Upon deciding to revisit Spain after a 28-year period, Barcelona was foremost on the list of cities to visit. After just a few days in this vibrant city on the Mediterranean, it is clear what the attraction is for so many — both inhabitants and tourists alike.
For sure the thing I am delighted about is NOT having a rental car during our stay. After needing the car to make the approximately one-hour drive to Girona for our much-anticipated dinner at El Cellar de Can Roca, I couldn’t wait to have the hotel take care of returning the car to Hertz. Not only is this a city with excellent public transportation, but it is likewise full of “loco” drivers and tons of motorbikes weaving in and out of not-clearly-marked lanes. Add in the buses, pedestrians, and the like, and I’ll gladly opt out of driving for once.
About that dinner around which our itinerary in Spain was planned, it definitely lived up to all the extraordinary reviews and Michelin stars, but in a most wonderful, fun, and not stuffy way. There are three brothers Roca — Josep handles all the wine together with the four sommeliers for each seating (two seatings per day, Tues-Sat) and he greets every table; Joan is the head chef; baby brother Jordi is the pastry chef. They must really get along because not only do they work closely, but they are rarely separated and all live near one another.
Doing justice to what was eaten is virtually impossible. As with the astonishing restaurants in San Sebastian (see previous post), a menu was provided at the meal’s end with course descriptions (to which I repeatedly referred in order to write this). We asked for and got a peek into the kitchen and a brief chat with all three brothers. More than one person inquired as to how we were going to be able to drive after the meal, but that wasn’t a problem. We were in the minority of guests — only 20% — who do NOT go with the wine pairing. Thus a glass of champagne and sharing a half bottle of wine in no way impaired the drive back, especially after a good bit of food and a four-hour experience. By the way, their wine pairing includes 14 different pourings, which we were told amount to 750ml — i.e., a full bottle per person. Following are photos and details:
After returning to the hotel at nearly 2 a.m., hindsight would have been experiencing the meal at lunch en route to Barcelona. This became abundantly clear after sleeping ’til noon! Alas, small note to self in an otherwise spectacular experience.
We then explored the city on foot followed by Flamenco tickets in the evening. The waterfront area is beautiful with a long walk between two prominent hotels: The Barcelona Arts and the W. In spite of rather cool and cloudy weather, many people still enjoyed a dip in the Mediterranean. Finally, when in Barcelona — Spain to be sure — how can one not seek out the best paella? Our hotel sent us to La Salada Mar for the delicious dish and it did not disappoint.
An entirely different and terrific meal was at Dos Pallilos, whose owner and chef once worked at the now-shuttered El Bulli, long at the top of the world’s great restaurants.
After eight wonderful and certainly gastronomic days in Spain, we say adios and gracias for a lovely stay in this country. It is a shame the country is not better managed — the unemployment rate is a whopping 23% — for we wish the people here greater success and encourage all to visit this beautiful destination. Next stop: Milan.