Let's make something clear: this list isn't in any particular order of preference or price. Rather, this is a selection of some of the best places that we've eaten in Girona during 2016. There are places that have only just opened, and others that just get better and better with age. Not all of them are haute (expensive) cuisine; in Girona, it's also possible to eat excellent tapas, burgers, Japanese food and Catalan cuisine. We suggest you go out and try them for yourselves. And if you have any of your own recommendations to add, just put them in the comments section.
Mien is one of our top restaurants for 2016 because until quite recently, trying to find a place serving ramen (Japanese noodle soup) in Girona was difficult. Too difficult. But luckily, things are now starting to change and one of the places you can enjoy ramen in the city is Mien. The people in charge of the restaurant are the same as at Japanese restaurant Umai (a Mexican chef and his Chinese wife), but at Mien they've decided to specialise in noodles and soups. You'll also find starters such as the fantastic prawn and chicken gyoza, and really delicious desserts (don't leave without trying the green-tea cake!), but the real star is the ramen.
This is another one that we didn't think twice about including. It's a place that has one Michelin star and is designed so that diners can enjoy the most noteworthy local products and ingredients. Behind every dish and creation from the eponymous Pere Arpa, there is love of and understanding about the land plus, above all, a unique interpretation of the local traditional culinary legacy. The team is very clear: they like to cook and transform their ingredients. What's more, they also make themselves a large part of what's served at each table, such as the bread, jams and cakes. If only we could take it all home!
Fed up of fatty, calorific fast food? Dream of strolling the streets with a green juice in hand? In Girona, your place is Nibble, located in the middle of La Rambla. It's a welcoming take-away place that specialises in 'slow fast food' and cold-pressed green juices, where everything is carefully thought about, right down to the last detail. On their menu they have hamburgers made with Girona beef and bread cooked over a wood-burning fire, pasta, fish and chips, and other global snacks, plus their star products: the 'nibs'. This is a savoury biscuit boat filled with a bed of lettuce and vegetables topped with some form of protein: steak tartare, duck magret, salmon or tuna tartare.
This is one of the few restaurants in Palamós that remains unchanged from its origins as a classic fishermen's tavern in the centre of town. It opened in 1936, started by Maria, the late great-grandmother of the current generation of owners. The cooking is also inherited from her: 100-percent seafood, 100-percent simple. All the fish comes from the local market, and your best bet is to let them advise you about whatever fresh products they have. Obviously the star dish is grilled Palamós prawns, but you should also try the fish stew, rice casserole and European flying squid with onion.
Cheese and wine lovers, welcome to paradise! At Simfonia, you can purchase cheese (and wine) but if you eat there it will always be a surprise, because you never know what they're going to serve. Out of the 90 or so types that they have, each day they only serve the ones that are really at the peak of their ripening. As a result, what you taste today might not be on the menu tomorrow. And they don't just have amazing cheeses. The menu is based on quality products including salmon loin, anchovies, foie, ham, etc, as well as recipes using products purchased fresh from the market, such as roasted vegetables and courgette soup. Choose a few of these smaller dishes then round off your meal with the selection of cheeses that, if you want, they can personalise for you.
Do you like sushi? If so, you'll doubtless be pleased to hear that one of the best sushi chefs in the world is found here in the Costa Brava, specifically in Cadaqués. His name is Federico Filipetti (although everybody knows him as Fede) and he's an Argentinian chef who trained, among other places, in El Bulli and El Celler de Can Roca. Like those places (one now closed, the other very much still active, and both named on more than one occasion the world's best restaurant), Filipetti is renowned as one of the key assets on the Girona gastronomic landscape. Discover why for yourself with a trip to Haiku, a small and picturesque restaurant that is more popular with each day that passes.
To sum up: grilled fish. At Rafa's they don't bother with menus or set meals. Everything depends on the market, and keeping it straightforward - just the grill. The restaurant is in the heart of Roses, just by Plaça de l'Església. It's said that its tables (just the five of them) have played host to the likes of Ferran Adrià and Juli Solé, but Rafa, who rules the roost, insists he works in the same way every day the restaurant's open. Prawns, langostines, sea cucumbers and more, all come from the area: Llançà, Port de la Selva and Roses. The razor clams originate from Delta de l'Ebre in southern Catalonia, the clams are from Galicia, and the oysters from France. There's a small terrace outside, and it's certainly worth calling in advance to reserve.
This is the place to try signature hamburgers made with local ingredients and by hand, just like in the good old days. At Km0 they use meat sourced from nearby Figueres, and fruit and veg grown by local farmers. The bread, which is suitable for coeliacs, is like a hamburger roll but with more consistency, and the meat is cooked just the right amount making it really flavourful. They have beefburgers, like the Michelin, with foie gras and marmalade of strawberry, rocket and apple; and chicken burgers, such as the Chicken Road, where the meat is coated with 'panko', a kind of Japanese breadcrumb that actually contains no bread, and served with honey and mustard mayonnaise. But the one we really recommend trying is the burger made with Empordà duck.
