Monthly Archives: July 2014

El Celler de Can Roca, Girona

P1070991Chef: Joan, Jordi and Josep Roca         Website:

Cuisine: Modern Catalan

Little introduction is needed for the Roca brothers who brought back, since the closure of elBulli, the title of best restaurant in the world (well, at least according to San Pellegrino’s panel in 2013) to the region of Catalunya. However, their rise to fame wasn’t done overnight and required patience as they competed against the likes of Noma over a few years before knocking them off the crown, even if it was for just one year. But what makes Can Roca so special? Seldom does one establishment have such a recipe for success where each brother has excelled in their own field starting with Joan’s culinary direction as the executive chef, Josep’s impeccable choice and collection of wine as the sommelier and Jordi’s creativity as the pastry chef that is as whacky as Willy Wonka. Separately, they produce brilliance. What they bring together as a team is a gastronomic experience that is difficult to match.

P1080010I wasn’t ready to repeat my dinner experience in 2010 when we ended up leaving the restaurant around 2.30am so we opted for a lunch service on this occasion. We arrived a bit early as we tried to check out their gelateria, Rocambolesc, but unfortunately they were closed for a full refurbishment! So instead we decided to cheekily rock up a little early at Can Roca to enjoy their courtyard and were fortunate enough to get a glass of cava as the staff scoffed their lunch before opening for service.

P1080033I absolutely loved the interior space in Can Roca. Generous amount of space between the table allowing you for some privacy amongst your party, yet aesthetically modern and open, allowing you to see through the entire dining room. Yet again, we didn’t need much convincing to go for their extensive Festival menu.

P1080043The World, according to Joan Roca’s latest travels, was expressed through various bite-size morsels presented in a paper lantern representing the earth. The waiter proceeded by opening up the globe to reveal the contents. If there was one thing Can Roca does well it is their playful presentation. Creativity is not something that is lacking here.

P1080045A guacamole and grapfruit sphere represented Mexico, a liquid spherified ceviche ball for Peru (which came with a warning to have in one bite), hummus for Lebanon, honey and crumbled almonds for Morocco and kimchi for South Korea. They were good fun with distinct flavours depicting the countries from which Joan had been inspired. He even makes his own kimchi now. Impressive!

P1080050The Can Roca classic of the Caramelised Olives then made its appearance. A miniature olive tree was served like a bonzai in a pot. At closer inspection you could find green olives stuffed with anchovies with a caramelised coating hanging amongst its leaves. Sweet, brittle, sticky, juicy – all the sensations from each olive that was dangling off the branches. Sensational.

P1080065More amuse bouche followed with the Campari and grapefruit bonbon. This was a perfectly thin brittle cocoa butter sphere encasing a liquid mixture of the elegant bitters. A word of caution though, please eat this in one go.

P1080071Next was Joan Roca’s play on a Spanish classic of Calamares a la Romana. A welcome adaptation! The squid had been mashed up and reshaped into a thick circular disc and blow-torched before being topped with crispy balls of batter drenched with lemon juice. A finely balanced dish with a very intense flavour of squid and deliciously contrasting textures.

P1080072 Marinated mussels in a ceviche sauce served on long mother of pearl spoons. A soft juicy mussel with a citrus note. This was quite a bit more simple than the other amuse bouche and perhaps my least favourite.

P1080079The last set of amuse bouche was a celebration of the St George’s mushroom, served in two parts. A thin cocoa butter shell encased a liquid concentrated with the flavour of the mushroom, served in beautiful stoneware.

P1080083A bowl with a metal lid was then presented to each of us. Our waiter proceeded by lifting the lid to reveal…

P1080087… a St George’s mushroom brioche and a separate escudella (Catalan broth / stew) underneath in a bowl. We were advised to dunk the brioche into the broth before eating it.

