Year after year Catalonia shows it can swing with the big boys in the restaurant world, and what better way to prove it than with the prestigous Michelin award. From sea to mountain, with traditional and signature cuisine, Catalonia boasts 54 restaurants in 2016 with one or more of the coveted stars. These are spots that will always leave your taste buds dancing, but remember you may have to book well in advance, and don't forget to bring a credit card (or two).
Restaurants with three stars
Martín Berasategui’s embassy at the Condes de Barcelona hotel has become one of the essential restaurants not only in the city but in all of Catalonia and Spain, where people flock to marvel at the creativity of the chef. The sampling menu is a treat that everyone should have the chance to enjoy, at least once in a lifetime, and if possible, once a year. Such excellence has earned the Lasarte the top prize in the restaurant world, and as of November 2016 the restaurant is the first in Barcelona to boast three Michelin stars. In addition to Berasategui, the man responsible for the day-to-day operations is Italian chef Paolo Casagrande. His elegance and creativity are seen in dishes such as apple millefeuille, foie gras, and European eel, and the surprising aesthetic of the dishes never surpasses the combination of amazing flavours.
Brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca have taken their restaurant to the highest heights in the world of gastronomy. They define it as a free-style restaurant, 'cooking in freedom, always at the vanguard, never forgetting the memory of the ancestral generations of the family dedicated to feeding people'. It's a cuisine full of emotion, where each of the three siblings produces one part of the meal: Jordi's in charge of the sweet stuff, Josep of all things liquid, and Joan the savoury.
Sant Pol de Mar
What can be said about the cuisine of Carme Ruscalleda and her Sant Pau restaurant that has not already been said? We are including her to remind ourselves that Maresme, and specifically Sant Pol de Mar, is home to one of only two restaurants in the country that currently have three Michelin stars. The 48-hour getaway we are proposing could be a good opportunity to get carried away by Sant Pau’s innovative cuisine based on local products.
Jordi Cruz has won a third Michelin star for Àbac, confirming his restaurant once again as the essential haute cuisine establishment in Barcelona. He reached such heights by creating cuisine filled with expertise and sophistication. Take, for example, the egg with asparagus. Sounds simple enough, but Cruz has done a number on the egg that is something out of an R&D think tank. First the yolk is cooked at 62°C, then cured in salt water to give it just the exact subtle touch of salt. Served with white asparagus, a divinely thin slice of Serrano ham and a spoonful of caviar, it's nothing less than spectacular.
Restaurants with two stars
How symbolic it is that where the sea and mountains meet, Paco Pérez has his first restaurant, the most emblematic of them all, which saw him rise to international fame and earn two Michelin stars. Miramar went from being a hostal at the Llançà port to one of the restaurants at the forefront of Spanish gastronomy. The long menu is a seafood delirium of imagination and flavour, which employs top produce and astral reinvention of seafood cooking.
Chef Paco Pérez earned two Michelin stars for Enoteca – no longer is it just another restaurant in the Hotel Arts, but a heavyweight in Barcelona in its own right. Pérez also saw his Miramar restaurant in the Catalan city of Llançà get its second Michelin star. Few chefs can translate the flavour of the sea into haute cuisine the way he does, and his art speaks to the imagination and recalls the swell of the sea. The heights Enoteca's espardenyes (Mediterranean sea cucumbers) have hit make them deserving of their own chapter in Catalan avant-garde cuisine, and their rice dishes will satisfy the biggest food snobs and the Catalan cooking fundamentalists alike. Surrendering to their fragrant rice with lobster is the best way to pay tribute.
Raül Balam, son of Carme Ruscalleda, has earned his second Michelin star with this leading hotel restaurant. Like the original in Sant Pau, the concept is impeccable, innovative – but very Catalan – cuisine, with dishes such as the veal 'fricandó' (beef fillet with mushrooms) with Scotch bonnet mushrooms and the Maresme shrimp with glazed tomato petals, a vegetable medley and toasted pine nuts.
With El Bulli closed, what its former chefs Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas offer in Distrutar is pure techno-emotional cooking that's a reminder of the mothership. The dishes are incredibly imaginative and made with tremendous precision, such as, for example, the already famous macaroni à la carbonara made with ham jelly. Here you'll find an explosion of the senses carried out with the perfect speed.
This restaurant offers high-level cuisine, produced by the twins Javier and Sergio Torres, on the top floor of the hotel Melià Barcelona Sky. Very original cuisine with flavours from distant countries, including dishes like cream of Amazonian roots with sagu caviar. And they've got two very well-deserved Michelin stars to their name.
Restaurants with one star
The Casino de Peralada group made a wise move bringing Xavier Sagristà and Toni Gerez into their restaurant: in 2017 the group wanted to raise the gastronomic bar at the castle by bringing cuisine of the Empordà region to the Casino, and they've hit the jackpot, earning their first Michelin star. Sagristà, a chef who takes his time, oblivious as much as possible to the competitive pressure of heavy-hitters, has been able to work at his own pace and with enough financial backing to realise his dreams. You can see (and taste) the proof in dishes such as the parmesan 'xuixo' (similar to a fried doughnut) or the truffled pheasant consommé with mushrooms, which carry on the tradition they started years ago in the now defunct (and historical) Mas Pau. The restaurant brings back a style of haute cuisine that, although it's suitable for all tastes and has strong roots in produce from the local land, has the spirit of signature cuisine and is undeniably avant-garde.
