The Financial Times’ food critic Nicholas Lander clearly has a penchant for Catalan gastronomy, to which his column is dedicated with increasing frequency. Last weekend Lander reviewed the Villa Más restaurant in the Costa Brava bay of Sant Feliu de Guíxols, no more than an hour’s drive north of Barcelona.
Villa Más is not as well known outside Spain as that jewel in the crown of Spanish, and indeed, world gastronomy, El Bulli, which sadly closed this summer, nor is it as well known as El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, which this year won the accolade of second best restaurant in the world, just behind Copenhagen’s Noma, in the San Pellegrino Restaurant Awards.
Clearly, Lander was more than impressed not only by the cooking, but by the wine-pricing policy and the breadth of the cellar. The chef at Villa Más is Carlos Orta, a former DJ turned chef and a serious wine lover.
Typically wine mark-ups in Spanish restaurants are far lower than in other countries. In Britain, France and America a mark-up of 200% is typical and 300% not uncommon, even in French wine villages where they are actually making the stuff. In Spain there is a different mindset and an enlightened 20-25% is normal.
According to Lander, the mark-ups at Villa Más are so generously slight that they are unrivalled anywhere. In addition the breadth of the wine list at Villa Más is vast – there are 12 pages of whites and 14 of reds, and some great champagnes apart, with 8,000 bottles stored under the restaurant and another 4,000 bottles stored nearby.
Wine aside, the cooking at Villa Más is also world-class. In his review Lander strongly praised a rice casserole with prawns of the kind which Catalunya excels at – nothing more than rice, prawns and a fish stock known as fumet. A simple dish such as this relies solely on the skill of the chef in marrying good simple ingredients.
Catalunya, and Barcelona in particular, are wonderful places to enjoy this kind of seafood cooking. If you are visiting Barcelona, Villa Más is an easy day trip up the coast in a wonderful part of the Costa Brava.
Passeig Sant Pol 95
17220 Sant Feliu de Guíxols
00 34 972 82 25 26
00 34 972 82 25 62
Open for lunch and dinner in summer, lunch only in winter