Perhaps it was the choice of mushroom but I felt, for the amount of preparation that went into the mushroom, the intensity of the flavour was not at the level I expected. Some white truffle could have excited my olfactory senses better perhaps?P1080092On to our first course of the day with the Oyster with black pearl served in its own juice with melon juice, dots of cucumber, celery, apple, lime jelly, wood sorrel, melon flower and heartleaf iceplant. Whilst I consider myself to be a purist when it comes to the matter of oysters, I was pleasantly surprised as to how all the component worked here without distracting from the essence of the oyster. It was an elegant and finely balanced dish that could have easily gone wrong, but it didn’t.P1080094A beautiful dish then appeared before us which required a double-take. A dessert dish already? No, of course not, I was mistaken. It was instead Elderflower infusion, cherries with amaretto, gingered cherries and smoked sardine. Of course, how could I have mistaken? I wasn’t sure what to expect here as elderflower infusion, cherries and sardine sounded like a recipe for disaster. However, it was surprisingly memorable…. but for positive reasons. The smoked sardines transformed the dish from what could have been a dessert course into unique savoury dish. Floral, fruity and light – the elderflower infusion effectively removing the fishiness of the silky sardine leaving only the delicate flavour of the fish.

P1080102The next course was a celebration of the local staple, olives. A modern take on a classic with the Black olive gazpacho. This involved a spicy gordal olive mousse, black olive fritter, ice cream made from manzanilla and olives, toasted bread with oil, fennel jelly, winter savory jelly and picual olive. I was amazed to be able to distinctly pick out each flavour of the variety of olives. From the sweet black olive gazpacho to the contrasting bitter and salty gordal olive mousse and slices of picual olives. We needed more bread to mop this beauty up.

P1080109Another savoury dish appeared again mimicking a classic dessert (also known as Viennetta for the non-Spanish), the White asparagus comtessa and black truffle powder. I thought the white asparagus on the side was unnecessary but it did allow me to greater appreciate the intensity of the creamy and velvety ice cream which was full of asparagus flavour such as I had never tasted before. The icing on the cake, literally and figuratively, was that earthy black truffle powder. If only Vienetta came in this flavour…

P1080122 Joan Roca made sure to make full use of the King prawn (I am often frustrated when other establishments have failed to serve the whole crustacean) served charcoal grilled with king prawn sand, ink rocks, fried legs, head juice and king prawn essence. Admittedly, this did not come anywhere near the prawns I had at Asador Etxebarri but I did enjoy the extremely intense and rich essence made from the brain and the smokey flesh of the prawn. My favourite bit, however, was the crispy fried head and legs. Crunchy.

P1080128A slightly smoked fillet of Red sea bream, yuzu, capers and crunchy pickled vegetables was next. This was a nicely cooked piece of fish, tender and moist but nothing extraordinary and perhaps slightly disappointing when compared against the other dishes.

P1080134A much stronger fish course was the Salty cod brandade with salt cod tripe, salt cod foam, olive oil soup, shallots, honey, thyme and chilli pepper. Great interplay of flavours from the creamy and salty brandade balanced against the sweet honey and slightly citrusy thyme. The slight kick from the red chilli was again spot on. Despite the strong flavours, it was a surprisingly light dish.

P1080146Whilst there had been no disaster courses, I felt there had been a lackluster performance in the main segment of the meal compared to the amuse bouches. That was however rectified with the tender and suckling Iberian suckling pig blanquette that had been cooked at 63°C over 30 hours, retaining a beautifully crispy crackling coating. Joan Roca went further to match his take on the cochinillo (suckling pig) with a deconstructed aroma of riesling wine using sweet mango terrine, melon, beetroot, beetroot purée, black garlic, onion and slightly tart orange concentrate. This was much more like it. Clever piece of cooking indeed.

P1080148Next was a minimalist interpretation of the traditional Catalan fishermen’s soup (Suquet); essentially Red mullet cooked sous-vide at a low temperature, served on top of a concentrated fish soup with shredded cabbage and three towers of purée; orange, fennel and saffron. The depth of the fish soup was remarkable and the fish was unbelievably flavoursome. Personally I still prefered the traditional rustic soup but this wasn’t bad.

