Celler de Can Roca

I am in Girona at the moment, one of my favourite cities in Spain. One of the reasons for this visit is because my boyfriend, Toni, and I have our annual birthday dinner at Celler de Can Roca. Our birthdays are just three weeks apart and this is our favourite restaurant in the world so we always have a combined birthday treat.

Birthday Cake

For us, organising this birthday dinner takes a fair amount of pre-planning because the table has to be reserved well in advance and we can’t book a flight until we have confirmation from the restaurant.

This year we had to book the table in March to eat in October. And then we could book the flights and hotel accordingly. We have it fairly easy with the flights as Ryanair have their hub in Girona and fly direct from Palma de Mallorca to Girona every day with good flight times.

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Tonight, we are going to step into my poshest shoes as we take a visit to one of the world’s top restaurants… prepare to be delighted, to be wowed and to have the most creative meal of your life… or not… let’s see…

Arrival at Celler de Can Roca…

It costs less than 10€ in a taxi from the centre of Girona to the Celler de Can Roca and we arrived in time for our 21:30 reservation.

We were greeted and seated in the familiar dining room (familiar because this was our fourth visit to this restaurant) and we were brought a glass of cava each and a menu, though we already knew exactly what we would eat: the “Festival” tasting menu, which is the longest tasting menu on offer at Celler de Can Roca.

We also opted for wine pairing. This means that you don’t choose a bottle of wine; you allow the sommelier to serve you a different glass of wine with each dish, based on his expertise and judgement about what should be drank with each dish. This is a more expensive option but it is good fun and adds an element of surprise to the drinks that matches that of the food. It also means that you don’t have the dilemma of ordering a bottle of strong red to go with the course of game which will totally kill a lighter fish dish or ordering something to go with everything that actually doesn’t really go with anything.

My recommendation at a high-cuisine restaurant is to always go with the tasting menu when available and to always order wine pairing when available.

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Standards at Celler de Can Roca
When you go to a 3 Michelin star restaurant which is currently considered the best restaurant in Spain, and when you can expect little change from 500€ for two people, what do you expect?

I personally expect perfection.

And in the past we have experienced perfection here. This is why we go back every year. In the past we have had tours of the kitchen, detailed explanations from the chefs and waiting staff and all questions answered and needs met with utmost professionalism. Not to mention some of the best and most creative dishes we have ever eaten.

So these are the standards that the Celler de Can Roca has set itself. And that is, therefore, what we expect every time we return.

You could argue that we, ourselves, are to blame for some of the faults that we picked with the restaurant this year for having given the restaurant such a high status in our own minds on previous visits. But nevertheless, if something, no matter how small a detail, is not right, then it is not right.

The mistakes that were made during this visit were all down to the service and had nothing to do with the food itself, which was amazing as always:

Dirty Glass
When we were seated, we were brought a glass of cava, as I have said. We were also brought water, which was going to be poured into the glasses that were already set on the table. My glass was dirty! I couldn’t believe it. There was a lip-smudge that had not been cleaned properly. Spain’s top restaurant and I had to ask the waiter to change my glass before we had even ordered!

Catalan
The menu was brought to us in Catalan. As it happens, this was not a problem because Toni is from Mallorca and in Mallorca they speak their own version of Catalan. But in the restaurant we were speaking to each other in English and to the waiters in Castillian Spanish. It was clear that we were from somewhere outside of Catalonia and they must have heard us speaking English to each other. Yet the menu was in Catalan.

One might argue that we were in Catalonia so they have every right to offer the menu only in their own language but surely catering to the needs of the diners is more important than promoting the Catalan language.

They have a lot of international visitors to the restaurant and I’m sure that many do not speak much Spanish at all, let alone Catalan. In fact, the couple at the next table to us was American and was addressed by the waiters in English. Had they been expected to order from a menu that was written in Catalan? I doubt it. So why were we?

And why, when they saw that my boyfriend was translating the menu into English for me did they not bring another menu in a language that I could read?

Seafood
When we made the reservation we advised them that I do not eat seafood (yeah, that’s right! I consider myself a foodie yet I don’t eat seafood! To compensate, I will try absolutely everything else that is set in front of me).

