El Cellar de Can Roca: Literally the best meal of my life

Spicy mandala of artichoke flower

It started as a crazy plan with friends: After visiting Noma in Kopenhagen, the logical next step was El Cellar de Can Roca in Girona. Back then, reservations were quite tricky since you could get them only by phone on a certain reservation date. So on this given date, I called the number 120 times (!) until I got through – and ended up with a reservation 6 months in advance. But why not…the outcome: the best meal of my life.

We first went to Barcelona, where we had a splendid time and enjoyed amazing food (at Pakta and Tickets). Girona is one hour by car from Barcelona and a VERY small city with a beautiful old city center. I expected the restaurant to be in a fancy area, maybe standing alone on a small hilltop…the pics on the net give you the impression of being all alone somewhere. Actually El Cellar de Can Roca is situated in the middle of a living area with houses and small apartment buildings. The exterior is very reduced, with a wooden front and high bushes all along the glass windows – making the building almost disappear.

The bold and the brave
The bold and the brave

The inside is amazing. First you enter a patio, facing the family’s beautifully renovated, old house. A wonderful place to relax or take an aperitive. The restaurant itself is triangular shaped with another patio in the middle. All walls are panorama windows which give the room a very open and light atmosphere. Due to the good arrangement of the tables you never feel being watched and have enough space of your own.

Inside
Inside

We were nicely welcomed and brought to our table. First of all we were served a bottle of cava as a compliment of the house – a great start into the evening. El Celler de Can Roca offers 2 menues – we went for the tasting menu with wine pairing. They also got an impressive wine menue, which is such a big book, that it is brought to the table on a cart 🙂 The wine pairing featured mainly Spanish wines (with great exceptions like a 08 JJ Prüm or a 09 Egon Müller), but featured also Sake and a Meursault. All through the evening the Sommelière offered a lot of background on the wines.

We began the evening with a sequence of small starters:

Caramelized Olive
Caramelized Olive
The world
The world

I liked this one best: It presented a Burrito from Mexico (with mole poblano and guacamole), a stuffed wine leaf from Turkey (with lentil purrée, eggplant and spices, guat yoghurt and raw cucumber), pickled vegetables with plum cream from China, a delight from Marocco (almond, rose, honey, saffron, ras el hanout, goat yoghurt) and a Korean inspired panco fried bread (with bacon, soy sauce, snow peas, kimchi and sesame oil). A journey through the different tastes and textures of the world!

Coral: Pickled barnacles with bay leaves and albarino. Mediterranean lobster ceviche.
Coral: Pickled barnacles with bay leaves and albarino. Mediterranean lobster ceviche.
Crispy sesame and Carpano bombon with grapefruit and black sesame
Crispy sesame and Carpano bombon with grapefruit and black sesame
St. George's mushroom bombon and brioche
St. George’s mushroom bombon and brioche

Then we went into bread business (mostly white or light bread, as you would expect in Spain):

Handsome waiter offering bread
Handsome waiter offering bread

After this great series of starters the menue went on with soup:

Spring vegetable stock
Spring vegetable stock

This doesn’t look like much and when it was presented I was somehow disappointed…vegetable soup. But then the taste: This was my mothers vegetable soup, actually it was all mother’s vegetable soups together. An extremely reduced and tasty stock, together with vegetables, sprouts, flowers, leaves and fruits in different consistencys and degrees of cooking. A wonderful play with memories!

White apsaragus and truffle viennetta
White apsaragus and truffle viennetta

Maybe one of the most memorable dishes for me: The Roca brothers also run an ice cream parlor in the city called Rocambolesc. One of their creations is a white truffle and asparagus ice cream. And to be honest: It tasted even better than it sounds – a rich, dense and creamy experience with amazingly blended aromas of truffle and asparagus. A dish you could get buried in! There was also some asparagus (good) and a piece of truffle (tasteless, but looked nice).

Mackerel with pickles and mullet roe
Mackerel with pickles and mullet roe

I love mackerel – and so do the Spanish! This was marinated in sugar and salt and just perfect, maybe one of the best I’ve ever eaten. It came alongside mackerel sauce with white wine, lemon, capers and chillies in vinegar, fried tomato, mullet roe and mackerel infusion. Beside the specatular presentation the juice made of mackerel bones was great, it had a texture like liquid silver and a very pleasant fishy taste.

Salad of sea anemone, razor clam, royal cucumber and seaweed in escabèche
Salad of sea anemone, razor clam, royal cucumber and seaweed in escabèche

The days before I had enjoyed sea anemone and royal cucumber for the first time. Here it was all together in one dish: A very taste seafood-salad that played well with the different textures of the seafood. Again a dish that relied greatly on the perfect freshness of it’s ingredients.