P1080156A glass cloche filled with smoke was then presented to us. The waiter then proceeded by revealing what laid hidden underneath…

P1080165… which was a smokey Charcoal grilled lamb breast fillet and sweetbreads with spring mushrooms.  Tender piece of lamb, crispy skin and silky sweetbread, served over a concentrated lamb jus which had also been soaked up by some of the earthy morel mushrooms. I wondered what they had done with the rest of the lamb because I wanted more.

P1080168The finale of the savoury segment was a rather brave dish of Pigeon liver and onion, curry-caramelised walnuts, juniper, orange peel and herbs. I absolutely loved the marriage of flavours between the rich gamey pigeon liver mousse, the curry and walnut caramel layer and the classic orange. A sliver of pigeon liver was also served pink but that didn’t phase me. This was a solid dish which also appeared on my first visit and I could see why. Earthy, gamey, rich and intense. I could however appreciate that if game and liver was not your thing then you would have been less enthused.

P1080179On to the dessert and the best course of the evening. The Caramelised apricot: blown sugar apricot with vanilla and caramelised apricot cream was not only a work of art but divine. Visually this is one of the best dishes I have encountered with unbelievable craftsmanship. The sugar work was filled with an apricot foam and presented on a bed of vanilla. The intensity of the apricot flavour was unbelievable and stood out next to the slice of fresh apricot. It was one hell of a dessert particulalry considering I was not the biggest apricot fan… until that day.

P1080185Another modern interpretation by Jordi Roca with Strawberries and cream which was perhaps the weakest dessert dish. It was essentially just a rod of strawberry sorbet, wrapped in a cylinder of cream and more strawberry sorbet, ringed by a spiral of delicate sugar work. Mind you, fresas con nata (strawberry with cream) is a very popular dish in Spain so perhaps the significance may have been slightly lost on some.

P1080190Our final dessert dish was a Mocha mille-feuille, anise mille-feuille with mocha foam and coffee granita. A comforting dish with a lovely contrast of texture, between the gooey mocha and brittle sugar sheets, and flavour, between the sweet foam and bitter coffee granita. It was however the not the most visually appealing dessert, resembling perhaps closer to a half chewed snicker bar. Looks can be deceiving, indeed.

P1080175An addition to the dining room was the Sweets trolley designed by local artist Andreu Carulla (who also designed the lantern from the amuse bouche, equipments in Rocambolesc and many other tableware at Can Roca). The trolley was filled with macarons, chocolates, fruit jellies and other sweets. To be honest, I was too full by this point.

P1080213My second visit to Can Roca was thoroughly impressive as my first one and also confirmed a few things. First and foremost, it was a great opportunity to be able to recalibrate essentially what was my fine dining benchmark. Suffice to say, the bar had been raised again. A secondary observation confirmed my thoughts from my first meal; the creativity and fautless execution of the amuse bouche and desserts are what makes Can Roca one of my all time favourite restaurant. Last but not least, I love the fact that behind all the modern techniques and interpretations, the cuisine at heart is undeniably Catalan and has deep roots to the region. Having grown up with this region as a reference all my life, the food felt familiar yet refreshingly new. What more could I ask for? Well, perhaps a shorter waiting list.

Compartir, Cadaques

P1080252 ChefM. CasañasO. Castro & E. Xatruch   Website:

Cuisine: Catalan / Seafood

The closure of elBulli in 2011 marked the advent of a new culinary movement that had been inspired by Ferran Adria’s molecular cuisine. Interestingly, whilst many of these chefs had at some stage worked in elBulli under Adria, many of them subsequently made a conscious decision to part either partially or entirely from the molecular discipline. Foraging, ethical sourcing and quality of the produce and ingredients was the new thing. Many of them, like Rene Redzepi from Noma, catapulted into the culinary spotlight, but others had resorted to keeping an equally talented but low profile. The restaurant Compartir, opened by three of the elBulli chefs, is exactly the latter. Located in the picturesque coastal town of Cadaques it’s fair to say that the three chef’s didn’t get far from elBulli to start their new venture.

