Spain has been getting an extraordinary amount of culinary attention in recent years, in many ways because of the innovations of Ferran Adria at El Bulli as well as the visibility of Jose Andres in the United States. For the last 5 years, most things Spanish, Basque, Catalan, Galician, Asturian, and Andalusian have interested me and my recent completion of a chef’s training program has helped me focus my curiosity towards all things gastronomic. I took the opportunity on my latest visit to Spain to visit the restaurant of Carme Ruscalleda, Restaurant Sant Pau, the only three Michelin star in Spain owned and operated by a woman. It's in Sant Pol de Mar, only about an hour north of Barcelona on the train and it was worth every penny, every minute and every bite.
We arrived a bit early to Sant Pol de Mar and as we stepped off the train and tried to sort out which way to find the restaurant, we passed Carme Ruscadella on the platform which doubles as the main sidewalk of the town. I smiled at her and said "hola" and she returned the greeting. I was already beaming as you can see from this pic.
Once we checked into the restaurant we were seated at the best table there was, right in the middle of the dining room, facing the sea. The restaurant seats about 40 and it appeared as though it was about 3/4 full by the time service was in swing. We ordered a Cava (Carme's special vintage) and proceeded to be served with some of the most incredible service I could ever have imagined. Attentive without being overly so, offering explanations and guidance when needed, but never in a condescending way. We had approximately 15 courses and stayed for 5 and a half hours! On our way to the garden for coffee they took us through the nicest professional kitchen I have ever seen. I think any chef in the world would be jealous of a view of the sea while you're working. Here is a sampling of some of the pics, and you can see more here.
I was so struck not only by how beautiful the food was, but how thoughtfully and with what detail it was conceived. It was by no means cheap, and was not something I think one would want to do once a month or even once every six months, but a meal like this once a year is absolutely worth it.
From Barcelona, catch the Renfe Cercanias C1 along the coast to Sant Pol de Mar. I think it's about 7 Euros round trip per person.
You don't have to dress up but you should wear decent clothes. I don't think jeans or sneakers are totally appropriate unless they're especially dope.
You can order wine by the bottle or get a wine pairing with each course. We opted for the glass of cava to start and a Catalan bottle for our appetizers and main course. For the cheese course we had another glass of cava and a Catalan digestive marc de cava after dessert and coffee. The bottle was about 40 euros (definitely on the cheap side of their list) but was totally delicious and they didn't seem to think we were dumb for going that route.
There are menus in English, Spanish and Catalan. The waiters, sommelier and servers all seemed proficient in English with the guests who were American.
I can dream that I'll be able to return someday.
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1 month ago