The impact of the Adrià culinary factory continues to spread via venues opened by disciples trained in the kitchens of Albert and Ferran Adrià. Such is the case with Sa Lola in Blanes, a gastrobar that offers a menu focused on creative tapas. This is the influence of both Rafa Salinas (chef) and Albert Mir (head of restaurant) having worked at the Adrià Barcelona tapas restaurant, Tickets, and they now apply the lessons learnt there in their own restaurant, with one eye on sophistication and the other on fun. When it comes to the tapas, make sure you share with your dining companions because you really want to try as many of the crazy creations as you can.
Nu vs. Massana or Massana vs. Nu. Nu is rock 'n roll, while Massana is tradition. The two Girona restaurants form an exquisite gastronomic partnership, each with their own individual characteristics. Nu opts for fusing Mediterranean cuisine with that of South-East Asia. They say they do 'urban cooking' (a new concept to bear in mind?): fast, well-made and good. And what results from this combination? A menu that's highly specialised in raw, fresh dishes – which is where the name 'Nu' (which means naked) comes from. Coriander, parsley, fish of the day... mixtures with creativity. They also talk about transparent cuisines with no unnecessary flourishes.
Modernise pre-lunch nibbles and convert them into a complete gastro experience – that's the aim of Compartir, which means 'to share' in Catalan. Whether with friends or family, what's important is enjoying small portions of both the latest and most traditional cuisine in good company, in a relaxed atmosphere and in a privileged spot in Cadaqués. You could try a salad of caramelised tomatoes with parmesan cream and lemon jelly, or tuna cannelloni with Med flavours, which is one of the restaurant's most archteypal dishes. For dessert, how about the liquid chocolate bonbons with blackcurrant sorbet, or the cheesecake with cherry sorbet?
People go to Talla for two main reasons: the first is the food, such as tapas made with fresh ingredients from the market and with a touch of originality in the contrasting flavours. The second reason is the view (one of the best in the area) over the bay of Cadaqués. Talla was created as a cultural bar by Catalan actor and musician, Bruno Oro, but as a result of complaints from neighbours about the noise, it was converted into a restaurant. And, understandably, it's been a real hit. It's difficult to choose just one dish, but the steak tartare may well change your life, while you should definitely try the Bloody Mary gazpacho.
Ever since tapas were promoted to gastronomic delicacies, it can be hard to find bars where they make them in the classic way, using quality ingredients and techniques, without unnecessary ornamentations and at a price that's within the reach of everybody's budgets. Bar Oslo, found close to the bars in Plaça del Sol in Figueres, is one of those few places. It's somewhere that only gourmands who are really in the know are aware of, whereas most passers-by think it's just another café. However, the home-made tapas are amazing. For a very reasonable price you can try excellent snails with 'botifarra' (Catalan sausage), all kinds of omelettes, croquettes and much more.
'All in one' – that could be the logo of Es Blanc, because it's a restaurant but also a café during the day, a cocktail bar at night, and a beach bar in the summer, with a splendid terrace overlooking the sand. The hybrid element also features in the menu, where Mediterranean cooking meets sushi and a range of tapas and Iberian cured meats – each type of cuisine is consumed in a different part of the restaurant. And it's an open secret that multiple-Michelin-star-winning chef Carme Ruscalleda goes there expressly to eat the rice with lobster.
The best pizza on the Costa Brava and memorable views of the bay in Sant Feliu de Guíxols. With this winning combination, La Locanda di Nonna Flo has no rivals. Whether you go for lunch or dinner, whether it's the summer or the winter, you either need to get there really early or book a table in advance because its interior terrace, where most of the tables are, is always popular. The dishes they serve are 100-percent Italian, and both the pizzas and the pasta are sinfully good. And don't even think about leaving the restaurant without eating a Sicilian cannoli for dessert and tasting the limoncello (if you're lucky, they might even give you a shot on the house).
Girona has one of the best restaurants in the world. It may be an easy phrase to say, but it's a fact that's been difficult to achieve. Just ask the three Roca brothers who, since 1986, have been working non-stop to create a restaurant that is so exceptional and excellent that trying to find a really appropriate adjective runs the risk of falling far short. If you're one of those people for who good food and the sensations that you can enjoy while eating at a restaurant table create complete happiness, then Joan in the kichen, Josep in the dining-room and wine cellar, and Jordi in charge of desserts, are your fairy godfathers who can bring you maximum happiness.