P1080254We couldn’t really predict what our meal going to be. Some of my friends who missed out on a meal at elBulli had secretly hoped for a molecular feast but the food here couldn’t have been more different. Having had a holiday house in the region for the last twenty years, I knew what amazing produce the Emporda region and the Costa Brava had to offer but I didn’t quite expect to be amazed by the quality of the seafood we were about to have.

P1080259The name Compartir literally means ‘to share’ in Spanish. Suffice to say, majority of the dishes were designed with that concept at the heart. We commenced our meal with some delicious prawn crackers to whet our appetite. Light, airy and void of oiliness, this prawn cracker didn’t scream out amazingness but was certainly the best of its kind I’ve had. I particularly loved the deep flavour of prawn that came through despite its light airy texture.

P1080265The reminiscence of elBulli was seen in the aperitif of the Peach mousse cocktail which had a viscous froth and unbelievably fruity flavour. I could have easily had ten more!

P1080267Decadence is an appropriate word to describe the first plate of nibbles, a wooden board covered with the glorious Iberico ham “Joselito”. Maybe it was the salty air blowing off the nearby coast that exacerbated our thirst, but this ham was going down like a treat with our cold Estrella Damm Inedit, (aka the elBulli beer), which is perhaps one of the better lagers Spain has produced.

P1080268And when there’s ham, there’s Pa amb tomaquet or simply bread with tomato, a truly iconic catalan dish. Crusty home made bread rubbed with garlic, drenched with grated tomato and its juice and a generous amount of extra virgin olive oil.

P1080271 As a rule, the one thing my wife generally tries to avoid is tomato (I know, she’s clearly crazy) so I am not entirely sure what possessed her to order this. However, I certainly was glad she decided to order the Tomato and strawberries with parmesan and basil, even she admits this is one of the best balanced salads flavour wise that she has tasted. Classic flavours which worked unbelievably well together.

P1080274On to our first seafood dish of the Warm razor clams from Langosteira beach with a lemon touch. A simply beautiful dish and the quality of the razor clams from the colder atlantic coast was just stunning. Full of natural sweetness from the high content of glycogen, what amazed me the most was the size of the meaty molusc even after slightly cooking it. Lemon was all this needed to give it that zing.

P1080278The amazing seafood continued…..Luck had it that I finally had the opportunity to try the highly sought after gooseneck barnacles (percebes) from the coast of Galicia. These bad boys have the nickname of ‘fortune on the rocks’ and can fetch as much as 300 euros a kilogram. The downside to this is the danger that comes as the waves violently try to throw about the men that scavenge for them on jagged rocks. The Galicians claim that when cooked they set the palate on ecstasy. They were not far off for I had never tasted something that had such an intense flavour of the ocean. As you bit off the tip and sucked the inside, you could taste a combination of rich crab meat, oyster and prawn simultaneously. All this from just boiling them in water!

P1080282More elBulli moments with this clever dish of the Cod buñuelo (crouquettes) with honey espuma. The deep-fried cod was lighty and airy yet retained an amazing concentration of cod flavour. The clever piece of cooking here was the use of the honey foam. I find the classic combination of honey and cod sometimes too sweet for my liking, but the foam introduced the aromatic honey without tipping the balance of flavours.

P1080285The Iberico rice casserole with wild mushrooms was as rustic as a dish got here. I recognised many of the mushrooms as I often foraged for them when I visited my parents who live in the region. There were trumpets of death, yellow foots (camagrocs) and girolles that added that earthy undertone to the rice. The addition of the iberico chorizo to the dish was sacrilegious but worked well with the saltiness and distinct flavour it brought.

P1080288We couldn’t finish the meal without opting for the Sea bass with mushrooms and seaweed that had been strongly recommended by the waiter. You could definitely see the Asian influence here with the citrusy yuzu flavour, sesame seeds and the seaweed like mushroom. The rich and sticky sauce, which still remains a mystery, had a surprisingly smokey note to it. I did however find the fish on the small size and wished that we had ordered another plate given we were nine people!

