Sant Pau ***
3 Michelin Star
Back in February 2011, we set off for a journey to the world capital of gastronomy that is Spain. On a trip that we would savor the finest dishes from the greatest chefs at the most famous restaurants of the world, Sant Pau , understandably, wasn’t our most highly-anticipated meal. Somehow, even with the 3 Michelin stars, Sant Pau doesn’t always get mentioned in the same breath as the other ‘big names’. The San Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurant , for example, listed Sant Pau at #93 , behind names like Mani (Brazil) , Coi (USA) , Nahm (UK), Malabar (Peru). (No offence to the aforementioned places, but anyone who has been to Sant Pau will know how ridiculous this sounds).
So let’s just state it loud and clear – our meal at Sant Pau was one of the best in our lives. To put things in perspective, our tasters unanimously agreed that it was our favorite meal of our Spanish trip, with the exception of El Bulli of course, even better than the meals at El Celler de Can Roca and Arzak! (Note we would not go as far as saying that it was the ‘better’ restaurant (what does that mean anyway?!) but judging from one single meal we had , the overall experience certainly triumphs!) Doesn’t matter that now El Bulli is closed, SANT PAU is worth a trip alone to Barcelona!
Sant Pau is approximately 30mins drive from Barcelona. We took a taxi and we were glad we did as it’s not the easiest place to locate. Arriving at Sant Pau, you do get a feeling this is no ordinary restaurant – the location, the dining room overlooking a beautiful garden next to the beach , everything was so impressive even before any food was served. It would be a pity to have DINNER here instead of Lunch as the scenery and atmosphere are just as tasty as the 3-star food itself!
Now , the bread – along with Narisawa and Per Se , it was the best we’ve ever had! So ordinary looking, but just so perfect! Crisp on the outside, spongy on the inside! Writing this review 8 months after the visit and I still can’t shake the memory of this sourdough from my head. Enough said! (10/10)
One of the characteristics of a Sant Pau menu is what they call the ‘micro-menu’. Let’s just call it Amuse-Bouches! Good not great! (7/10)
Spiced sponge cake, pear, cheese, radish, vinaigrette
foie gras, pineapple, spinach
prawn, swiss chard, garlic, pepper mayonnaise
Then things got interesting : a welcome broth – a fusion of Spanish seafood soup and Japanese dashi. Slightly blander than we expected, but somehow this ‘simple’ warm soup felt so satisfying and nicely sets up the meal. We can’t recall being served a ‘broth’ to start a western meal. Throughout the meal, we could sense the Japanese-influence of this otherwise traditional Catalan Cuisine. It’s no wonder Sant Pau has another 2-star outpost in Nihonbashi, Tokyo. (8/10)
Next , the signature uber-creative GASTRONOMIC MONDRIAN. (10/10)
Truly a work of art – it was actually a COD brandada topped with muti-coloured peppers and lined with black olives. Again, a light, salty Cod taste – beautiful and delicious = GENUIS!
Our next course turns out to be the most simple-looking but the most delicious dish OF THE ENTIRE TRIP – and truly deserving the Sfreelife “TO-DIE-FOR” tag! Named “The Winter’s Spirit” – Seasonal local Maresme Peas with olive oil and home-made sausage, we just cannot believe that with simple ingredients as such turns out to be one of the best things we’ve ever put into out mouth! And it’s a dish like this that sfreelife exists to travel and savour the best-tasting ‘gems’ – when you least expect it! (The waiter actually told us that the Chef picks out some few hundred grams of the best-condition Peas from a 5-kg sack! WOW!) (10/10)
Truffled sandwich – melanosporum truffle, Joselito Ham, quality ’0′ egg yolk (the best of the best there is). Another great dish! (8/10)
Angler fish served in Nyora Sauce – espicails, endive, its skin and liver. Through this dish, we instantly fell in love with the Catalan NYORA pepper – an ingredient we would later find extensively used in many restaurants.
Inside out Canelloni – roast chicken, pork, veal. This dish was another ‘signature’ of Sant Pau. An inside-out Canelloni where the outer layer is made meat stuffed with cheese (instead of the other way round). Having specifically requested to change the main dish to this, we were disappointed -the worst course of the whole meal! The outer meat was too tough for our liking. (5/10)
Pre-dessert – refreshing infusion
“NIGHT AND DAY” – SUN : apple orange strawberries parsely / MOON : coconut rum blue and black ganache. Highly creative dessert, reminiscent of the SUN (orange gelatin) showcasing the best of Chef Carme Ruscalleda’s imagination! (9/10)
“Chestnuts and Whisky , acid apple, black and white chocolate”
Served unorthodoxly in a side-turned glass, this “Chestnuts and Whisky , acid apple, black and white chocolate” dessert was another piece of art! (9/10)
Tropical fruit – transparent cube strawberries, shiso, raspberries. YET ANOTHER creative dessert, the ‘casing’ of the cube was in fact edible gelatin with shiso ice cream and refreshing pairings of assorted fruits. WOW! (9/10)
Truffle and Chocolate – local Melanosporum Truffle Ice Cream with Hot Chocolate Ganache. Seductive! (8//10)
The meal ends but the experience continues with a relaxing chill-out at the garden, enjoying both the beautiful open-kitchen and the sea-view!
Scenery on way back to Barcelona …..
Sfreelife Rating : 4 Stars (yes, that means better than most other 3 stars restauant , we had to create a new category!)