Heaven is what you make it to be. For me, it’s a certain state of mind: moments of heightened consciousness when all my senses are being teased….. simultaneously. A warm bath; a cup of hot chocolate on a winter’s day; the rich bouquet of a full-bodied red wine; or the cool, silky feel of the sea lapping around my toes are my idea of heavenly moments. Food can also have the same impact on me. Not any type of food. Rather, food that speaks to all my senses; food that makes me want to cry out in joy; food that transports me to a world so perfect and pure, I’d wish I could stay just a tad longer. I’ve often experienced these divine moments throughout my travels; fleeting moments, yes, but oh so divine! One meal I’ll never forget is the day I experienced heaven through fifteen tantalising courses at the three-starred Michelin establishment, El Celler de Can Roca, in Girona, Catalonia.
My lunch at El Celler de Can Roca
We arrived flush with excitement. El Celler de Can Roca has often been voted as the best restaurant in the world and its chief sommelier, Josep Roca, is among the best in Europe. We were truly fortunate because on that day, the restaurant was showcasing an experiment that involved a multi-sensory approach to gastronomy. I trembled at the thought.
We were greeted at the restaurant’s courtyard by the charismatic Joan Roca (the eldest of the three brothers and the Chief Chef) and were taken on a tour of the kitchen. Walking through the kitchen was like a wander through Charlie’s Chocolate Factory. Everywhere we looked, chefs in crisp white uniforms and black aprons were preparing the most delicate fare with utensils you would normally find in a laboratory.
An intriguing multi-sensory approach to dining
After the kitchen tour, we were led to the back of the restaurant where the intriguing experiment was about to begin. It was a bewildering performance featuring light and sound effects that brought the food on a plate to ‘life’. A whole new meaning was given to the golden oldie ‘alphabet soup’: instead of alphabets made of pasta floating in a broth, they projected alphabets onto the soup, creating a surreal effect. A plate with a king prawn was transformed into a wondrous underwater world, complete with corals, marine life and the sound of waves. The next course featured a seafood risotto with the verses of a famous Catalonian poem swirling around in the bowl – true poetry in motion. The experiment was an intriguing performance designed to appeal to our five senses and spur interaction with the food.
Fifteen tantalising courses
Our 15-course lunch kicked off with an excellent cava and caramelised olives (stuffed with anchovies) served hanging in the branches of a bonsai tree. There was no serpent tempting us to take a bite, nor did I feel like Adam (or Eve) but it was a brilliant metaphor. The olives hanging in the tree were an invitation to partake in a meal of ethereal delights.
This was followed by a succession of Campari bonbons with grapefruit juice (which jolted our taste buds into action!), anchovy bones, chicken crackers (served on a smooth stone) and calamari nuggets. The chicken cracker was an amazing feat: delicate, yet crispy with a rich chicken flavour. The calamari, wrapped in an edible ‘plastic’ jacket, simply melted in my mouth.
By this time, my head was spinning. I was in awe of the ingenious presentation and brilliant blending of flavours in these bite-sized servings of heaven. Earlier that day, I went skydiving for the first time in my life and as I sat at the table, I thought:
Lunch continued with a vegetable salad, a simply divine St. George’s mushroom truffled brioche accompanied by a pot of broth, and artichoke with foie gras (which left me gasping for more!). During our tour of the kitchen, I spied a chef painstakingly piecing together the artichoke ‘flower’ composition with tweezers. Simply thinking of the work that went into this creation made me appreciate the dish even more.
My previous moments of heavenly delight never lasted this long! And we were only halfway through the lunch! 🙂 The sensational flavours and diversity of textures and aromas simply blew me away. Traditional Catalan ingredients coupled with cutting-edge techniques formed a harmonious union that tingled all my five senses.
Lunch progressed with the phenomenal European lobster parmentier with black trumpet mushrooms, sole with five sauces and a cod pot-au-feu. Three courses of pure joy…on a plate!
The whole lunch was a string of highlights but one course that I’ll never forget soon arrived at my table: the Sierra Mayor Iberian suckling pig. The skin was wafer thin and crispy whilst the meat was soft and tender. It was so beautifully prepared that the flavours and juices flowed with every bite.
After this glorious course, our taste buds were refreshed by the lovely Green Colourology: a palette cleanser consisting of eucalyptus ice-cream, green shiso, green Chartreuse, lime and avocado.
The Green Colourology was then followed by a wonderful dessert plate that featured a scoop of Tahitian vanilla condensed ice-cream and a mix of vanilla, caramel, liquorice and dried black olives. Jordi Roca’s creations were well-balanced with rich flavours and subtle undertones.
And just when we thought that lunch had come to an end, we were served a platter of curious-looking balls: frozen white chocolate balls filled with various juices: chocolate and cocoa bean; vanilla and coconut; peach, honey and rose; and melon and orange blossom. These balls burst in your mouth releasing a cold zesty shot. Brilliant stuff!
Lunch at El Celler de Can Roca was a wondrous journey which seamlessly merged earthly delights with stratospheric sensations. I left the restaurant with a lingering question in my mind: Was this the best meal I’ve ever had?
The answer was definite: No.
This… was simply HEAVEN!
Heaven = El Celler de Can Roca.
Visit the El Celler de Can Roca website for information and reservations.
Read more about Costa Brava on Velvet Escape
- Medieval towns in Costa Brava
- Coastal hikes in Costa Brava
- Active holiday in Costa Brava
- Learning about Salvador Dali in the Dali Triangle
Note: my visit to El Celler de Can Roca was part of the #InCostaBrava blogtrip organised by the Costa Brava Tourism Board and Tourism Spain.
[…] Just outside Girona, you’ll find one of the world’s best restaurants: El Celler de Can Roca. A meal here is a truly extraordinary (not to mention unforgettable) experience! Read about my meal at El Celler de Can Roca. […]
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errr.. i can’t say I advocate the corals.. but everything else looks divine! How does the suckling pig compare to the one in KL or Hong Kong? 😉
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Heaven definitely describes the experience of eating at the Roca’s!!!! I spent 4 months living in Sant Celoni, which is a 30 minute train ride to Girona. My fiance and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary there, and it was simply divine! Thank you for that lovely post. Brought back good souvenirs!
We went there earlier on this summer and we really enjoyed the place, the food, the atmosphere, the charm…. Really recommended!
Delicious post! Culinary adventures are everywhere…
Hre it is not even 10 in the morning, and you’ve made me starving for suckling pig. 🙂
Apple pie works for me too! 🙂
Your descriptions are so, well, descriptive of this over-the-top food. I just kept thinking, what would my grandma say? She ran a restaurant in the 30s in a small town in Ohio. Famous for the apple pie. I think I’ll stick with the simple.
Hahaha! Those were two of my favourites too! 🙂
As you know, I am not much of a foodie but that pig and those chocolate balls look delicious!
Proud to be a Girona resident!! Soon we will go there!! 🙂
It was a surreal experience; sublime yet surreal. Save those pennies – though I must say, for a 3-star restaurant, the prices are pretty reasonable: menus ranging from EUR 95 – 145.
My god! I read the tweets about this but didn’t realize the depth of the experience! Just reading about it (thanks to your eloqent words!) excites me, despite that I am actually eating a very good meal as I read! I definitely have to save some pennies for this next trip to the mainland!
Hehe, thanks Mei! I still dream of that lunch every day! #gastrovictim 😉
awww man.. if i was jealous of you before.. now i really wanna kill u. Kidding!! u know i luv ya! Fab post keith 🙂