P1080291The dessert dishes were neither Catalan nor rustic but a deconstructed Cheesecake and cherry ice cream. Nothing special to note here other than a good level of tartness from the cherry ice cream balanced against the crème anglaise and sweet crumbs of cookie.

P1080294Some Liquid chocolate bon bon with mango sorbet to finish the meal and that was it. Admittedly this wasn’t a destination restaurant in the same league as elBulli. It was however honest, without pretension and offered some of the freshest and most delicious seafood I have had to date in the region. Rather than concentrating on crazy molecular theatrics at the table, these three chefs made the conscious choice to apply their vast experience and skills in drawing out the natural flavours of the high quality ingredients and produce they had at their disposal. This restaurants was established with the customer in mind. It was a place to catch up with family and friends over good honest food without having to fork out a fortune. This is exactly the kind of place I could visit every month.

Le Relais Bernard Loiseau, Saulieu

P1070268Chef: Patrick Bertron   Website:   Cuisine: Modern French

The culinary world lost a legend in 2003 when one of France’s most respected chefs took his own life, possibly influenced by rumours that he was about to lose his third Michelin star. Setting aside this controversial matter, Loiseau’s contribution to the culinary world is echoed through the practices still observed today at most fine dining restaurants. Ahead of his time, he departed from the french standard of using butter and cream, instead substituting fish and meat stock to provide flavour. He even thickened his sauce through reduction, something inconceivable in the 1970’s. He was only the second person in the culinary world after Paul Bocuse to be awarded the Légion d’Honneur by the French President, François Mitterrand. Quite an honour indeed!

P1070254From humble beginnings of a rundown 18th century coaching inn, the building transformed into a culinary destination and luxury accommodation that is now part of the Relais and Chateaux network. Now under the management of Loiseau’s wife Dominique Brunet and the culinary direction of Loiseau’s second in command, Patrick Bertron, the restaurant has managed to maintain their third Michelin star to date. As we were driving through the region en route to Italy, we thought we’d make the most by stopping by for their unbelievably well priced four-course Nationale 6 Lunch (70 euro).

P1070186The menu, rightly for the price, did not have any options so it was a very easy choice. Our starter was a rather classic Œuf cassé et pointes d’asperges gourmandes au coulis saveur tonka (poached egg with a gourmand asparagus and a tonka flavoured coulis). A simple dish but executed perfectly; runny yolk, asparagus with a bite, salty ham for seasoning the dish and a rather interestingly intense and spicy tonka infused sauce that brought a new dimension to the dish.

P1070194For our fish courses we had the Filet de Féra du lac Léman cuit façon meunière, champignon rosé de Paris en royale et beurre blanc à l’origan. A fillet of the Broad Whitefish (Féra) from Lake Léman was prepared with a buttery meuniere sauce, accompanied by three preparations of mushrooms including a tower of sautéed and puréed mushrooms encased in a thin layer of toasted bread. This highly prized fish, which is a close relative to salmon and trout, is particularly sought after from this lake. It was very fresh, subtle and absent of any less favourable ‘fishiness flavours’ you can occasionally get with fish.

P1070204We had some mixed feelings on our meat course of the Pavé de porc du Limousin, cannelloni de légumes à la moutarde d’estragon et rognonnade à la bourguignonne, jus infusé au boldo. The vegetable cannelloni with the tarragon infused mustard was the star component of the dish with a lovely crispy exterior texture and soft juicy flesh of the vegetable. Unfortunately, I found the pork fillets a touch on the dry side, though the kidney cooked in Burgundy style was delicious and absent from any of that pungent smell and aftertaste one can sometimes encounter with kidney.

P1070213Dessert was perhaps the least imaginative with the Fraicheur de fruits rouges et melon à l’estragon, but then again what could we expect for such a bargain price? The melon sorbet was remarkably creamy and had some zing from the hints of tarragon that had been blended in. The strawberry purée and watermelon foam complemented to the dish with their natural sweetness.

