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Oct 11, 2011 01:38 PM

Barcelona in November


First i would like to thank you all on this board for all the informative reviews and advice. i have been reading countless posts over the couple of weeks as research for my trip to BCN in Nov. Based on all that I have read, I've also narrowed down my list of foodie destinations. But I feel like I could still use a little more help...

With much disappointment, I could not get reservations at El Celler Can Roca (waitlist) and Sant Pau (closed for holiday). However, there were quite a few openings at Can Fabes.

Tickets is also fully booked and something is happening at 41 in Oct so no new reservations are being offered in Nov yet. Someone mentioned that the restaurant is changing concept, so will have to wait and see. We will likely show up early at to see if any walkin/ bar seats are available, multiple times if necessary.

Having never been to Spain, I would like to try some traditional cuisine but especially excited about getting lots of molecular gatrsonomy I have read so much about. I love seafood and foie and would be up for anything experiement, foamy, surprising explosions of flavor etc.


Obviously Can Fabes is not the ideal choice for me...but being the only 3* place I could get, I am tempted to still go. I have also read a number of poor reviews which are discouraging.. i haven't seen any reports thing recently. Would love to hear from anyone who has been there this summer.

List of other places I am considering in no particular order:
Commerc 24 / Tapac 24
Lolita Taperia
Can Fabes

I wasn't too keen on MOO but only have it in the list because I consider it a substitute for Can Roca. I would be extremely grateful if anyone could arrange the list in order of "molecular-ness" or something like that. And feel free to add to my list if I am missing some obvious choices.

I am trying to plan just 4 dinners (Wed - Sat) from the above list. and leave lunch for jamonisimo, tapas or La Boqueria, etc


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  1. I can't help with your list, having only dined at Alkimia from that list. I can suggest you go to the 41 website. As of today they have info on the new concept and directions/email address for requesting a reservation.

    1 Reply
    1. re: debbiel

      Wow, that is amazing news. I have been checking their website for tickets & 41 almost everyday hoping for a cancellation or news about 41.

      Just sent them an email. Hopefully get a table for my upcoming trip and hope it will be some kind of Adria tasting menu experience!! Will let u guys know what happens.

    2. I had an excellent lunch at Can Fabes this Spring with Xavier Pellicer heading the kitchen. In terms of food, Can Fabes is one of my favorite restaurant in Spain. Every dish is well thought out, deeply flavored using the best ingredients. This remain so under Pellicer who used to be the chef de cuisine under Santamaria before he opened Abac in Barcelona. Ahtough, both men share the same cooking philosophy, Pellicer has introduced some molecular elements to the cooking. Can Fabes remain unique among the MIchelin 3 star restaurant in Spain: more traditional in terms of cooking and more formal in terms of ambience. What is missing is the presence of a giant among chefs. If you are considering Can Fabes just because it is the only Michelin 3-star that you can get a reservation, my advice is past on it and save your euro. Why go and be disappointed if you are looking for molecular cooking.
      To arrange the list in order of "molecular-ness": that is a new one. First of all toss out Tapac24 (basically serving traditional tapas), Lolita (never been) and Can Fabes. Here it goes starting with the most: Moo, Comerc24, Lasarte with Alkimia, Hisop and Gresca about same. Keep in mind that Moo and Lasarte are more ambitious undertakings and cost more than the rest. This "molecular-ness" thing has nothing to do with the quality of the food or my opinion on them.

      11 Replies
      1. re: PBSF

        PBSF, very insightful as always. I have done some more thinking about what I want...and also have an update about 41.

        41 is going to be doing "a festival consisting of 41 surprises made by our cooks and barmen in a very special atmosphere specifically created to go with this gastronomic metamorphosis". This sounds to be extremely exciting and I cannot wait to try! After some frustrations, I was able to secure a table on Nov 11! The price is set at 141EUR, tax and drinks extra.

        Trying to plan around this, I have the following tentative schedule to work with:
        Wed - Hisop
        Thurs - Can Fabes or Gresca or Comerc24
        Fri - 41
        Sat - Alkimia

        I am struggling on what to do for Thursday. I know you are going to say that the 3 choices are completely apples & oranges... But what I am trying to do is to make sure I get a somewhat wide variety of cuisine. Given that 41 will most likely be very molecular... I am leaning towards Gresca or Can Fabes to balance out the others.

        I know I sounded vain saying I would go to Can Fabes because it is the only 3* I can get. But being someone who has never experienced a 3* restaurant, would you think this is worthwhile? Will it be heads and shoulders above the 1* places on my list (in terms of quality of food or experience)? The "traditional vs molecular" is no longer an issue, but more interested in being blown away by quality/detail/innovation/experience.

