The most important thing to me about travelling is once-in-a-lifetime experiences. I’m fortunate enough to have had a few; my first glimpse of a family of elephants in the wild, having afternoon tea with giraffes, bathing in natural springs in Iceland, meeting world renowned chefs and dining in some of the world’s best restaurants. These once-in-a-lifetime experiences are memories that will live forever with me and since I started a blog, I’ve been able to capture not only an image but the feeling I had whilst living in that moment.
When I was invited by The Macallan, one the of the world’s best single malt whiskies, to dine at renowned restaurant El Celler de Can Roca I knew it would be another once-in-lifetime experience that would be forever embedded in my memory. But let me start from the beginning of this whistle stop trip to Spain which passed in the blink of a eye, almost like a dream!
On a Monday morning, our group flew into Barcelona arriving in the city a little before 3pm. Regular readers will know that this was my second trip to the city in the space of about four weeks so as we drove from the airport I looked around for the familiar and no less spectacular sights that Mr S and I had seen not long before.
This time I checked into the Hotel Omm, a beautifully chic design hotel right in the centre of Barcelona near some of the stylish boutiques I’d visited last time. My spacious room was light and bright with gorgeous parquet floor, a pretty terrace and a natural flow into the bathroom.
Our hosts for the night had left me with a gift to get us even more acquainted with the brand and their values. The Macallan is one of the most sought after single malt whiskies for collectors with a story going all the way back to 1824. With a foundation based on quality and distinctive character founded on a set of guiding principles, it’s no surprise the bottles can fetch up to hundreds of thousands of pounds. In fact in 2014 a large crystal decanter filled with rare Macallan “M” was bought for $628,205 setting a new world record!
I didn’t get to explore much of the gorgeous Hotel Omm but I loved the rooftop pool terrace and I could definitely see myself enjoying a rosé up there during the summer months.
It is also home to gastronomic restaurant, Roca Moo, a Michelin-starred restaurant over seen by the Roca brothers. Sadly I didn’t get a chance to eat there but it’s on my list for next time.
It was a speedy turnaround with time for a quick snack (Spanish omelette, croquettes, Jamón Ibérico, Patatas Bravas) at a lovely tapas place called Vivo about a two minutes down the road from Hotel Omm and then changing into our smart clothes for the evening ahead.
El Celler de Can Roca is in Girona, about an hour and half drive from Barcelona, but of course it’s worth making the pilgrimage. Twice ranked No. 1 in The World’s 50 Best Restaurant Awards and possessing three Michelin stars, El Celler de Can Roca is more than just a restaurant, it’s a temple of gastronomy and somewhere I’d long dreamed of visiting. The restaurant was opened in 1986 by the three Roca brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi, originally located by their parents restaurant Can Roca, but moving to it’s current location in 2007.
Our journey began be stepping into the garden and from there the laboratory.
The Roca brothers believe in staying on the cutting edge which means working with new technology and scientists – always on the hunt for innovation they collaborate with musicians, engineers, and painters blending cuisine with all forms of creativity.
From here it was across the road to the restaurant itself – it’s a beautiful traditional house and the residence of one of the Roca brothers with a more modern extension for the restaurant.
Here expert mixologists were on hand to kick the evening off with some special cocktails courtesy of The Macallan and it was time to sample the three-Michelin starred food of El Celler de Can Roca for the first time. A series of snacks, inspired by global locations circulated the crowd, made up of our British contingent as well as other bloggers and journalists from around the world.
A take on classic Spanish calamari with the squid topped with crispies and wrapped in edible plastic.
A bonbon to be popped into the mouth in one bite and exploding with liquid grapefruit and campari.
Another canape which appears to be a whole truffle but is actually liquid truffle in a butter casing covered in truffle shavings.
A rich parfait of goose.
Beautifully made and innovative pearls of olive ice cream hanging from a tree, a classic from the restaurant.
A take on cannelloni, this bite filled with chicken was one of my favourites.
Minced prawns beautifully shaped into star fish.
And another favourite for our group, a fried bun filled with bacon and kimchee. And that was just a small selection of the snacks circulating, an absolute cornucopia of delights!
Now to see where the magic happens…
As soon as I entered the kitchen my eyes was drawn to the multiple awards acquired by the restaurant. The restaurant was ranked world’s best in 2013 and 2015 and currently sits at a lofty 3rd position amongst the world’s best restaurants. I’ve made it my mission to try and visit as many restaurants on the The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list and El Celler de Can Roca is to date the highest ranked restaurants that I’ve visited. Making it officially the best restaurant that I’ve ever been to.
It was incredible to visit such a starry kitchen and witness the level of precision that goes into creating such incredible dishes. Pictured above is Jordi, the youngest of the Roca brothers.
Next it was an absolute honour to meet the brothers themselves and attend a question and answer session. From left to right: Joan, the eldest, is the executive chef, Josep is the head sommelier and Jordi is the pastry chef. Each are leaders in their field and their combined skill and creativity has led to the creation of El Celler de Can Roca, a restaurant that every leading restaurant guide and food critic has acknowledged in the 30 years since it opened.
