El Celler de Can Roca Part 4: Sweeeet

I do apologise for the extreme tardiness of this post, particularly in relation to parts 1, 2 & 3 (found here, here and here if you need reminding!)

This is the last of the El Celler de Can Roca posts, and it’s dedicated to desserts. Writing this before tea is slightly torturous but I’ll do my best…

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I wish I could post a video of this first dessert, but I haven’t worked out how to 😦

“Sourdough ice cream with cocoa pulp, fried lychee and Jerez vinegar macaron”.

The reason it needs a video is because it moves. That’s right, MOVES. The actual dessert is only the little spiky white ball, the rest of it is a strange latex blob which appears to ‘breathe’ and moves up and down whilst you’re trying to eat the dessert on top! It’s supposed to symbolise the fermenting of the sourdough ice cream, in case you didn’t realise. Mine didn’t actually work unfortunately, but it turns out the OH has issues with eating something that looks alive, so we swapped and I got the full experience after all – phew. It was very tasty, quite fruity with the lychee, nice and light with the ice cream and tiny bits of macaron. I didn’t notice too much of a yeasty flavour which I was pleased about, just a bit of sourness. We had Sake with this dessert which I’m not a massive fan of, but it wasn’t too bad with the ice cream.

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“Caramelised Apricot”

The next dessert had a lot to live up to looks-wise, but I think it delivered. A perfectly spherical piece of blown sugar, to represent the apricot which, when you cracked open, spilled out a caramelised apricot cream. I could have eaten this ten times over, delicious! We had a lovely honey-tasting dessert wine with this course too which added to the deliciousness – ‘Casta Diva Cosecha Miel 2010‘.

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The last dessert was called “Chocolate Anarchy”. It was basically every type and style of chocolate you could find on a plate. It was good, but I personally could have done without it, as I don’t LOVE chocolate (give me a cheeseboard any day), and I found it quite rich for the last dessert of the evening. I would have preferred to have stopped at the apricot, but if you’re a chocolate lover then I’m sure you would’ve been in heaven. The most exciting for me with this dessert, was the wine – a sweet Pedro Ximénez dessert wine from 1962 (info on it here) – I’m pretty sure that’s the oldest wine I’ve ever drunk! It was thick and treacly, and sweet and lovely. We also had a small wine glass of black coffee too, which added a nice note of bitterness.

The Sweet Trolley

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Turns out the desserts weren’t quite the end – we had petit fours in the guise of a Willy Wonka-style sweet trolley which was rolled up to each table for you to choose what you wanted. I was massively stuffed by this point, but not one to pass up on free food (and it all looked pretty cute), so we had a selection of most of it, and by we, I mean me – the OH gave up after one. They were all really nice though – I loved all the jellied fruits (top of photo moving down), mini chocolate tarts, madeleines, little tubes of apple filled with custard, mini cookies, truffles with gold leaf, and pineapple infused with mint.

And we’ve finally come to the end of the meal… We turned up around 8.30pm and left just before 1am… a full evening’s experience!

Lots of people have asked if it was worth the money, and I personally think it is – as a SPECIAL occasion. It all comes down to what you like to spend your money on though I think – one of my main enjoyments in life is going out for a nice meal, with wine and good company, so I’m happy to pay more (once every 10 years maybe!) for a real restaurant experience that I’ll never forget.

The service was excellent, the space was beautiful, the meal was crazy but amazing. It was a good night.

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El Celler De Can Roca Part 2: The Sea

And now back to the main event…

El Celler de Can Roca Part two:

The start of the menu! (Not all from the sea admittedly, but the majority was…)

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We had some delicious bread to choose from before the main menu started, and were encouraged to try at least three different types – I tried to only eat a teeny bit of each, as I was getting a bit worried about how much there was to come!

Luckily the first course was very light and refreshing. We started with a summer vegetable stock which was a joy to behold, I didn’t want to eat it as it was so pretty. But I managed it in the end. It was in-between sweet and savoury as there was mango in it as well as all the lovely vegetables, and it was served at a low temperature.

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Next came a white asparagus and truffle ‘viennetta’. Yes that’s right, savoury ice cream. The first mouthful was a little odd, possibly because my brain was trying to decide if it liked creamy cold vegetable ice cream, but from then onwards it was enjoyable – if still slightly strange! It was paired with a Riesling which was quite sweet and therefore further confused my brain as to whether this was dessert or not… but it’s good to try something completely different 😉

The Fish Courses

The OH and I aren’t the biggest fish/seafood fans in the world – I like fish as it’s long as it doesn’t taste too ‘fishy’, and i’ll try pretty much any seafood, but prawns are the only seafood I actively seek out on a menu – the OH doesn’t like them at all so that’s the only time i get to eat them! We decided therefore that there were a couple too many fish/seafood courses for us, as interesting as they all were, I would have been more excited about a couple more meat/vegetable ones.

