Celler de Can Roca is run by three brothers: Jordi; the head pastry chef, Juan; the head chef and; Josep, front of house and sommelier. The restaurant is just down the road from their family's rustic and traditional restaurant, and this family feel is still evident. But the main sense you get from a meal in Celler de Can Roca is that it is a culinary playground where anything goes and they are not afraid to experiment with unusual ingredients, combinations and techniques.
When looking for one of the worlds best restaurants you want food that you couldn't get somewhere else, food identifiable to that restaurant and most of all, food that isn't easily forgotten. Celler de Can Roca's has all that. The skill in the cookery is, at times, extraordinary, balancing many large flavours that in the wrong hands could so easily be a disaster. The flavours of Catalonia are big and the food in Celler de Can Roca is no exception. The number of elements in any one dish can be greater than a dozen, but more often than not they arrive on the palate harmoniously and this is what makes Celler de Can Roca unique.
The small bouches at the start of the meal is where they stray from Catalonia produce by giving delicious tastes inspired by the brothers' travels earlier this year. The rest of the snacks and the meal is more rooted in the region, but not strictly as ingredients from further afield are still used. Some of these snacks were among the best flavours of the day, such as olives eaten from an olive bonsai tree and a bon bon with vermouth.
Many dishes were exquisite and will remain in our memory for some time to come. Three flavours of corn ice cream, which is served in the middle of the meal, was beautiful. With the current trend of making desserts less sweet it could easily have been served as a sweet course, but worked beautifully near the start of the meal. Chestnuts with smoked eel had an intense rich flavour, but the texture gets a bit chalky and cloying. Confit skate was served with four mustards, which although sounding a bit too much, worked very well when eaten in the correct order. The best dish was prawn with vinegar. The prawn legs were served crisp and the head juices dish gave it a deep, but still light, flavour of prawn. It was one of the simplest dishes, in terms of the number of ingredients, on the menu, but it was perfect. A dish of pigeon may have been the most disappointing as the texture of the pigeon was a bit tough and not that appealing.
The desserts were really excellent. Orange and carrots was refreshing. 'Chocolate Anarchy' was a mix of many chocolates with different tastes and intensities which managed to all merge together and still deliver their own unique flavour. The best dessert was a delicate and moreish sour-dough ice cream with a vinegar meringue.
El Celler de Can Roca is extremely clever and the talent and skill to be able to concoct some of these dishes is extraordinary. While you are eating the food you get a sense of fun coming from the kitchen, a sort of puerile mentality, where nothing is off the table and experimenting with new ingredients, combinations and techniques is what they love to do.
Whist many dishes are excellent however, the food at times can feel a little bit clinical. You can appreciate the skill, the cleverness, and even the flavours but it just lacks something else, maybe an ethos or a purpose to some dishes. There can be so many ingredients in one dish that, even though they are married together, they just can be a little bit nondescript.
El Celler de Can Roca is definitely worth the wait and it was fun gastronomic experience delivering great flavours, many of which of Catalonia, from an extremely talented avant-garde kitchen.