El Celler de Can Roca

My dream (or at least one of them) came true…One of the moments I have been longing for had eventually arrived. I finally ate at El Celler de Can Roca (3 Michelin star restaurant and 2nd Best Restaurant in the World according to the 2011 San Pellegrino List). I’m still wrapping my head around this meal. This is not a bad thing. It just means I have no words to accurately describe my emotions during the meal 

Since 1986, El Celler de Can Roca is run by the three Roca broth­ers: Head chef and oldest brother Joan, middle sibling Josep in charge of the amazing wine cellar and front of house and youngest brother and Pas­try chef Jordi. The Rocas prepare what they describe as emotional cuisine, derived from:

  • tradition (childhood memories & experiences)
  • intellect (current understanding of events that lend an emotional memory to it)
  • academic element (utilising classical techniques to create new ones that awaken and evoke the eater’s taste memory)

I had driven all the way from northern Spain just to come eat here. A unique experience which was booked 3 months prior! As you enter, you are led through narrow walls until you find the outside patio. It was a beautiful autumn day, crisp air and lightly breezy but warm enough to sit outside for a tea or coffee. 

Outside Patio and the Kitchen (below)

Cooks at work

As you exit the kitchen, on your left is Joan Roca’s desk full of books, papers, creations and on the right hand side a chalkboard full of ideas.

As you enter what feels like a hotel reception desk, you are then taken to your table.The dining room – actually the entire restaurant – is amazing and absolutely beautiful. There’s something very light and pure about the architecture and it had a calming and relaxing affect on me. 

Private wine tour with Josep. The tour to the wine cellar is a must here; holding over 3,000 bottles of wine, the tour is an experience in itself, each region being presented with an emotional speech by Josep. You can tell his deep attachment to wine.

Beautiful naturally lit room and the perfect view from the best seat in the house.

The large staff does not overwhelm your experience here. They are quiet, attentive and come to every single one of your needs. Very professional (as a 3-star should be) and very mature team, unlike many other Michelin-star restaurants I’ve tasted. The dining room itself is a glass-wall triangle where all the tables have view to a courtyard without roof.

I wonder what it feels like to dine there when it’s pouring down outside.

Simple yet explicit (The Roca brothers)

We accepted the offer of a glass of Cava (bubbling wine from the house) and the waiter rolled in the wine library. Literally, the books for reds, whites and sweet wines are being transported on a wooden trolley. But we were driving back the same day so opted for water. 

I did go through a bit of the books and the lovely aperitivos came rolling in.

 El Mundo (The World)
The World in 5 bites
A literal ‘burst’ of tastes from Mexico – Guacamole, Korea – Kimchi, Lebanon – Hummus, Japan – Wasabi, 
From around the world, we come back to the ‘earth’ with the Olive Bonsai tree: Toffee caramelized olives stuffed with anchovies inside and coated in a crispy sugar-layer.
Hooked on Can Roca
Next up, another bonbon; this time Campari (Cold and hard on the outside but burst of liquid Campari inside)
Fried Zucchini
Calamari nibble
My favorite that I got to try (and saw a demonstration at San Sebastian Gastronomika, a week beforehand).
Truffle Rock with real truffle herbs

The last aperitivo also featured truffle but unlike its former, it was a warm white truffle brioche that just oozed of liquid truffle cream. Yum…

2 menus at choice, but naturally we opted for the Feast menu, consisting in 9 savoury courses and 2 desserts. El Celler is famous for showcasing the best of Catalonia (ie. seafood and fresh flavors). There was only 2 red meat coursea, the steak tartare with mustard ice cream (tiny balls of frozen perfection) and the pigeon. 

The Feast Menu

Autumn Salad with ‘earth’: Mandarin, Cepe mushrooms, shoots and herbs

Toffee of cauliflower and sea urchin: what an unusual but awesome combination. Creamy sea urchin with an equally cream but tangy cauliflower

Ying and Yang: Oyster served hot and cold in squid ink and cream of oyster.

Raw Palamos prawns (supposedly the best on earth) prawn sand, ink rocks, fried legs, head juice and king-prawn essence

Revisited (and traditionally French) Charcoal grilled Sold Meuniere; Milk skin, lemon and capers, flower and citrus peel

Brandade of codfish; Braised salt-cod tripe, salt-cod foam, olive oil soup, shallots and honey, thyme and chili pepper, vegetable contrast. Again, very creamy and tasting like codfish, love that unusual feeling!

Served with a contrasting crispy Codfish skin.

Iberian suckling pig blanquette with Riesling; Mango and summer-truffle terrine, beet, garlic, orange concentrate and saffron pistil

Red mullet cooked at a low temperature; Stuffed with red-mullet pate and aniseed-flavoured-herb, orange and saffron gnocchi

Steak tartare with mustard ice cream (revisited from 2009); Spiced tomato, caper and lemon compote, hazelnut praline, bearnaise sauce, Oloroso-sherry raisin, chive butter, Sichuan pepper, Pimenton de la Vera (D.O) smoke, paprika and curry, small scoops of mustard ice cream, mustard leaves, baby onions with vinegar.

When the dish came to the table, I was a bit disappointed. Steak tartare? At a 3-Michelin? Yes. But it was much more than that.Each bite of the steak came with another flavor (either compote, creme, what have you), so each bite would be sweet, salty, sour, etc… Unbelievable. And those little white flakes? Mustard ice-cream. Fantastic.

Lamb with charcoal-grilled sweet pepper and tomato (which also bursted in your mouth). Literally in smoke. 

I could smell and taste the smokiness throughout the dish, even when the waitress left with the cover. Somkey, sultry, a ‘darker’ more profound taste than the rest. And a great way to continue to the next (and final) dish of the meal.

Wood-pigeon liver with onion, caramelized hazelnuts with curry, juniper berries, orange skin and herbs

Now….Jordi’s turn…

Orange Chromatism 2011: Orange, Carrot, Mandarin, Passionfruit jelly, Carrot granite 

Milk dessert; Milk caramel, sheep’s milk ice cream, sheep’s milk curd-cheese foam, sheep’s milk yogurt and milk cloud. For me, the winner of desserts: fluffy cotton candy, soft yoghurt, crystallized ice-cream and a soft foam. 

The Forest; Vanilla, Chocolate, Tonka Bean, Cacao, Shiso. Equally tasty! Loved that it looked just like earth, but damn that chocolate ‘earth’ was too good to pass. Suddenly, I had room for all the desserts. 

Mignardises in a box

Notably, El Celler are  fond of what seems to be the ‘water balloon’ technique, and the snacks as well as the petit fours all were to be placed quickly in the mouth, ‘exploding’ their fragrant contents. This inspires a child-like wonder in the eater and it’s hard not to smile at both the playfulness and the science involved in preparing them.

Was it everything I imagined it to be? Yes.

Was it better than I thought it would be? Hell Yes.

Was it well worth the 6-hour drive? Definitely.

The Best high end cuisine I had in my life (until now)? Possible. But I do know, I am very lucky to have experienced it.


El Celler de Can Roca

Address: Can Sunyer 48, Girona 17007, Spain

Telephone: +34 97 222 21 57

Web Site: www.cellercanroca.com

One Response to “El Celler de Can Roca”
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  1. […] restaurant El Celler de Can Roca (3-Michelin star and 2nd Best in the world; view my blog post here) sits, I will embark in my new adventure for the next couple of months but I know that a piece of […]

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