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The first fish course was Mackerel – a ‘fishy’ fish! It was marinated in sugar and salt, served with pickled capers and chillies, fried tomato, mullet roe, and a mackerel sauce. It looked stunning – the mackerel sauce was made using the skin so that it glistened on the plate, and it was made to look like the pattern on the skin. Clever stuff. If you like mackerel i’m sure you would love this dish, I really liked the pickled bits with the mackerel as it was a nice contrast in flavours, but overall it’s just too fishy for me.

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Next up was the dish I was most scared of when looking at the menu: A salad of Sea Anemone, Razor Clam, Sea Cucumber and Seaweed in escabèche. I’d never tried any of the items listed except seaweed before, and the presentation of the dish didn’t particularly allay my fears either – it looked like everything was about to crawl out of the bowl! A good-looking bowl it was though. The actual taste of this dish was fine, although I didn’t think any of the seafood tasted of much – it seemed to be more about the texture. I would’ve been happy with about half of that amount. You did get to eat it with tweezers though which was pretty good fun!

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Next up was a dish entitled ‘A whole Prawn’. This was: Charcoal-grilled king prawn, crispy prawn legs, head juice with seaweed, and a seawater & sponge cake of plankton. I thought this was going to be my favourite of the seafood dishes as it had my favourite item of seafood as the main event – sadly i didn’t love it.(The OH liked it more than I did!) The crispy legs were pretty tasty, the head juice was ok, the plankton sponge cake was strange, and the prawn just wasn’t cooked enough for me – I really didn’t like the texture of it. Strange.

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Luckily the next few courses made up for the first few 🙂 Next up was Langoustine. This was brought to the table in a steamer with hot rocks underneath. It was then cooked at the table – the waiter poured sherry onto the hot rocks, then put the lid on the steamer – within about thirty seconds the langoustine was cooked. The sherry gave it a sweetness, and it was a nice touch to see it cooked in front of you. it was served with a bisque velouté that was utterly delicious – I could’ve drank another couple of cups of that at least! The wine pairing for this course was sherry (unsurprisingly). But surprisingly, it is that blob you can see on the spoon above. It had been reduced down to almost a caramel, so you had to just suck it off the spoon – another nice touch.

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The last of our fully seafood/fish-orientated courses was another good one: Confit Skate served with six different types of mustard. Doesn’t sound like much, but the Skate was melt-in-the-mouth, and the mustards all gave an interesting dimension to the flavour of the fish. There were hazelnut flavours, bergamot, honey, and more – it was fun to mix up the different sauces with the Skate and see what you came up with…

Next up: The Meat courses… (this really is turning into an epic!)

El Celler De Can Roca Part 1: Snacking

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In September I took the OH to Girona for a special birthday. It’s a lovely little medieval city and has lots of places to get delicious food (as posted about here), but its most famous restaurant has to be El Celler de Can Roca – the three michelin star restaurant which is currently number two in the world – and the main reason we came to Girona.

The restaurant is owned by the three Roca brothers and first came to our attention when it featured on Masterchef: The Professionals three years ago. The food looked amazing, the space looked amazing, and the brothers seemed pretty interesting!

I booked a table at the restaurant back in October 2013 (when it was number one in the world!), as bookings open up 11 months in advance. It was a stressful morning with an expensive phone bill at the end of it, but i’d managed it hurrah! Now I just had to try and keep it a secret…

…and I managed that too :-). He found out on his birthday, which gave us a month to get excited together.

When it actually came to the day of the booking, I felt quite nervous – maybe because I was worried it wouldn’t live up to expectations, and worried it wouldn’t be worth the (large) amount of money I would be paying for it.

Luckily, overall it was as amazing as we hoped it would be!

Below is a little description of the first part of our evening and what we ate…

The Venue

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The restaurant itself is a modern space, elegant but unstuffy – an elongated triangle-shaped dining room with an atrium in the centre, filled with silver birch trees. Most tables were placed to look out onto the trees, which was nice!

Each table had three rocks as decoration – to represent each of the Roca brothers.

We turned up early to the restaurant, and the concierge showed us round the kitchens which was a nice surprise.

