Jan 24 2014

El Celler de Can Roca


This year Noma was knocked off the top spot as the world’s best restaurant in the St Pellegrino restaurant awards by a restaurant in Girona owned by three brothers – El Celler de Can Roca.  According to themselves: “El Celler is a free-style restaurant, committed to the avant-garde, but still faithful to the memory of different generations of the family's ancestors dedicated to feeding people”. Naturally, as I have been to Noma and had a great meal there, I was very keen to visit El Celler de Can Roca. I booked the table in June a month after it was announced El Celler was the new world’s best restaurant and then could only get a table on a weekday lunch (Friday) 6 months from then, in January. Having said that, it is still easier than getting a table at Noma, where they just never have any free spaces as you can only book up to three months in advance. The advantage with El Celler is that you can book it as much as you want in advance, and the waiting list at the moment is one year.


El Celler de Can Roca is located in Girona, and I flew to Barcelona with 6 of my friends and then we drove for an hour to Girona which is located north of Barcelona. El Celler is located in sort of the suburbs of Girona, and we spent 20 min walking there from the centre of Girona (where we stayed the night before). The building were El Celler was located was very nice and old and reminded you of an old expensive Spanish house were nobility would have lived years ago. The décor of El Celler also impressed everyone and my boyfriend thought it was nicer than the décor at Noma, and he especially liked how they had a glass wall in the middle of the restaurant and inside of it tall trees were growing. I personally prefer the minimalistic approach of Noma, but the décor here was beautiful. The entrance felt a bit sterile  though all white, but the actual restaurant had a warmer feel to it. I also later had a tour of the kitchen, which was bigger than the one in Noma.


El Celler de Can Roca is run by three Roca brothers – Joan, Jordi and Joseph. Each of them do a different thing, Juan cooks savoury food, Jordi does the deserts and sweet dishes and Josep is in charge of the wine cellar. The Roca brothers got their passion for cooking from their parents restaurant Can Roca in Taialà, a neighbourhood line the outskirts of Girona where they grew up. In 1986 Joan and Josep Roca opened El Celler de Can Roca (Jordi later joined), on premises next to their parents Can Roca. In 1995 they got their first Michelin star, the first restaurant in Girona to do so. In 2002 they were awarded the 2nd star and in 2009 the third, after which as one of the people was telling me, it became much harder to book this restaurant and the waiting list increased. In 2007 the restaurant relocated from its initial location next to Can Roca to the old Torre de Can Roca, in bigger premises with a welcoming garden, dining room and the huge wine celler, where the restaurant is still located nowadays.


I met Joan, the oldest brother, in the restaurant, he was very nice and I was impressed to see him dressed as a chef and actually cooking food as you don’t see many of these amazing chefs in the kitchen anymore, most of them spend their time in TV shows. Joan also signed my menu and took a picture with me, which I will keep as a nice souvenir. You may think that Joseph being in charge of the wine cellar has less things to do than the other brothers, but we visited the wine cellar after our meal and it was the largest wine cellar I have ever seen, it was incredible. El Celler de Can Roca also make their own cava which cost a bit over EUR20 and was the most amazing thing ever, and we liked it so much we kept drinking it throughout our meal and even got a bottle to go with us to take on our train back to Barcelona. We drank like a bottle each during the meal. 




When we were seated we were presented with two set menus, the slightly shorter one for EUR145 (more meat focused) and a longer one the “menu festival” for EUR 175 (more fish focused). The whole table had to chose the same one. As we thought we would not come here again anytime soon we decided to go for the longer “menu festival”. Just like in Noma and in other restaurants, the menu consisted of smaller courses “snacks” or extended amuse bouche and then went into more substantial dishes. 


The first thing that the waiter brought us was “the world”. It was a little wood piece than on top of it had flavours of the world and initially was covered with a black paper bag that resembled “the world” as it was in a round shape. The waiter explained that we had little starters (snacks, something which Noma is famous for) from 5 continents of the world – from Mexico, Perru, China, Korea and Morocco and he invited us to taste it and guess which dish was from which part of the world. I though I would be good at it but I got it all wrong. We had a “burrito” with mole poblano and guacamole from Mexico, ceviche broth from Peru, which was a ball with a liquid inside of it and it exploded in your mouth with liquid that tasted like ceviche, which was very impressive. We also had a panko fried bread, bacon with soja sauce, snow peas, kimchi and sesame oil from Korea, pickled vegetables with plum cream from China and the dish we were told to eat last (as it was the sweetest) – almond, rose, honey, saffron, ras el hanout, goat yoghurt from Morocco. You can see pictures of all these snacks below and they were seriously impressive, made with different ingredients, cooked in different ways and truly resembling the flavours of the countries.


Our next course, also a small snack, was absolutely delicious “caramelised olives”. They were presented in an artificial small olive tree and hang there with small little hooks and as we noticed even these small hooks had the El Cellar name on them in tiny writing. Very much enjoyed these olives and as Katrina said there were not enough for us, the waiter even brought us four extra ones. The next snack was a “crispy shrimp” thin but big and round crackers. The third snack was “carpano bombon with grapefruit and black sesame” which I cant really remember how it tasted, so clearly not that memorable. The next starter was “caviar’s omelette” and the waiter brought us a rock on which small spoons were placed with nicely done omelette. Next followed two truffle dishes, “Truffled bombon” and I was amazed how much truffle they gave you per bite and it had a deep truffle taste, as well as a snack of "truffle brioche”. 


