‘Alta cocina’ is the Spanish formulation of the French ‘haute cuisine.’ It would not exist without a good sprinkling of internationally renowned individuals: the chefs working away to uphold the concept. Some of the most famous in Spain over the past decade have included Ferran Adrià (Catalan creative genius, formerly of El Bulli); Juan Mari Arzak (Basque chef of Arzak restaurant renown, in San Sebastian); Martín Berasategui (Basque owner of the eponymous restaurant in Lasarte-Oria); Carme Ruscalleda (a much-welcomed female chef to the line-up with a restaurant on Barcelona’s Maresme coast) and the late Santi Santamaría (the first 3-Michelin starred Catalan chef).
When it comes to Barcelona’s alta cocina scene, for years Ferran Adrià stole the limelight with his restaurant El Bulli. It marked a sad end of an era when the restaurant closed in 2011. However, happily it paved the way for some healthy competition, and restaurant-goers could be directed at equally worthy alta venues in and around the city. It’s a fast-moving game but here are LUXOS’ recommendations for four of the best.
Cabaret calling: TICKETS
It wasn’t really adiós to Adrià when El Bullí ceased to be. More of an hasta luego. The chef soon rekindled his magic alongside brother Ferran and the Iglesias family, also of Catalan culinary kudos. This time at TICKETS it’s a tapas joint but it’s far from your average; even teenier than tapas, each dish is a mini gastro sculpture. Think razor clams in ginger oil with lemon air, and mini-airbags filled with Manchego cheese and Iberian ham. The décor is a glorious mixture of cabaret, futuristic and Modernista. You have to book in advance and doing so online is the only option. Sometimes, though, the wait is three months! So either feel lucky, or book this one ahead in time for your return trip to Barcelona. Alternatively, less impressive but perfectly good twin venue 41 Degrees on the same premises might let you in.
A breath of fresh air: Can Jubany
For 21 years, chef Nando Jubany and his wife Ana Orte have been behind the tastes of this beautiful farmhouse (‘masia’) in Osana – a one-hour drive inland, towards Vic, from Barcelona. The menu ‘Un passeig per Catalunya’ comes highly recommended at this Michelin-star winning retreat of a restaurant. Catalan products from the forest to the vegetable patch abound and the waiters are on-the-ball but not intrusive. Back in Barcelona, the same chef’s work can also be discovered at the Majestic hotel at the top of Passeig de Gràcia and at Petit Comitè on Passatge de la Concepció.
Tokyo’s take on tapas: Dos Palillos
Michelin-star winning Albert Raurich fuses Asian and Spanish tapas par excellence at this restaurant, the name of which translates as ‘Two Chopsticks.’ They call it a blue-collar bar meets Asian haute cuisine. You can’t reserve and you can’t sit down (there are no tables). But don’t be fazed: you’ll love the energy and the taste of monkfish liver, Thai razor shell and tuna belly fillet with rice.
Meat and mythical mystique: Manairó
Jordi Herrea’s top restaurant slash scientific laboratory is Manairó, named after mythical creatures from the Pyrenees. His cooking implements are unique: a grill with skewers to cook food from the inside out, and a cooking appliance based on centrifugal force, to reduce the moisture of the food. Intimate lighting and excellent hearty meat dishes make it a good romantic venue and further sensual delights can be had from the ‘churros con chocolate’ ice cream (churros, Spain’s famous breakfast doughnuts).