chestnuts looked like a sponge but had a smooth texture. The salty eel along with the tarragon, candied orange, toasted butter and yuzu were a great and quite unusual combination.
Boletus edulis cured in salt with egg yolk marinated in miso and air of yeast was next. Boletus edulis is posh for mushroom – basically a cep or penny bun. This was a relatively simple dish of mushrooms with a gorgeously gooey egg yolk. I’m not sure the ‘air of yeast’ came through but it was certainly tasty.
Mackerel with pickles and mullet roe was a thing of beauty. The mackerel sauce had been made using the skin giving it a rather unique sparkle and one which I’ve never seen in a sauce before. The mackerel itself had been marinated in sugar and salt which made the flesh beautifully soft and fatty.
Our next course divided opinion; salad of sea anemone, razor-clam, royal cucumber and seaweed in escabeche. I loved its strong seafood flavour but could easily understand why my gentleman companion felt like he had just “eaten the contents of a swamp” – it really was fishy. At the bottom of the bowl was a rich green seaweed sauce which was the main culprit here. I loved it though! We were given giant tweezers to eat the dish which was unusual.
The whole prawn with edible crispy legs was a revelation – why haven’t I eaten prawn legs before?! Generously sprinkled with salt they were divine and I reckon they’d make a great bar snack. I can see it now, “two pints please love and a bag of crispy prawn legs”.
The next course was one of my favourites. Our waiter poured some sherry over hot rocks at the table which steamed the langoustine in a matter of seconds – it was heavenly. There was also a bisque veloute to wash it down which was a real flavour of the sea but not too “swampy” this time.
I loved the grilled sole with black and white garlic, parsley juice and lemon. The strip of sole was cooked to perfection and the sauces (that looked a little like a school tie) were great companions for it; sweet and fragrant.
What followed was one of the prettiest plates of food I’ve ever seen; spicy mandala of artichoke flower, milk-fed lamb belly and lamb sweetbreads. The flower in the middle had been made using thin slices of artichoke which was seriously impressive. The lamb belly looked like it was too tiny but it was masterfully balanced. A stunning plate, both to look at and eat.
Our final savoury course was pigeon parfait and onion, curry caramelised walnuts, juniper, orange peel and herbs. The parfait was really rich and the onion provided some most welcome sweetness and the little strip of rare pigeon on the top finished it off brilliantly. Like its predecessors it was ruddy lovely!
Our first dessert was sourdough ice cream with coca pulp, fried lychee and sherry vinegar macaró. Bread ice cream – surprisingly moreish. Frying lychee completely transformed its flavour, for the better. The whole thing was studded with mini meringues providing texture. A really wonderful pudding.
Next was candy apple which saw some brilliant sugar work in the shape of an apple filled with an apple foam. The flavours exploded like a firework display in my mouth; sweet and tangy loveliness. I can still taste it now.
Our final dessert was the only thing we weren’t enamoured with; walnut, lemon and ratafia. The texture and flavour was a bit samey and one dimensional – a walnut mousse, that was it. It didn’t seem in-keeping with the excitement that came before it.
To accompany our coffee (and getting things firmly back on track) was the petit four trolley. It was the largest selection of petit fours I’ve ever seen – my jaw remained dropped the entire time it was parked next to our table. I felt like a kid in a sweet shop and I wanted to eat every single thing – and stuff my pockets full for later too.
So there we have it, the best meal I’ve ever eaten in the best restaurant in the world. The whole thing took four hours and every second was bliss. Described as fourteen courses we actually ended up eating twenty two different servings of food and I loved every single one (bar that walnut mousse). Before we left we had a tour of the kitchen which was a stunning space and we got Jordi to sign our menus – such tourists! It really was an impressive meal; beautiful surroundings, such lovely and friendly staff and intricate and stunning food. Worth every single Euro.