After these snacks we moved to the larger size courses and before getting our first one we were offered bread (the first time during the meal). The bread selection was large and included normal white baguettes, red wine bread with raisins, brioche with olives and another one with tomatoes and walnut bread. I tried the tomato and olive brioche (both) and I loved them, super soft, with so much flavour, amazing. I was not particularly keen on the red wine bread, mainly because it had raisins which made it sweet and I don’t like raisins but all the other people that had it really liked it. Also by this point we had noticed the whole “rock” theme in “can roca” restaurant, as most of the dishes were served on some sort, always different rocks and there were always rocks lying around our table. 


The first bigger course was “vegetable stock, pumpkin puree, parsnip, quince jam, turnip, potato, carrot, violet potato, comtee cheese, porcini gnocchi, hazelnut tofu”, seems like a long name for a course and in reality we got a broth with one or two each of these ingredients. The colours were amazing and it was not a strong tasting course or memorable course but nice to get us into the larger course section. The next dish was one that all of us agreed was one of our favourites, “white asparagus and truffle viennetta”. It was cold and like an ice cream and had the most intense and memorable asparagus and truffle flavour. You would not put these two things together but in this viennetta they tasted amazing. 


After these vegetable courses we moved to the fish courses and  as this menu focused on fish we got six different fish courses. I think the most memorable, and also the one that Love liked the most, was a course called “a whole prawn” which had the most delicious fresh prawn with head juice with seaweed, seawater and sponge cake of plankton. The other dishes that we got were: 1) “chestnuts and smoked eel” which had charcoal grilled chestnuts, smoked eel, tarragon, fennel, candied orange, toasted butter and yuzu, 2) “mackerel with pickles and mullet roe” which had mackerel sauce with white wine, lemon, capers an chillies in vinegar, fried tomato, mullet roe, mackerel marinated in sugar and salt and mackerel infusions; 3) salad of sea anemone, razor clam, royal cucumber and seaweed in escabache”; 4) polo cortado steamed langoustine, bisque veloute and Jerez caramel, and finally 5) grilled sole with black and white garlic, parsley juice and lemon. All the fish courses looked totally different, used different ingredients and presentation methods and were extremely well rounded and good seafood and fish dishes. 


After the fish dishes we got 3 meat main courses, lamb belly, pigeon and hare. My favourite was the pigeon dish as it was so interestingly intense in flavour. It was called “pigeon trilogy” and consisted of three different things, “heart of pigeon and the cloud of rice”, “stock of pigeon” and “Botifarro and Tatje pigeon breast” (Botifarro is a type of sausage famous in Catalunia). The pigeon was soft and delicious and the stock of  the pigeon was very intense tasting. The meat dish that aesthetically was the best was “spicy mandala of artichoke flower, milk fed lamb belly, lamb sweetbreads, curry yoghurt, beetroot, spinach, turnip, lemon, tangerine, sweet potato, leaves and flowers”, it was a beautiful dish, very colourful, with loads of different things going on and the lamb was super sweet. The other meat dish that we got was “royale of hare a la royale” but I seem to not have taken a picture of this dish.


For desert we got three deserts starting with the lightest, sort of palette cleanser desert called “sourdough ice cream with cocoa pulp, fried lychee and sherry vinegar macaro”, round fresh tasting ice cream ball. Next came a visually very impressive desert, “candy apple” that looked like a bright red apple, the sort that snow white would bite, but when you broke it, it had this soft apple tasting mousse inside of it. The last dessert called “walnut, lemon and ratafia” was the sweetest one and a nice end to the meal. Besides these three deserts the most amazing sweet trolley (which is extremely old and has recently been redecorated) came to us with a huge selection of amazing tasting sweets, my favourite was the jelly type of apple, that was super delicious. 


I had a very good impressive meal at Celler, but I do prefer Noma (and even Alinea in Chicago and the Fat Duck in UK). The meal was excellent and all the dishes were cooked amazingly well with great ingredients and what was very impressive was how many ingredients prepared in different ways they managed to get in one dish (some dishes had more than 10 different things in them) with different colours and textures, much more ingredients in a single dish than for example what Noma would use. However for me there were excellent dishes but no star/ standout dish, and I had problems remembering the dishes the next day, as none of them stood out as being incredible, whilst there are dishes I had at Noma, the Fat Duck and Alinea that I will literally remember for the rest of my life. Still we had a great meal and spend 6h in the restaurant, which sounds long, but as I had great company of friends and amazing food, just flew by. The other funny thing that we realised after we left and when I was looking through the pictures of my meal and looking at the picture of the bill was they had charged us the tasting menu for 8 people even though there were just 7 of us! We were too drunk and too happy to notice the mistake in the restaurant. I emailed them and they immediately returned the money to us, which shows great service. 


Date: 24/ 01/ 12

Location: Girona, Spain

price we paid (7 people) with alcohol: EUR 1863.22 (but as this was for 8 people they returned us EUR175, so in the end we only paid)

Maija rated: 




El Celler de Can Roca
Calle de Can Sunyer 48 17007
El Celler de Can Roca Reviewed by Hungry Bee Maija on . Rating: 5