When we were ordering the waiter mentioned that they had taken this into account and proceeded to explain which dishes would be changed and what they would be changed for.

But then the appetisers came that were not part of the menu. Among them were mussels and something else that was shellfish! It’s fair enough in a normal situation if this happens because the appetisers are not part of the menu, but again: one of the top restaurants in the world and the waiter has just stood there and told me that they are aware that I don’t eat seafood. The same waiter brought the mussels, just moments later. Did he not have the brains to realise? Did he not see my eyebrows raised in question and surprise?

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Perfection at Celler de Can Roca?
During the meal, the coordination was not perfect. Several times the food was brought before the wine had been served. Once one of our plates was removed when the other was still eating.

The waitress sometimes explained exactly what she was serving us and sometimes did not. We were often left with empty glasses before the waiter or sommelier noticed and served more water or wine.

An Extra Dish!
They accidentally served us an extra main dish! I know that this doesn’t sound like any reason to complain and seems more like a bonus, but a tasting menu is structured in a very specific way so that the diner can manage to eat it all without feeling uncomfortable or like they are going to explode and when you are eating around 20 different dishes you don’t want it to be messed up! Which is what happened to us and by the time we should have reached the desserts they were still serving us meat.

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Sommelier
We were not very happy with the sommelier in general. If the client decides to do wine pairing with a tasting menu it’s because the client likes wine, is interested in wine and wants it to be part of the experience. Therefore, the sommelier should be creative, be inventive and, most importantly, be flexible.

Wine is a very personal thing. Some diners are from the other side of the world and every wine that you serve them from your own country will be interesting and surprising to them, but for those who are from the same area you might have to improvise a bit. This sommelier opened each bottle, poured it and then said the name of the wine, the grape variety and the region. Then he left the table. For me that’s just not good enough at this level.

Save one interesting sherry, I can’t remember any of the wines that we had and it was only a few nights ago.

Taxi Please!
At the end of the night we asked the waiter to order a taxi for us. Then a few minutes later I went to the bathroom. A girl from another table was also leaving the dining room to go to the bathroom. I was just behind her and on her way out she stopped by the reception desk in the entrance and asked them to call her a taxi.

About 10 minutes later we were still sitting at our table waiting for them to tell us that the taxi had arrived. The waiter came into the dining room and went over to the table of girls and advised them that their taxi was here. The girl had ordered it about five minutes after we had.

Another five minutes passed and we were still sitting there. We decided to go wait in the reception area so we could be putting our coats on. We asked if they knew anything about our taxi and they told us that there was one outside waiting for us and hadn’t we been told? When we got in the taxi the driver advised us that he had been waiting for about 10 minutes. It cost us double the fare that it should have.

All these notes might seem very picky but they are valid. The bottom line is at this level there should be nothing overlooked at all. The level of expectation is so high that if I, a regular diner, can find fault without looking for it, then what are the food critics who regularly eat at the best restaurants in the world going to say? On this night they would have torn the service apart.

The food was just as good as every other time we have been to the Celler de Can Roca though. We were amazed and delighted even though a lot of the dishes were not surprising as we had had them before, like the good old bonsai tree that they roll out at the beginning of every meal. This has become their signature so they can’t exactly get rid of it!

Have you ever eaten caramelised olives with anchovy and aniseed right off the tree? I thought not!

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Another of the signature dishes is the fillet of sole, a very simple-looking dish (which is anything but simple) that is served with 5 different Mediterranean sauces: pine nut, olive, fennel, saffron and orange. The intensity of the flavour of these sauces and the simplicity of the fish is amazing.

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I’m not going to analyse the whole menu because we’ll be here all night, but I have put together a few of my own photos that I have taken at Celler de Can Roca which I would like to invite you to browse through. I hope they inspire you to eat at a Michelin star restaurant, to eat at any restaurant, or to cook! You can find the slide show just above.

In my shoes discovering the food of the world

Filed Under: featuredFine Diningfood and drinkgironaspainWhere I Am Right Now

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About the Author: Based in Mallorca, obsessed with the world and have a lot to say about both... Step into my shoes and join me on a journey...

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  1. susan sykes says:

    post good as ususal, I think you are correct when you are spending that amount of money everything should be spot on, will you go back there again?

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