        Another side question: if there is no "wine pairing" listed, does that mean I need to order individual wine by glass/bottle. Or are they sometimes included in the price? (some menu say explicitly "drinks not included")

        1. re: fluffydot

          If this helps you at all, Can Fabes was the best meal I recently had in the Barcelona area. We had the Santi Santamaria tribute menu which cost EUR 228 and felt the level of the cooking and quality of the ingredients surpassed those of the other 3* you mentioned - we dined at all 3. El Celler was a close 2nd - it has more of a wow factor in terms of the setting, the innovation or "molecularness" and the Roca brothers do really make you feel at home, signing menus and posing for pics. Sant Pau was also good for the experience of the seaside garden setting. The food is understandably more feminine and is also not as molecular. The waitstaff were also the most attentive with greater attention to detail in terms of presenting the menu. They were also the only ones who remembered that it was a special occasion for us. They are quite different experiences.

          Don't make the mistake of taking Can Fabes to be a consolation prize - it is after all about the food and not just the molecular wizardry. Just my 2 cents.

          1. re: fluffydot

            Just to add to the above post on Can Fabes: first is to clarify that Can Fabes is not 'traditional" in the sense of simply re-creating Catalan recipes such as duck with figs, saimfana, suquet but it is creative take on Catalan cooking. Nobody would mistaken the late Santamaria or Pellicer as cooking traditional food or without creativity. Their creativity is re-interprete Catalan cuisine without much molecular technique or desconstructing a dish. And also how they compose a particular dish: might be cigales, split, coated with semolina, grilled and served with the lightest intense lemony allioli. A simple dish of sauteed wild mushrooms and vegetable confit, or a Mar i Muntanya of grilled hake and tripe stew; and the simplest roasted pigeon with an intense red wine sauce (done better than any French chef); the best lamb slowly roasted and not sous-vide. The cooking might be deceptively simple but the execution is always exact, precise, balance and deeply flavor. And the ingredients are always the best (no exceptions) which isn't always the case in some of the 3 star Michelin restaurants. And it still offers a beautiful cheese cart, rare as chef start to create fancy cheese pairings. The desserts were always the weak part but I had great desserts this Spring; intense ice creams and sorbet, then a composition of different things based on red berries. . As for the ambience: the service is quite formal for Spain. Because the restaurants is located in an old family house though beautifully decorated and very comfortable; it does not have the buzz of the modern design of Can Roca. There are two dining rooms, a small one decorated in a rustic country style used mostly for lunch and larger modern addition. And there is very little natural light so one doesn't have the openness of Can Roca or Sant Pau. Because it is located in a small non-descript town, it doesn't draw a large crowd for lunch so it is a very low key and somewhat "serious" atmosphere.
            Recommending a restaurant that requires such monetary outlay and time is difficult. Like any 3 star restaurant, it has something uniquely to offer. Is it going "to blow you away" as you want? No restaurant, no matter how great can guarantee that. That comes down to each individual taste in food and fine dining plus a little luck. As for your other points: "Quality": the best ingredients, beautifully set tables, great wines; "detail" it is important in all 3 star places; "innovation", probably not in your sense; "experience": that is the most difficult one to answer; for some, it serves some of the best food while other think it is old-fashion and stale; and there are always detractors even with the best. lis it "head and shoulder" about the 1* place? Definitely because the ingredients are the best, the skill in the kitchen is better, it has a sense of generosity and ambition that one star places don't usually have. The ambience and service is fine dining rather than just a feel of a nice restaurant. I hope i gave a good picture so that you can decide for yourself if it fits what you are looking for. Choosing a restaurant is like choosing a date: it all depends on what qualities one is looking for and will it deliver the expectation.

            1. re: fluffydot

              I dined at Hisop last month. It was wonderful. I seem to recall not seeing the wine pairing option on the menu, but we did ask our server about it (luckily she spoke a bit of English, as we were fumbling around with our phrasebook) and the option was available. I recommend the pairing, thought they did a very nice job. And if you are into cheese, definitely get the cheese course.

              1. re: fluffydot

                Thank you for helping to settle my doubt over Can Fabes. I am quite satisfied that this is going to be a stellar dining itinerary. (Of course I wish I could fit a few more restaurants into my schedule but alas...) This is going to put a serious dent into my travel budget!

                The Can Fabes webpage is still somewhat confusing, it lists 3 choices:
                1) Autumn Menu: €140 (incl VAT)
                2) Coch Menu: €105 (incl VAT) without wines; €135 wine pairing with Cuvée Santamaria wines
                3) Tribute to Santi Santamaria: €228

                Am I correct to assume that 1 & 3 do not include wine (even tho they do not explicitly say so)? and for 2), is it 105 + 135 for meal w/ wine pairing or 135 total?
                They also have a Package for €450 for 2 ppl including dinner & wine.

