Friday, 13 July 2018

Roca Moo and Xerta - Brilliance in Barcelona

Roca Moo

After having seen Girona restaurant Celler Can Roca on MasterChef some time ago it'd been firmly on our bucket list. Circumstances and an unfeasibly long waiting list have never permitted unfortunately. So, when booking our recent trip to Barcelona and discovering that the brothers Roca had a restaurant in the city - Roca Moo - we just had to arrange a visit. It's safe to say we were impressed. In fact, after over two hours of amazing food and hospitality we were wondering just how good Celler Can Roca could actually be, because Roca Moo was sensational.

After enjoying a drink on the rooftop terrace of the luxurious Hotel Omm in which Roca Moo is located we took our seats for our meal. The dining area is just behind the lobby, separated by a bookshelf full of books and an open kitchen area where you can watch the band of chefs putting the finishing touches your food.

There's no a la carte menu so we chose the Joan Roca tasting menu, which at 12 courses was the larger of the two options. Rather than the accompanying wine flight we went for a very reasonably priced crisp white wine from Catalonia. Then we loosened our belts and settled back to enjoy the show.

And what a show. Two amuse bouches; the second of which was a wonderful tour of Spain, with four bite-sized dishes representative of various areas of the country. Then into the starters. A mandala flower beautifully presented on a plate; its centre of cold orange and grapefruit surrounded by 'petals' of sauces including a fantastic olive tapenade, to be unceremoniously mushed together before eating. An almost-meaty soup made of a fungus which grows on corn and served with a chilled disk of sweetcorn and chunks of asparagus. Green beans and cockles which tasted so much of the sea I half expected them to swim away.

"Tour of Spain"

Mandala flower



On it went. Wonderful mackerel; a broth of plankton, tripe and sea cucumber; sardine that wasn't sardine but was actually Iberico pork sliced to look like a fillet of fish; red mullet with edible bones. Then onto the mains. Lamb fillet, succulent rib with crispy skin and a perfectly cooked sweetbread. Pigeon three ways; a slab of pate in two light wafers, beautiful breast meat and a thigh in the most deliciously gloopy glaze - all served on a hoisin and red fruit sauce, splattered across the plate in a playful representation of the pigeon having flown headlong into it.

Pigeon

And finally to dessert. Almond and cherry which, as with the sardine, wasn't what it seemed. Because the 'cherry' was an almond mousse covered in a cherry jelly. What looked like crumble was an icy almond granita, under which a cherry sorbet lurked. Even the 'stalk' of the cherry was actually tempered chocolate. Then to finish off, 'The White.' Slivers of a crunchy wafer covering a lemon cheesecake and a sauce which I'd totally lost the track of by then, senses befuddled by the wonders that had come before.

"The White"

As good as the food was - and it was as good as I've ever tasted - the service matched it. Each of our waiters was charming and spoke excellent English. Our main waiter in fact seemed mortified when he struggled with words I wouldn't have a prayer of trying to say in another language. The whole experience was wonderful, the butter even spelt out 'MOO' in three different flavours for goodness sake. But then, following coffee and petit fours, it was over.

I really can't speak highly enough of Roca Moo. From start to finish our evening was just exceptional. Relaxed atmosphere, fantastic service and memorable food. It wasn't cheap, but when a meal is this good you don't begrudge a single penny.

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Xerta

While our trip to Roca Moo had been planned long in advance, our visit to Xerta was more off-the-cuff. An idea to finish a great holiday in style, a search for nice restaurants with reasonably priced lunch deals and a trip on the Metro to the Eixample area of the city took us to the light and airy dining room in the Ohla Eixample Hotel. With our visit being at lunchtime I was pleased that the restaurant operated a relaxed dress code, so resplendent in my shorts and flowery shirt I sat down to enjoy the meal.

As well as tasting and a la carte menus, Xerta offers a couple of set price lunches. Of these we chose the 'Executive' lunch: a choice from one of two starters, a main of meat or fish and a choice of two desserts. The price - an incredibly reasonable €38 per person - also included water, bread, a bottle of wine, appetisers and sweets. An absolute bargain.

Unsurprisingly the appetisers were first, and there was no danger of these being skimped on just because we'd chosen the cheapest menu. There were loads! Pate on a slice of gingerbread, a crispbread with a number of sauces and a duck dumpling were just some of the treats on offer.

Appetisers

For our starters we both chose the pasta. I'm not exaggerating by saying it was the nicest pasta I've ever tasted. Served in a rockpool-shaped bowl, it was covered in a tremendous seafood sauce and accompanied with various delights from the ocean; octopus, mussels and squid all made an appearance. There was just too much of it! Neither of us could finish our portions but it wasn't for the want of trying, and it certainly wasn't a reflection on the quality of the food.

I went for the monkfish for my main course, and it was as good as the pasta (though thankfully not so plentiful). Two meaty hunks with some juicy prawns and a lovely Romesco sauce made for a lovely dish. Clare went for the confit duck which looked equally as tasty, and the bit of crispy skin I pinched from her plate suggested that this was the case.

Monkfish

Though there was a choice of dessert our waiter suggested we plump for the chocolate mousse, and who were we to argue? He definitely knew his stuff as it was wonderful. Cool and light, served with cocoa nibs, cinnamon ice-cream, a coffee sauce and a crunchy crumb. It made for a fantastic end to our meal, though it wasn't really the end as we received further sweets with the coffee we ordered. So essentially our three-course lunch was really a five-course.

Service was slick, the atmosphere was relaxed and, as mentioned before, the meal was incredible value. €80-odd for lunch for two people might not sound cheap but when you consider the quality and quantity of the food it really is. You could easily spend a similar amount at a high-street chain restaurant and I guarantee the food and experience would be nowhere near as good. Our visit to Xerta was a delight and I'd definitely go again.













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