A whole prawn
A whole prawn

I love prawns and have eaten a lot of them. But this was the shere idea of prawn: charcoal grilled, head juice with seaweeds and seawater, a sponge cake of plankton. The prawn was like liquid wax, melting on my tongue and filling the mouth with it’s amazing sweetness. This was as good as a prawn can ever get. The seaweed added some nice earthy and umami notes to balance the sweetness. Unforgettable.

Palo Cortado-steamed langoustine, bisque velouté and Jerez caramel - Preparation
Palo Cortado-steamed langoustine, bisque velouté and Jerez caramel – Preparation
Palo Cortado-steamed langoustine, bisque velouté and Jerez caramel - Final dish
Palo Cortado-steamed langoustine, bisque velouté and Jerez caramel – Final dish

This dish surprised me with it’s concept: The wine pairing was included into the dish. The langoustines were placed over hot stones, on which Palo Cortado Sherry was poured. Then the vessel was closed, so that the Sherry vapors could infuse the langoustines. First of all the langoustines were breathtaking: So tender and juicy. Their sweetness went unbelievable well with the aroma of the Sherry that also appeared in the velouté and the caramel. A great dish with amazing product quality.

Confit skate with mustard oil
Confit skate with mustard oil

This one didn’t work out 100% for me. The confit skate was really good and perfectly fresh. It came with beurre noisette, honey, chardonnay vinegar, bergamot, aromatic mustard, confit capers and smoked hazelnut. The different mustard aromas were quite intense and partly very spicy – for me the sweetness of the skate and the spicyness of the mustard didn’t blend together.

Surf and turf
Surf and turf

A great trompe l’oeuil: Sardine skin placed on pork jowl with charcoal-grilled sardine-bone broth, suckling pig sauce and chervil oil. The rich taste of the pig went well with the fatty fishiness of the sardine. The chervil connected the parts well and gave it some lightness too. A real treat with great presentation!

Spicy mandala of artichoke flower
Spicy mandala of artichoke flower

Again a wonderfully arranged dish that brought an exotic twist into play: Pieces of milk fed lamb-belly with lamb sweetbreads, curry yoghurt, beetroot, spinach, turnip, lemon, tangerine, sweet potato, leaves and flowers. The mellow taste of the sweetbread and the rich and fatty meatyness of the belly were nicely supported by the exotic and fruity parts. With their acidity they made the dish light and elegant. VERY nice.

St. George's mushroom and veal shin, marrow, tendons, avocado and beans
St. George’s mushroom and veal shin, marrow, tendons, avocado and beans

Another flawlessly executed meat dish – the bone marrow added a nice touch to the magically soft shin and tendons.

Pigeon trilogy
Pigeon trilogy
Botifarró and Tatjé pigeon breast
Botifarró and Tatjé pigeon breast
Pigeon heart and the cloud of rice
Pigeon heart and the cloud of rice

A perfectly prepared pigeon breast, with it’s tangy flavor. The heart on an airy rice crispy was great too. The Botifarro was the only service-flaw of the evening, since we had requested a meal without blood as ingredient. They assured us to offer an alternative and had noted the request, but it still landed on the plate.

Green salad: peas, liquorice and fennel
Green salad: peas, liquorice and fennel

I’m not a huge fan of vegetables in desserts. This pre-dessert was a nice transition to the sweet part though. It tasted very „green“ 🙂

Sourdough ice cream with cocoa pulp, fried lychee and Jerez vinegar macaron
Sourdough ice cream with cocoa pulp, fried lychee and Jerez vinegar macaron

This one was presented very spectacular: The base had a mechanism, that made the dessert move up and down a bit, like it was real „breathing“ sourdough. Kind of creepy, when you saw Alien III…the dessert itself was good though, a nice play of acidity and sweetness.

Chocolate anarchy
Chocolate anarchy

The main dessert was the sweetest form of anarchy: It had many different kinds of chocolate in different forms and consistencies. VERY good, VERY sweet but somehow also a bit arbitrary. Generally the desserts seemed not as well composed as the main dishes, which was a bit disappointing since I’ve heard many good things about Jordi Roca’s patisserie.

So it was time to end the menue with some sweets:

The most impressive sweet cart ever
The most impressive sweet cart ever
A platter for four...
A platter for four…

The sweet cart was really humongous, like you would expect on a funfair. We had a selection of all the sweets. Especially the fruit gelées were amazing. Since we couldn’t eat all of them, we took them home in this nice box:

Take away box for sweets
Take away box for sweets

Well, what to say? It was an amazing evening with good friends – a meal I will never forget. If I ever have to have a last supper – let it be this one! I was deeply impressed by the superior product quality in terms of variety and freshness. All dishes were flawlessly prepared and had a clear and accessible concept behind them. The service was unobstrusively but always there and helpful. We went home happier than before, which is the best possible outcome of a meal, I would say. Calculate 280€/person (including the menue, wine pairing and tip). It was worth every last cent.

Timon
Timon
Spracharbeiter. Kommunikator. Sprecher. Trainer. Historiker. Leidenschaftlicher Koch. Foodie.