The restaurant has two menus: The ‘Classic tasting menu’ which was 7 courses, or the ‘Feast Menu’ which was 14. Each are to be served to the whole table, so everyone has to decide on the same one, and there is the option to have wines matching each course.

Now there were some lovely sounding dishes on the classic menu, but if you’re coming all this way, making it a special occasion, surely you’re going to have the feast menu and the matching wine for each course?! Well we did anyway 🙂

The Snacks

Before the menu even started we were given a class of local sparkling wine, and then a succession of ‘snacks’ – one of which was possibly my favourite for the whole evening!

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Caramelized Olives were the first thing brought to the table, hanging on a bonsai tree. These were delicious but strange – who would’ve thought anchovies and caramel would go? We also had a black ‘bon bon’ each (just pictured in top photo) – filled with grapefruit and black sesame – these literally melted in the mouth and were very refreshing. Following these were prawn crisps on a mini fishing net, which were very crisp and nicely prawn-y. It was a good start, and we were excited about what would be coming up next….

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…Next came what was probably my favourite of all the dishes that evening – ‘The World’. A paper globe opened to reveal a tiny morsel from 5 of the countries the brothers have most recently visited or been inspired by. From top: China – crispy pancake with pickled veg and plum cream. Mexico – mini burrito with beef, mole poblano & guacamole. Morocco – tiny pastilla filled with almond, rose, honey, saffron, ras el hanout & goats yoghurt. Korea – Panko fried bread with bacon, soy sauce, snow peas, kimchi & sesame oil. Turkey – Vine leaf ‘tartlet’ with lentil puree, eggplant, goats yoghurt & cucumber.

These were so tiny and perfect, each one an explosion of flavour that really captured the tastes of each country for me – I would’ve been happy with another 20 rounds of them. But surely we’d be on to the menu next…

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… not yet! The next ‘snack’ was two different types of ‘tapas’ on spoons, resting on a silver coral sculpture. You can probably guess these were both seafood. The top was pickled barnacle with bay leaves & albarino (a white wine grape), the bottom was Mediterranean lobster ceviche. I was quite sceptical about eating barnacle, and not terribly excited about raw/cured lobster either. They were perfectly edible, but I’d say a spoonful was enough for me! I like a bit of seafood, but probably only actively order prawns or mussels in a restaurant, and the OH isn’t particularly enamoured with any of it, so if you speak to a seafood lover they may well be in raptures about these two snacks…

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This next ‘snack’ sorted us both out though – truffles of the savoury kind – one of my favourite things. The little things in the stone bowl were truffled bon bons – made to look like truffles found in the wild, they had a crunchy outside and creamy truffle inside – yum. The two little spheres on the slab were a type of brioche dough filled with and topped with truffle. And again I say yum. Truffle is a strong flavour, and if you’re not a fan it would be a bit overwhelming, but for me it was delicious.

And then it was time for the 14 courses (and wine) to begin!

Part 2 coming up…

Bake-off Wednesdays: Pastry/Advanced Dough

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Forgive me for I am cheating a bit this week – I’ve tried to incorporate two episodes into one bake, because I didn’t really have time to bake twice straight after coming back from Spain (and I need to regain some control over how much i’m eating!)

So this week to continue the Spanish theme I made Churros 🙂

Churros are made of a choux pastry dough, which is then piped through a star-shaped nozzle into boiling oil, and fried until puffed up and golden. They are often eaten for breakfast dipped in hot chocolate or with a coffee. They evaded me for a while in Spain recently however, they seemed to prefer pastries with their chocolate for breakfast in Girona – so that’s why i’m not sick of them yet…

I’d never made choux pastry before, so I consider this advanced for me! Although I found it pretty easy, so maybe it’s not that difficult, just something different?

Anyway, I found a few recipes on the internet, including some for baked churros, which I thought worth trying as they would be healthier than their fried cousins.

I originally decided to just make baked, but then thought better of it and decided it would be useful to make both versions and compare…

I adapted a recipe for baked churros by The Little Loaf and used it as the dough for both types of churros, I also used a chocolate sauce recipe by BBC Good Food and adapted that slightly too.

The verdict wasn’t that surprising to me – the fried tasted better (doesn’t it always?!). They puffed up more in the oil than the baked did, which gave them a chewy texture and a crunchy exterior, the baked version was lovely and crisp, but fairly hollow inside.

Here’s a comparison photo for you:

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 My mum, who is on a diet, did appreciate the baked version however, as it meant she could still enjoy dessert and not feel too guilty, so they’re worth making for that reason at least.

