Having covered the World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards in London and exclusively interviewed the chefs who took the top spot - the Roca brothers from El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Spain - I was hugely privileged to be invited to the restaurant to tour the kitchens and eat dinner.
My experience there was, unsurprisingly, unforgettable. Behind the pomp of three Michelin stars, and the accolade of winning the World’s Best Restaurant title, twice, there are three Catalonianbrothers, who grew up locally with a love of Catalan cuisine. Joan, a chef, Josep, a sommelier and Jordi, a pâtissier have combined forced to create an experience that is authentic to the core. The situation, and ambience, for example, is nowhere near as grand as you might expect. The restaurant is housed in a purpose built space, on the edge of an average street corner on the outskirts of Girona. The ratio of staff to diners is what gives it’s absolute prestige away, though I would happily have had less waiter attention to maintain a more relaxed atmosphere.
And so to the food. We chose the shorter of the tasting menus and left painfully full - seven courses, plus extra culinary interludes between courses. I cannot imagine how anyone could finish eating the longer menu, however remarkable and delicious, so I’d recommend sticking to the shorter (and cheaper) menu. The first dish that arrived was the around the world appetiser, with five different bites representing five different countries - Mexico, Turkey, China, Morocco and Korea.
Following that came the olive trees, on which olive ice creams perfectly resembling olives were delicately placed. Another highlight was the truffle brioche, soft as a cloud with an explosion of hot, rich truffle oil in the centre.
Mackerel with pickles and mullet roe, mackerel sauce with white wine, lemon, capers and chillies and mullet roe looked spectacular and tasted as good as it looked. And the sheep themed dessert, with sheep milk cotton candy and ice cream, followed by a sweets trolley straight out of Willy Wonka made sure the night left on an extreme sugar high.
It’s not every day you get to eat in the best restaurant in the world, and I don’t expect to ever eat in a restaurant as remarkable as El Celler again. But if you’re a foodie, and have a special celebration coming up, there’s no place I can recommend more highly. And if not, there’s always the off-shoot ice cream shop in the heart of Girona, Rocambolesc Gelateria.