P1070220Some pastries to finish the meal starting with apple, followed by lemon, and finished with rhubarb. If there’s one thing the French did well it was their pastry. I was hoping to have some coffee with it but the waiter indicated there would be a separate plate of petit fours to go with that and made the suggestion to have it in their garden. An excellent suggestion!

P1070246Perhaps the menu we opted for was not a fair representation of what Bertran was capable of delivering. As expected from a three-Michelin starred restaurant, the execution here was flawless and there were no slip ups from the front of house. I did however feel that the food had not entirely departed from the era of ‘nouvelle cuisine’ despite some futile attempts in introducing some modern elements. Fundamentally, I felt there was a lack of excitement and creativity in the dishes. At a time where new generations of chefs continue to push the culinary boundary, I suspect, without continued innovation, it will probably be a matter of time before they lose that third twinkle.

Le Mirazur, Menton

P1070776Chef: Mauro Colagreco    Website:    Cuisine: Modern French

Perched on the hillside of the Franco-Italian border overlooking the glittering Mediterranean sea and the Côte d’Azur is Mirazur, a two-Michelin starred restaurant headed by the charismatic chef Mauro Colagreco. Colagreco left his native Argentina in 2001 to work under the notable Bernard Loiseau, Alain Passard and Alain Ducasse before opening his restaurant in Menton in 2006. Further to his impressive CV, Colagreco has defied the odds by becoming one of only a handful of foreign chefs on French soil that has more than one star to his name and become the first foreign chef to win the coveted title of Gault Millau ‘chef of the year’.

P1070614The restaurant occupied a 1950’s modernist building, redesigned by the architect Rick Mather, with the main dining room located on the top floor. Whilst the interior space was comfortable with ample space, I was glad to have requested the window table…

P1070632… which had a jaw-dropping view over Menton and afar. Unfortunately, the sun had disappeared for the rest of the afternoon but that did not dampen our spirit. The menu at Mirazur was entirely dependent on the fresh local produce available on the given day. Other than for allergies and dislikes, the kitchen had full control over the menu and all we could do was wait eagerly at our table as each course was brought out. We sipped our glasses of Billecart-Salmon Rosé as our amuse bouches were brought out starting with…

P1070621… Langoustine bonbon which was a crispy deep fried shell that contained a concentrated langoustine broth. It had to be eaten in one bite or you otherwise risked wearing the content. Delicate crustacean flavours which could have benefited perhaps from a bit more reduction to concentrate the flavour.

P1070623A sweet and tangy Beetroot chip with goats cheese and variety of beetroot balls which was very simple but delicious.

P1070629The ultimate amuse bouche of the Seaweed cracker with Norwegian salmon with a herbal mixture of mascarpone was an absolute delight. The slightly salty cracker with umami from the seaweed enhanced the fresh sweet flavour of the salmon. Wow. I was amazed to see how much flavour Colagreco managed to draw out from just a handful of ingredients.

P1070636Next came a wooden board with a large loaf of sourdough pain de partage, literally breaking bread for sharing, as a gesture of welcome to Mirazur following the Argentinian tradition. It came with a generous amount of Menton lemon and ginger infused olive oil and butter. The bread had a lovely crusty exterior and fluffy interior, perfect for soaking up the aromatic and peppery olive oil.

P1070637The first course of the Huitres au concombre set an extremely high standard and expectation for the meal to come. It was a beautiful marriage of flavours between the fresh oysters high in minerality, seaweed and cucumber served two ways – a refreshingly cool purée and slices rolled up. 

P1070645A good selection of bread was on offer including a cinnamon and almond roll, a sourdough rye, baguette and a flat and cracker-like textures pane carasau that had been seasoned in aromatic rosemary and sea salt. I went for… all of them!

P1070647Our second course was a further impressive Carpaccio de Gamberoni de San Remo, et pêche et basilic. Freshly caught prawns from San Remo were carefully sliced and prepared as a carpaccio, served with little balls of peaches and peach jus as well as basil leaves. There were different layers of sweetness from the natural sweetness of the prawns to the fruity one of the peach and its jus. The finishing touches of the peppery basil completed this dish, making it one of the highlights from the meal.