                1. re: fluffydot

                  You are correct that the the 1). Autumn Menu and 3). Tribute to Santi Santamaria do not include wine or drinks. It is stated on the bottom of the menu.
                  I have never taken the Coch Menu; that menu was put in about 8 years ago when they completely refurbished the restaurant and added hotel rooms to the house. It was offered to mostly guests of the hotel as a simpler meal option and served in a small separate room named 'Coch'. At that time it was 60 euros. I don't know what the current inspiration is. If you are interested, might inquire when you make the reservation.
                  I must add that the price of the Tribute to Santamaria Menu has really gone up; remembered to be 175 euro this Spring. The Spring menu which I had was 140euro.

                  1. re: PBSF

                    Another question before i fly out this weekend...
                    I'm planning to rent a car and drive from Barcelona to Sant Celoni for Can Fabes. Is the route more scenic if I take C-32 along the coast then north on C-60? Perhaps a stop at La Roca, heard there is a large shopping / outlet center there.

                    On the return trip, will probably take the shorter route.

                    1. re: fluffydot

                      There is not much of a scenic route from Barcelona to Sant Celoni. It is only about an easy 25 minutes by train; more of a commute. We have only driven with Barcelona friends once to Can Fabes on E15/AP17(more or less parallel to the train route) in the evening, just mostly gentle flat land. Unless you are planning to use the car for various purposes (sorry I am not any help with shopping/outlet), it is more hassle and expensive than the train. Driving will allow you to take dinner at Can Fabes rather than lunch because the train doesn't run late enough. If you only have 4 days, I would advice to just take the train, have a leisurely lunch at Can Fabes and then spend a beautiful evening in Barcelona. I would not waste a whole day out in the non-descript suburbs.

                      1. re: PBSF

                        I realize most people prefer to take lunch at Can Fabes so train is the preferred transportation. But I made reservations for dinner so I think I will need to drive. We can spend more day time in the city for sightseeing.

                        I do see that E15/AP17 is more in the "interior" as opposed to C-32 which is along the coast. I wonder if any has been on that route, are you able to see the beautiful seaside?

                        With the car, I may also go see a Cava winery, though I understand they are in the opposite direction...

                        1. re: fluffydot

                          We have taken the coastal train to Sant Pau couple years ago and drove part of the coastal route to El Bulli in 2000. One can see the coast line but I can't imagine the turn off to Sant Celoni would be more than 15 minutes from Barcelona, probably around Arenys de Mar.

                          1. re: fluffydot

                            To add to your inquiry about wines. For any 3 star restaurant, all options are open. You can ask the staff to pair wines with the food and no problem inquiring the cost. If it is too much, it is not bad form to ask for less wine or less expensive pairing. Wines are generally less expensive in Spain than that of other Northern European top places such as Paris and London. I would say 40 to 50euro pp would be a good amount for a wine pairing. They have probably one of best wine list of all the Spain's 3 star and fairly priced. If you are not a big drinker and/or what to stay within a budget, you can order couple of glasses or ask the sommelier to recommend a simple bottle. Wines by the glass are always excellent and not to look down at.

              2. Hi everyone! Just got back from Barcelona late last nite. Had a wonderful and extremely memorable trip and can't thank you all enough for the advice.

                I was just our luck getting a last minute table at Can Roca! So my itinerary ended up being: Hisop, Can Roca, 41 Grados, Tapac24. Not sure if anyone wants to read a whole detailed review of every dish, so I will just share a few things that stood out to me...

                Hisop - I think this was the perfect choice for the first evening (arriving after 5 days of sight seeing in Istanbul). Not overly involved or complicated, mostly lighter seafood courses. Fresh clams in vanilla foam (amuse bouche) & grilled baby octopus were to die for!

                Can Roca - Amazing service & execution. Super attentive staff without even a single hint of snobbery. Toured the kitchen and chatted with Joan Roca after dinner. Complimentary Roca Cava got things off to a great start. Grilled King Prawns (Gambas?) with crispy legs & head was the star dish. Also had the most delicately roasted lamb & suckling pig dishes I have ever seen.

                41 Grados - 41 snacks & cocktails served at very quick pace. Majority of items blew me away in terms of creativity and intense flavor, especially the cocktails. Oriol Castro was busy trying some experimental dessert that looks like mushrooms, but had a chance to chat with him after dinner as well. Truly a life changing experience.

                Tapac24 - We decided that a 4th night of tasting menu would be too an overdose. Although we were looking forward to Alkimia very much, I think Tapac24 was a perfect ending to the trip. Had some difficulty with the staff (limited english), and couldn't really figure out what the specials were.... Grilled Gambas & steamed sea snails were amazing. Also I don't normally order tripe, but their stewed tripe (with jamon & chorizo) was a super comfort dish.

                Also had a great lunch at Paco Meralgo (which happened to be just a block from our hotel). Stumbled onto this place as we were waiting for our room to be ready. Had some amazing cockerels, steak tartare and "spanish" french toast.

                Overall, I am in love with the quality of seafood in Barcelona. Every seafood dish tasted like it just jumped out of the sea and into my mouth. I cannot wait to go back!