Reservations for lunch or dinner at El Celler de Can Roca are open 11 months in advance. But prospective diners at this restaurant in Girona, Spain have to act fast as all the places are snapped up very quickly soon after they are released. Which is not surprising as El Celler de Can Roca has won all kinds of awards including 3-star Michelin and the Best Restaurant in the World in 2013 and 2015. We are not organised enough to plan our meals 11 months in advance, but fortunately there is a waiting list, which we signed up to some weeks before our Barcelona trip. We were pleasantly surprised to receive a positive email from them and so added a side trip to Girona from Barcelona to our itinerary.
Girona is a small city about 100 km north of Barcelona. It is easily accessible by train. There are more than 20 trains a day and lunch at El Celler can be done in a day trip. You can use the Renfe website for timetables and prices. Our express “AVANT” train from Barcelona Sants station took 40 minutes and costs 26 euros (return ticket). The taxi trip from the station to the restaurant takes another ten minutes or so. But the better plan, as we discovered, is to spend a few leisurely days at Girona which had more to offer than its small size suggests. We will write about our other eating experiences in Girona in the next few posts.
El Celler de Can Roca
El Celler de Can Roca is located in a residential area. It is a 15 minute taxi ride from the Girona old town. The exterior looks very understated. We walk up the narrow entrance and enter the grounds of a traditional house which is the residence of one of the Roca brothers. The restaurant is housed in the modern extension adjacent to it.
The interior of El Celler de Can Roca is simple and modern. A triangular-shaped atrium lets in natural light and added airiness to the space. We had a table next to one corner of this atrium. Ordering is easy – there were just two options – the Classics menu or the Feast menu (180 and 205 euros respectively, VAT included ). We selected the Classics menu.
El Celler de Can Roca 2017 Menu
The best part of fancy restaurants like El Celler de Can Roca is the whimsical amuse bouche that they serve at the start of the meal. Here are pictures of those that were served that day. I will not go into too much detail as there are so many items and also because it is also good to maintain an element of surprise in case you are going to try the same menu. What I can say is that this was the best part of the meal. The presentation was a bit over dramatic and some may even say kitschy, but we found this part of the lunch to be most entertaining. Culinary theatre – to be enjoyed as the items are introduced and consumed.
After all that, the appetizers started to be served. Apple’s timbale and duck liver; white asparagus and truffle viennetta. Both were good. The duck liver was quite mild-tasting which was a good thing for us.
Next were the seafood dishes – cod, prawns and sole. Even better than the appetizers. All the ingredients were fresh and of very good quality, the prawns in particular.
We like to have wine to go with the food but did not opt for the wine pairing as the quantity of wine would have been too excessive. Wine aficionados will have a fun time at this restaurant as there is a 50,000 bottle wine cellar. One of the Roca brothers – Josep is the sommelier. The wine list comes in three volumes and are wheeled around on a trolley. They have wines by the glass but these are not listed as they change regularly. We just had to decide the type of wine and they will offer something that suits the dishes we are about to have at the time of order. It is a convenient system as Spanish wines are quite foreign to us. We had no clue what the prices were but in the end they were quite reasonable – 5 to 8 euros per glass. These were the wines we had that day, two whites and a red, Manzanilla Solear Saca de Otone 2016, Contraaparede 2012 D.O.Rias Baixas and Ferrer Bobet Seleccio Especial 2012 D.O.Qa Priorat. We have never heard of these wines and will probably not see them again, they were easy-going enjoyable wines.
By the time the meats were served, we think the chefs at El Celler de Can Roca must have run out of their creative juices. We tried both the options – Iberian suckling pig and “goose a la royale”. The presentation was functional and quite unattractive. By then our capacity for savoury food had also been greatly reduced. A combination of these factors plus the food themselves made this the least enjoyed part of the meal.
But things started looking up when they started serving the sweet stuff. The red nose sorbet palate cleanser reversed the depressing look of the meat dishes. Eat it fast before it melts. Eating a runny nose is quite yucky.
The ice-cream dessert added an extra sensory dimension. Sniff the perfumed cone with fragrance Miracle by Lancome as you eat the dessert.
After the desserts proper, it was time for the petits fours, or in this case the “petits 20s”. The candy trolley was wheeled around to each table which had completed their menu. Diners could select what they want or leave it to the sweet lady to dish out the goodies. We let her feed us whatever she so desired. So we ended up with four types to eat at the restaurant and another four packed in boxes to be brought home. She was happy to give us more if we wanted, but we hate going to the gym.
After all that eating, we were glad to leave our table and go for a walk around the premises of El Celler de Can Roca. Our server at the restaurant took us on tour of the kitchen and the a brief description of the work stations. As lunch had been mostly completed, the only station that was still busy was the dessert section. We were then shown the El Celler Can Roca wine cellar by one of the gatekeepers of the cellar which is just next to the restaurant. It was a large and dark place.
The wine cellar was cool, dark and functional. It is working cellar and so there was little aesthetics. Some parts were neat and tidy, some areas were a bit untidy with many crates piling up. As any wine collector will tell you, the cellar is never big enough. The cellar is also designed with visitors in mind. Separate sections had video screens showing videos of a few selected wine regions (with background music) and with some samples of the soil of that area. It seems that Josep has a soft spot for riesling wines and wines from the Burgundy and Priorat regions. The oldest wine they have is something from 1805!
Josep Roca, the middle brother was the warm and hospitable host, walking from table to table to speak to his guests. Overall, the food was as we had expected from the best restaurant in the world, very good with a few nice surprises but a disappointment with the meat dishes. But the overall experience was much more than the food. The selection of reasonably priced wines to go with the food worked very well. It was an afternoon of fun, entertainment and some education as well !
Overall Rating: 5 TOPs
El Celler de Can Roca
Can Sunyer 48, 17007 Girona
Tel: +34 972222157