Albert Adrià has done it again with a space that's so ambitious it breaks all the moulds. He didn't want to create another El Bulli, but rather to imagine (and make that a reality) how El Bulli would be today. Like its predecessor in the nearby town of Roses, Enigma blows what we think of a conventional restaurant out of the water. It's located in a majestic space with seven zones that combines Japanese minimalism that the Adrià brothers seem to love with vintage science fiction along the lines of the first Superman film: ceramic metal, glass and lots of white. You won't know what you're going to eat or even what you're going to see before you go – they don't even show the front door on the website.
In Xerta, the restaurant in the Ohla hotel, you'll find the champion of Barcelona haute cuisine for delving into the great unknown of Catalan gastronomy by using raw materials and recipes from the Delta d'Ebre. Chef Fran López, who at age 25 won a Michelin star at his Villa Retiro restaurant in Xerta, a town in the Delta d'Ebre region, now offers dishes in Barcelona that combine the raw power of the sea with gastronomic creativity. As López himself explains, 'We're the only gastro restaurant with a Delta seal in Barcelona. And that's what makes us so different and interesting in a city where there are great Peruvian, Mexican and Japanese restaurants, and also all sorts of Catalan cooking. But from the south there's nothing. We're from the Delta, we have access to all the raw materials from there, and we're experts in the regional cooking techniques. Here we've got a singular and little-known cuisine – European eels, baby eels, 'cajitas', Delta oysters, sea anemones in batter...'.
The eatery that Albert Adrià opened in Barcelona after Tickets and 41º is a 'Nikkei' restaurant – a cuisine that was born in Peru out of the mix of indigenous cooking and Japanese immigration. Adrià has run Nikkei cooking through his own filter to come up with surprising dishes, such as a fusion of maki and Peruvian 'causa' of smoked mackerel, or salmon nigiri with yellow capsicum sauce. In Czech, 'pakta' means 'together'. The creativity and excellence at Pakta was rewarded with a Michelin star in 2014.
This Michelin-starred restaurant (which is part of a hotel) is located in the heart of Banyoles, and you can dine for about €50, or choose from the three set menus that run from €38 to €70. Chef Pere Arpa is a patient man: he won a Michelin star, then lost it, then got it back again in 2016. He does his own thing, which is only transforming traditional dishes into gastro jewels of the Girona region. The star dish here consists of pig’s trotters with foie gras. Recommended desserts include the crème catalan cake. Don't forget to order from the attractive wine list.
La Boscana restaurant is located inside an estate with the same name in Lleida. It's a complete luxury: with just eight tables where diners can enjoy a gastronomic experience in contemporary Catalan cuisine while they take in the natural surroundings through glass walls. This is a family restaurant that highlights the skills of chef Joel Castanyé, who has worked at El Bulli and Neichel, among others, as he brings the interior of Catalonia to the table, with delicacies filled with character, such as the Eurasian woodcock with whisky oysters.
Vicent Guimerà's restaurant, L'Antic Molí, is on the border where Catalonia meets Valencia, on the outskirts of Ulldecona. From the family that runs local restaurant Casa Santi, Guimerà represents the third generation dedicated to serving up top meals. At L'Antic Molí, which first opened its doors in 2004, he oversees market cuisine, employing optimal-quality products and haute cuisine techniques yet never losing sight of what traditional cooking means. This translates into spectacular and thoughtful dishes, such as the 'osmosized' sea bass with plankton and the kid belly with aromatic herbs. Guimerà, fan of cycling and the Slow Food movement, divides his two tasting menus (€40 and €65) into cycling stages through the surrounding territory.
For 13 years Alkimia operated from C/Indústria, 79, and after a year in the works, Jordi Vilà and Sonia Profitós reopened their restaurant in the Fábrica Moritz. On Indústria it was a good spot for getting to know the basic concept of a modern Barcelona restaurant, but for the reopening, from the first floor where the Mortiz family once lived, Vilà made a surprising announcement of the great offerings they'll have in a minimal space. 'Six tables for 18 people. We all know what they say about gastro restaurants not being profitable. If it's not profitable, why make it bigger? We'll make it better,' he said. In fact, their move to the former flat in Sant Antoni wasn't about expanding (though they do have a fantastic open kitchen) but rather about redefining.
Without a doubt, this is one of the best restaurants in the Lleida region. It’s located in an old dairy farm and has an open kitchen. There’s also a garden with tables where you can eat and it’s equipped to host large-scale celebrations. The dishes on the modern and creative menu incorporate locally sourced ingredients.
You get impressive sea views, especially from the terrace, and elegance both inside and outside the establishment. And it's all accompanied by excellent signature cuisine based on top-quality, locally sourced products. It’s worthwhile trying one of the set menus, one of which is especially well-priced.