CHEF’S TABLE WITH JAMES CLOSE

A starry visit to Spain with James, two Michelin star chef at Raby Hunt...
Celler 01

Our pastry chef Maria was in Girona for a stage (chef placement) at El Cellar de Can Roca, one of the best restaurants in the world, (ranked second in the world’s 50 best restaurants in fact), so it was destination Spain for a weekend to eat at the restaurant and explore this area – which is about two hours from Barcelona.

It’s a quick flight from Newcastle and Girona itself is a great place to visit; a well preserved city which is nice to wander around, full of history and atmosphere.

We stayed at the W in Barcelona which is a pretty full-on party place of a hotel with dramatic views of the city from its waterside location.

I have to recommend Rias de Galicia for dining. A great seafood restaurant in Barcelona where we had a memorable meal – it is a famous place in Barcelona and deserves its reputation. Fish as fresh as you can get and cooked to perfection.

Crab cannelloni is honestly one of the best things I have ever eaten!

I also ate barnacles for the first time and we had whole baked turbot and drank good albarino. There are big tanks of lobster there too.

We also ate at Disfrutar – in English that means ‘enjoy’. It’s a place that was started by a team of guys who worked at El Bulli and is number 18 in the top 50 restaurants in the world.

It’s quite a relaxed place, to me the food seemed a bit dated; lots of ‘deconstructed’ dishes – gazpacho became a gazpacho sandwich for example.

We ate from the tasting menu at El Cellar de Can Roca pictured above). It’s a restaurant I visited when I was just starting out on my food journey. It was the best in the world and I knew I wanted to emulate that. Eating there then and now was memorable, elaborate and impressive. This time we loved the desserts – notably clever things with blown sugar that we’re inspired to try at Raby Hunt.

A definite highlight of the trip was another of the Roca brothers’ ventures, a quirky and fun ice-cream parlour. Rocambolesc is an ice-cream shop run by Jordi Roca, the chef patissier of El Celler de Can Roca. It’s a bit bonkers but definitely delicious- with ice-creams made in amazing shapes and flavours – such as Jordi’s nose mould in raspberry and rose ice-cream. More delicious than you’d imagine!

Ice-cream flavours are things such as watermelon and lemon sorbet with lime marshmallow and coconut cake, coconut with violet sorbet, honey caviar and violet marshmallow.

Think of the ultimate Willy Wonka experience. Exquisite ice-cream, heaps of toppings and sauces – including candy floss – all made by a Michelin chef. They also do a hot brioche filled with ice-cream!

A word from Maria >>

This is how Maria Guseva’s month in the kitchen at the three star El Cellar de Can Roca went:

“The restaurant is legendary so it was daunting to go there but they were so welcoming.

“There is always one of the three Roca brothers working in the restaurant – it is how we work at Raby Hunt with James always in his kitchen.

“You think that they will know more or that there is a secret to their kitchen but it is more that they have so many people working in there and so much attention to detail on the food preparation.

“There were six or seven people in the kitchen on stages but it was a very calm place, no shouting and a willingness to teach you. If there was something you wanted to learn they would show you with great patience and kindness.

“We worked a shift of 8am to 6pm so you had evenings free – that is unusual for a chef !

“The brothers’ mum, Monserrat Fontane is the inspiration for the Roca brothers’ lifetime of cooking and every day she cooks the staff meal which is served at 12 noon. By 1pm the restaurant is opening and serving customers!”

*Maria will be at Fenwick Newcastle on 6 October with a range of Japanese-inspired handmade chocolates.

Things to do on a visit to Barcelona and Girona >>

MARKETS

La Boquería, the most famous market in Barcelona near La Rambla. Plenty of fresh food and somewhere to stop and eat from the many cafes in there. Loads of atmosphere and plenty of tempting smells from fresh fish to charcuterie.

CULTURE

The Salvador Dalí museum is in the town of Figueres which is an easy drive. His home town houses the Dalí theatre, a crazy place and a work of art in itself, designed by Dalí to showcase his paintings. The museum also houses his crypt and grave.

BEACH

Cadaques is a beautiful coastal down not far from Girona. Its blue skies and sunlight drew painters such as Magritte, Matisse and Picasso and Salvador Dalí also had a studio nearby. A nice place to wander.


rocambolesc.com

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