I was pretty impressed with how authentic the fried ones tasted, and how easy they were to make! The chocolate sauce was really silky and glossy too…

Recipe for both versions below:

Serves 6-8

Churros

80g plain white flour

1/2 tsp baking powder

pinch salt

100g golden caster sugar, divided

2 tsp cinnamon

50g unsalted butter, cubed

150ml cold water

2 large beaten eggs

750ml sunflower/vegetable oil – if frying

Chocolate Sauce

200g bar 70% chocolate, broken into chunks

100ml double cream

100ml whole milk

3 tbsp golden syrup

½ tsp vanilla extract (optional)

If you’re not a fan of dark chocolate you can use half dark, half milk…

*If making Baked Churros, preheat oven to 200C and line a few trays with baking paper*

Sift the flour and salt over a piece of baking paper and leave near the hob (this makes it easier to combine ingredients for the dough). Mix 90g of the caster sugar with the cinnamon in a large bowl or tray and set aside.

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In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and water together until the butter is melted. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down low and tip in the sifted flour/salt and remaining 10g caster sugar. Beat with a wooden spoon over the heat until a smooth ball of dough forms that leaves the sides of the saucepan – it will look a bit like mashed potato! Remove from the heat and leave for a couple of minutes, then beat in the eggs, a small amount at a time, until the mixture is smooth. Put to one side for a few minutes.

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While the dough is resting, make your sauce. Put all the sauce ingredients into a pan on a low heat, stirring until you have a smooth shiny sauce. Keep warm.

For Fried Churros:

Fill a deep saucepan one-third full of oil. Heat until a cube of bread browns in 45 seconds – 1 min (approx 170C if you have a thermometer). Cover a large plate with kitchen paper.

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Fit your piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle (approx 1.5-2cm wide). Fill with your dough and pipe strips of it straight into the pan, cutting them off with a pair of scissors – you might need someone to help with that bit. I managed to get about 6 or 7 in the pan each time, without them sticking to each other.  Fry until golden brown and crispy, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on the kitchen paper.

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As soon as the churros are ready, roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture and serve with the thick hot chocolate sauce – get dunking!

For Baked Churros:

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Fit your piping bag with a star-shaped nozzle (approx 1.5-2cm wide). Fill with your dough and pipe lines onto the prepared baking paper-covered trays. Bake each tray for 12 – 15 minutes or until crisp and golden – you might have to do this in batches.

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As soon as the churros are ready, roll in the cinnamon sugar mixture and serve with the thick hot chocolate sauce – get dunking!

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*You may well eat all of these in one sitting – I wouldn’t blame you, but if there are some left over, or you need to make them in advance, you can re-heat them in the oven on a medium heat for 5 minutes – this will make them nice and crispy again too! The chocolate sauce can be re-heated on the hob or in the microwave, but remember to check every few seconds in the microwave so you don’t burn it.*

Buenas Noches!

Hola Girona

Hola! Sorry for the recent lack of posts, I was conducting important food research in Spain. The short answer to my findings is: Yum. The longer answer will be found below…

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I took the OH to Girona, a medieval city in North-eastern Spain for a special birthday. The main reason for this was that it is the location of the second best restaurant in the world – El Celler de Can Roca, which i’d managed to get us a reservation at (only 11 months in advance, no biggie!!). The upside to the location of the restaurant is that Girona is a lovely little city, perfect for wandering round and finding lots to see, eat and drink – all of which we did.

I will be doing a dedicated post on the crazy restaurant experience soon, but for now – here are some other things we ate and drank over the course of four days:

Saturday

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Cub was a bar/cafe just down the road from our apartment – so we went straight there for lunch when we arrived, and tried some of their tapas – interesting flavour combinations but all tasty! From top: Dates wrapped in bacon, Patatas ali oli (potatoes with garlic mayo basically), Chorizo tostas with melted cheese & green peppers, Cured duck with poached pear & hazelnuts, and Black pudding & Pistachio croquettes. The dates particularly were heaven!

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Next door to cub was a gelateria that also sold Orxata (Horchata). I first had this in Valencia years ago and love it – it’s a drink made of tiger nuts, water and sugar, and served ice cold. Delicious…

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That evening we went to a Pintxos bar called Txalaka (pronounced Chalaka).

Pintxos is similar to Tapas, but is mainly served on bread, with a skewer/toothpick. This bar was like a buffet, you grab a big plate, fill it up with goodies, eat it and keep the sticks to show how much you need to pay. I was like a kid in a sweet shop! We also had a basque sparkling white wine called txakoli (the wine is so cheap out there!). You can go up as many times as you like, just don’t forget you’ve got to pay at the end…

On my plate (clockwise from top left): manchego cheese & quince, olives stuffed with cream cheese, figs & cured ham, prawn wrapped in crispy potato strips, cream cheese, pistachio, cured duck & balsamic on bread, marinated broad beans & cured duck, and a cheese croquette. There was also a selection of sweet pintxos, but i only had room for one – little orange jellies.

