Sometime around the start of this century, Catalan chef Ferran Adria ended 500 years of French dominance at the leading edge of gastronomy, shifting the setting south of the Pyrenees to Catalunya. This took place at the now legendary El Bulli in Les Roses in northern Catalunya.
Adria’s seminal “techno-emotional gastronomy” experimented with previously untried techniques and flavour combinations. Adria would close his restaurant for 6 months each year to concentrate on perfecting his art and developing new ideas and techniques.
Sadly El Bulli closed in 2011 but its influence is here to stay it would seem. Adria’s style of cooking has become the inspiration for many of the world’s leading restaurants.
But above all, many former Ell Bulli employees are now working in Barcelona so if you never made it to El Bulli you can still experience it at these restaurants. Barcelona is bursting with hip restaurants so there is plenty of choice; we have selected some of our favourites for you here.
Namesake chef Robert Gelonch learned his trade at El Bulli and at Gaig (another highly reputable Catalan restaurant). His restaurant is nestled away in a part of the Eixample Dreta near Passeig Sant Joan.
Gelonch is clearly a graduate of the El Bulli academy! His cooking is filled with new techniques and technologies and there’s plenty of cleverness in his dishes as well as some eccentricities in the form of his pequeñas locuras (small pieces of madness) such as oysters in “gin and tonic” and cuttlefish noodles tossed together in a deconstructed pesto.
Located in the ultra hip design hotel ‘Hotel Omm’, just off Passeig de Gràcia. The hotels features interiors by top Spanish interior designer Patricia Urquiola and Moo also stands at the cutting edge of Spanish creativity.
The restaurant serves modern creations featuring unusual flavour combinations that draw from traditional Catalan cuisine. The tasting menus are a treat, allowing diners to choose from seasonal, gourmet or vegetarian creative options paired with wine. The restaurant was awarded a Michelin star in 2012.
Els Cinc Sentits
Chef Jordi Artal is one chef who did not come up through the ranks of El Bulli. In fact he has no training as a chef at all, a fact which is sure to amaze anyone who eats here. Artal is half Canadian and was born in Toronto and raised in Barcelona.
His restaurant Els Cinc Sentits (the 5 senses) has been named one of the 6 best restaurants in Spain, and continues the growing trend of restaurants offering tasting menus.
Artal works with suppliers from around Catalunya and Spain to source local and seasonal ingredients. Diners can sample from a complex menu that included tapas, starters, fish, meats, cheeses and desserts.
Embat was one of the first restaurants in Barcelona involved in “bistro-mania”, whereby small eateries offer interesting and creative cooking (modern but rooted in Catalan tradition) at reasonable prices.
During the day they offer a modern spin on traditional dishes with ingredients such as snails and pigs trotters making an appearance. In the evening they get more funky in the kitchen. Specialities include as presa ibérica (shoulder of Iberian pork) with roast tomatoes, or cuttlefish meatballs with crayfish and potatoes.
The owners, Santiago Rebés and Fidel Puig describe their fair as “honest, personal and accessible to all”. Who are we to disagree?
Tucked away in a tiny, sparely decorated space just over the Diagonal in the Eixample Esquerra headed up by two enthusiastic young chefs, Oriol Ivern i Guillem Pla.
As with much modern Catalan cooking, many dishes are creative takes on traditional Catalan recipes but using modern techniques.
Hisop is arguably the best value of the city’s really creative restaurants, and its several-course tasting menu is still only 52 euros. Well worth a visit!
Enoteca is in the Port Olímpic. As with Moo, many of Barcelona’s high-end restaurants are opening in five-star hotels. Head chef Paco Pérez was already well established when he took his post at Enoteca in the Hotel Arts, having worked for many years on the Costa Brava. No surprise then that he is a big proponent of local seafood. Pérez’s dishes are clean and bright and allow single ingredients to shine.