The partnership between the Roca brothers and The Macallan is a celebration of time, whisky and gastronomy. The Time Captured Experience will launch a limited edition of The Macallan Masters of Photography co-created with celebrated photographer, Steven Klein.With only 1,000 bottles worldwide, it is a single malt of exceptional quality that captures the ultimate The Macallan moment. The Masters of Photography: Steven Klein Edition Whisky comes in a beautiful leather presentation case including the limited edition whisky, 1 of 10 signed Steven Klein colour prints and a distinctive black horse’s head bottle stopper designed by Klein himself. There’s also a range of bar tools to create flavours inspired by the Roca brothers.
Of course for me, catching moments in time through photography is something very familiar – that moment when you capture an exquisite taste for the first time preserved for eternity. Time is essential when creating the extraordinary whisky or a world class dish and a key ingredient in creative processes.
Our once in a lifetime meal would comprise 12 courses with matching whiskies and wines that would allow the diner to taste the volatility of time whist observing and savouring the past, present and future. As well as stimulating our olfactory sense and our taste buds, each course was accompanied by an audio visual presentation ensuring full sensory experience.
We’re first presented with a dish in the form of an egg timer and instructed to consume the dish as soon as possible…
And indeed in was a race against time as our spoons hurriedly scooped up the delicious truffle zabaione with egg yolk before it disappeared into the sealed egg timer just like the sands of time. For the entire meal, Josep Roca had selected the ideal accompaniments from his legendary walk in wine cellar and with this course we enjoyed a Gramona Enoteca 2001. The cava was sharp and acidic and cut through the creamy soup perfectly.
Sticking with the theme of Time Flies, our next dish bore the image of a clock face at the bottom of the plate. The autumn broth with root vegetables and scallops is deceptively simple looking. The broth is actually cooked at a low temperature (80 degrees) for three hours – just another example of how the Roca brother use time as a concept, I mean good things come to those who wait!
Beautifully presented in a dish resembling a cocoa bean, langoustine with a rich sauce of of cocoa bean, black mole with chocolate and cream of mantis shrimp with coconut and ceps. Always inspired by their world travels, the Roca brothers are particularly transfixed by Mexico and South America, a six city tour of the area in 2014 bought new ideas for their menu. The ingredients in this dish draw inspiration from Mexican cuisine, which is especially close to Jordi’s heart being his wife’s country of origin.
Squid with cooked ‘Ganxet’ bean tempeh took us back to the brother’s roots as Ganxet beans are native to Catalonia. Perhaps an idea that travels back in time to their childhood in Girona, all three grew up working in the kitchen of their parents restaurant which has now been in the family for three generations.
The course was served with four different wines which we were instructed to drink from left to right (lightest to darkest) including a wine to celebrate the 30th anniversary of El Celler de Can Roca.
With our next dish we used tweezers to a eat an oyster steamed in The Macallan followed by drinking a cup of creamy soup and ending on an edible oyster leaf. This was served alongside The Macallan Edition N2, a collaboration between master blender Bob Delgarno and the Roca brothers. Fruity, honied notes and elements of ginger flavours in this whisky paired beautifully with the dish.
The next dishes followed the theme of time, avarice and ephemeral art.
The golden apple was like something out of Willy Wonka and was served with sobrasada and pork belly – ephemeral as we soon smashed it open to see what was inside.
Goose a la royale was a hearty dish, much to the satisfaction of the meat-lovers around the table. It’s been cooked for 30 hours at 63 degrees and as a result it’s utterly melt in the mouth. The beautiful flourish on the side is a jewel made out of beetroot.
Again we were reminded that good things come to those who wait as this contraption was bought to the table. A large piece of apparatus that would distill The Macallan into a sponge cake whilst we finished the next few courses.
The next dish was named Rainforest and combined distilled earth water, carob biscuit, fir dust, pimpernel ice cream, wormwood, fennel and fir granita. The idea is that the smell of the rain is trapped in drops of sand distillate water and ice cream – a real ode to nature.
Pretty as a picture, our next dish was the ‘flower bomb.’ The pink confection took me back to childhood, nestled in a bed of candy floss, we smashed open the sugar orb to find rose cream and petals inside. It’s no wonder Jordi has been named the world’s best pastry chef! He’s also responsible for their ice cream Rocambolesc which I tried whilst staying the Hotel Arts.
Jordi’s famous Amber Cigar Box which includes chocolate with milk, The Macallan whisky, vanilla, dried plum, tobacco leaf, and cocoa. The mixture of textures and aromas was sensational!
Our final course was the gift of time itself and two drops of history. A drop of The Macallan 1946 and one of Trafalgar 1805 made with the Macallan Distiller and applied to our skin. These incredibly rare infusions were enjoyed alongside that sponge cake that had accompanied the complex scientific apparatus.
A meal that had spanned around four hours still felt over all too quickly – I guess time really does fly when you’re having fun. It was back on the coach for the hour and half drive back to Barcelona and a much needed night’s sleep at Hotel Omm. The next day after a delicious breakfast it was back to Barcelona airport and home to London with less than wnety four hours spent in Spain.
The whole experience really passed like a wonderful dream and I’m still pinching myself that I had the opportunity to eat in one of world’s best restaurant for a once-in-a-lifetime dinner.
PIN FOR LATER:
I can’t thank The Macallan and El Celler de Can Roca enough for inviting me on this press trip. I’m still pinching myself that it was real. A shout out to the rest of the group who made the experience so fun and even more memorable: Ben Heath, Melissa Hemsley, Adam Bush, Claire Menary, Kavita and James Bunting.