It was all tasty, i’m only disappointed i didn’t have room for more, as they kept bringing out new dishes every ten minutes or so!

Sunday

Sunday we went to Barcelona to meet up with an old friend who lives there. There are some amazing bars/restaurants in Barcelona but we just stopped at a little cafe and had snacks, so I didn’t take any food photos apart from this one…

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Dulche de Leche Ice cream from a shop in Barceloneta (by the sea) – it was fabulous but i’m sure about half of it dripped down my hand as it was so hot! And I can’t remember the name of the place – terrible blogger sorry…

Monday

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Monday we did some more exploring around the old town, and found quite a few places serving crepes, probably because it’s so close to the border with France. We chose to eat at Creperie Bretonne because it had a really good value menu del dia (menu of the day – like a set menu), €8.50 for two courses and a drink, and also because they had a big bus in the restaurant – amazing!

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There was a choice of soup, salad or quiche to start, then a choice of three galettes. We both chose the ham and cheese quiche to start, which was rich and delicious, and i had some cidre (french cider) which came in a tea cup! We then both had the same galette too – chicken, onion, cheese and chives, which was deceptively filling but very flavourful. Unfortunately I didn’t leave enough room for one of their salted butter caramel crepes, which pains me to this day, as it sounded amazing. Never mind… I did have room for a cortado though – similar to an italian macchiato – an espresso with a little bit of warm milk.

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Monday evening we ate at a restaurant called Occi, which lonely planet and our airbnb host had recommended. The menu was a bit fusion-y, mixing Spanish with French, Italian, and some Asian ideas. I had the cheese plate to start – the waiter recommended having half of the portion size which was a good idea as there was still plenty to eat! I liked all the cheeses, a mixture of goat and sheep’s cheese mainly, but felt it could have done with more than the two apricots as accompaniments – some quince or other fruit maybe?

For mains we both went for duck options, the OH had Duck cannelloni with port and apples, which was more like a duck pancake as it was made with pastry. I went for the duck breast with blue cheese ravioli and a coffee sauce – mainly because it sounded odd. The flavours actually all went fine together, but it was all quite stodgy and could’ve done with some vegetables or salad to lift it a bit.

We didn’t have room for dessert but they brought us out some sugared almonds which was a nice touch. There was also a pre-starter of pumpkin soup with crunchy lardons which was probably the nicest thing I ate there! The food generally felt like it was missing something for me, but our waiter was great, and very good at choosing wine for each of us!

Tuesday

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Breakfast! A trip to Xocolateria L’antiga, an old-fashioned cafe, was in order for some crazy thick hot chocolate and a pastry. I was desperate for churros but nowhere seemed to have them, so we settled for an ‘Ensaimada’ each – a majorcan cake that tasted a lot like Pannetone. This, dipped into the chocolate was almost enough to make me forget about churros.

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I said ‘almost’! When we finally found some an hour or so later I couldn’t resist. We didn’t have them with chocolate, just dusted in sugar and hot and delicious.

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Lunch ( I know, we still stopped for lunch after all that): Le Bistrot. We’d walked past this restaurant every day on our way into the old town, and liked how all the tables were set up on the steps – it looked pretty romantic in the evenings. We had their menu of the day – €13 for two courses and a drink. We both chose their house speciality for main – Pork cheeks, which came with chickpeas, carrots and onions. We then had pineapple for dessert, which was literally two massive chunks of fresh pineapple on a plate. The food here was pretty rustic, but the pork cheeks were blinking’ gorgeous and falling off the bone. The service wasn’t amazing but the cheeks made up for it!

That evening we went to El Celler de Can Roca, but I will leave you in suspense about that for now because i have more than enough photo’s to do a dedicated post on that one restaurant!

I’d thoroughly recommend Girona for a mini-break – it was really nice having a few days just to wander around the medieval part of the city, popping into churches and gardens, and restaurants and bars. There are enough places to eat and drink that you could probably eat somewhere different every day for a couple of months!

Some of the things we recommend seeing:

The Cathedral

The Arab Baths

The Archeology Museum (for it’s amazing setting in an old monastery)

Walking the old city walls

More info on Girona can be found on the lonely planet website or the Girona tourist office website.

Let me know if you’ve been!