Best dining in Spain: Girona, El Celler de Can Roca
Many people, especially a foodie like myself, can appreciate a unique dining experience. One where not only the food—but also the wine, service, and ambiance—are each as exceptional as the other.
As a chef and graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, I’ve been educated and trained by the industry’s best. In my years of experience, I’ve learned the details, the techniques, and the difficulties of creating each dish. But above all, I’ve learned the flavors!
As I was traveling through Spain this past year, I was lucky enough to discover one of the finest restaurants I’ve ever visited. An establishment that delivers all the essential elements for an exceptional dining experience: food, service, decor, wine, and creativity. Welcome to El Celler de Can Roca in Girona, Catalonia, Spain!
They have come together to create what many consider the best
dining experience in the world
The three brothers Josep, Joan, and Jordi Roca are the owners. Each has individually earned an impressive reputation in the restaurant business, and they have come together to create what many consider the best dining experience in the world. Mentioned several times in the Michelin Guide, El Celler de Can Roca was ranked first in the annual “World’s 50 Best Restaurants” list by Restaurant Magazine in 2013 and 2015 (and was named fifth best in 2009, fourth best in 2010, and second best in both 2011 and 2012). The same magazine in 2014 also named Jordi Roca the World’s Best Pastry Chef.
Located in Girona, Catalonia, just north of Barcelona in northeastern Spain, El Celler de Can Roca is near Devesa Park, perhaps best known for being the plantation for the plane trees that line the famous Las Ramblas in Barcelona. It is also near the Church of Sant Feliu, known for its life-size 14th-century “Recumbent Christ” and its sarcophaguses dating from the 3rd and 4th centuries. The restaurant originally opened in 1986 in a building close to the Can Roca restaurant owned by the brothers’ parents, but El Celler de Can Roca’s current location—designed as a restaurant to give the brothers more room—opened in 2007.
At midnight on the first of each month, the restaurant opens bookings online
Booking and Dress
As with many of the best restaurants in the world, you will have to book early to secure a reservation. In the case of El Celler de Can Roca, this means eleven months early! At midnight on the first of each month, the restaurant opens bookings online. To assure yourself a table eleven months later, you will need to make your reservation as quickly as possible. When booking, you will be asked for a debit or credit card. As with other establishments in Girona, there is no specific dress code for El Celler de Can Roca. Clean casual is the norm during the day; sports coats, shirt, and tie for men are more frequent in the evening. The restaurant is closed on Sundays and Mondays, Tuesday mornings, and some holidays.
El Celler de Can Roca’s kitchen is comprised of an impressive warren of small rooms, each packed with state of the art equipment. Diners oftentimes are invited to take a tour around the kitchen or the equally impressive wine cellar. The dining area, which usually caters to around forty-five guests, is equally impressive. To take best advantage of the views through its glass walls, you should make your reservation for daylight hours. The service is also awe-inspiring, with the wait staff battling the thirty-five chefs for excellence.
Even the most discerning wine connoisseurs will find something to suit their palate among the sixty thousand wines on offer
Any wine connoisseur will take notice of a restaurant whose wine cellar is as large as its kitchen. In the case of El Celler de Can Roca, the brothers take as much interest in their wine offerings as they do their dishes. Even the most discerning wine connoisseurs will find something to suit their palate among the sixty thousand wines on offer. And at El Celler de Can Roca wine is not restricted to the wine glass; it is also used generously in the kitchen, adding unique tastes to many of the restaurant’s specialty dishes.
Good food, of course, is why most people go to a restaurant. At El Celler de Can Roca no diner leaves disappointed. There is an amazing array of culinary delights to satisfy even the most selective food lover:
Pigs trotter carpaccio with penny bun (boletus edulis) oil—According to Joan Roca, this is the first new dish he was actually happy with, using his unique imagination for flavors to provide a restaurant favorite.
Chicken legs with prawns—This is the restaurant’s version of “Surf and Turf” and one of the few dishes that cater to traditional tastes.
Cod with spinach, raisins, and pine kernels—This still popular first-course offering has been available at the restaurant since 1997.
Caviar with hens’ eggs—This is just one of the restaurant’s many dishes that blends the sweetness of the earth with the salt of the sea.
Desserts—With one of the owners considered by many to be the world’s best pastry chef, the choice of desserts is as impressive as the main courses, if not more so.
I hope you have found the answer to the question “Why do I need to eat at El Celler de Can Roca when I visit Barcelona?” Especially since Girona is only forty minutes away via the AVE high-speed train. If you are concerned about what you may want to try at this unique restaurant, there are set menus available—some of which offer more than twenty courses—which will afford you the opportunity to sample a wide variety of unique tastes. A different wine is served with each of the main courses, so each dish and wine pairing complement each other, offering the diner the best culinary experience possible. The only downside is the requirement to book a reservation and then wait eleven months to enjoy the experience. But the wait is always worth it.