P1070659The Salades d’haricots, cerises et vinaigrette à la pistache was no ordinary salad. There were butter beans, green beans, shavings of zucchini, all cooked to perfection with a bite, served with pistachios, shallots, red onion, red and white cherries and ginger. The salad had then been dressed with herbs from Colagreco’s garden, lemon infused oil and white balsamic vinegar. I admire a chef who has the confidence to serve a salad dish and make it this good. Despite its unassuming appearance this was one of the most memorable dishes of the day.

P1070662More flavours of the ocean with the Navet et palourdes au bouillon de coquillage (turnip and clams in a broth made from shells). The turnip had absorbed the broth made from shells providing a sweet and mineral component to the dish, drawing out the sweetness of the clams. The only thing that didn’t belong on this dish were the nasturtiums.

P1070670A beautifully presented Oeuf canne, crème de choux fleur et anguille fumée, effectively a duck shell that had been emptied and refilled with its yolk, cauliflower purée and smoked eel with a piece of hazelnut hiding inside. It was a very rich dish despite it’s simplistic look, making the small portion ideal. I was almost tempted to dunk a solider (how decadent would that be?) but sadly had already finished my bread.

P1070685Colagreco was a magician with an ability to really transform simple vegetables into a stunning dish like the Ragout de courgettes du jardin, boulots et bouillon de légumes grillés. The star of this dish was the deep smokey flavour of the stock made from grilled vegetables which was also used to cook the courgettes and squash from his garden and the sea snails. What was unbelievable was that the best was yet to come…

P1070691… which was the Risotto de quinoa, cepes, mousserons, charbonniers, girolles et crème de parmesan. A large slate weighing around 5kg was presented to us as a sharing course. On it were generous portions of ceps, oyster, mousseron, charbonnier and girolle mushrooms on a bed of quinoa risotto and a creamy sauce made from parmesan. The morsels of parsley brioche were perfect to mop up the cream. This was funghi heaven and despite the ridiculously large portion, we mopped it all up. I still dream about this dish…

P1070697The catch of the day was Turbot au jus d’oignon (with an onion juice). The fillet of the turbot was utterly delightful with a firm texture. Although the surprising star of this dish was the buttery onion jus that left you wanting more. The fish was more a conduit to canvas the flavour of the sweet jus.

P1070701The only meat course of the day was the Cochon de lait, polenta aux noix et jus corsé; milk fed suckling pig served with a bed of polenta with nuts, onions and champignon mushroom. Perfect crackling and tender meat but we were stuffed. The risotto dish had KO’d us. A sound dish, although admittedly, I thought his vegetable and seafood dishes were much more interesting.

P1070712At my wife’s insistence, we decided to share a platter of cheese, including some comté and argui to go with a glass of port.

P1070721The Soupe de camomille, sorbet pomme verte et feuille de lait served as a palate cleanser, transitioning to the dessert segment. The aromatic and flowery camomile soup was very soothing on the palate and the touch of acidity from the green apple sorbet cleansed what was lingering from the cheese course. The milky cream downed the tartness of the green apple, making this a very balanced dish.

P1070730Dessert was by no mean inferior to the savoury dishes. The Crème de safran, espuma d’amandes, sorbet orange was exactly what I needed after the epic meal. The orange brioche was perfect in soaking up the sweet nutty almond foam, slightly bitter saffron cream and cold orange sorbet. But wait… Colagreco had one more dish!

P1070733If we were not before, then we certainly became gluttons after this meal. Mind you, we didn’t mind either! Our grand finale was the Brioche maison caramelisée, purée de fraises et fleurs de sureau, a fluffy and light caramelised brioche with a wild strawberry purée and elderberry flowers. The natural sweetness of the strawberries was unbelievable! I could have had a bowl of them on their own.

P1070751We decided to get some fresh air and make most of the intermittent sunny spells we had. I have a rule that where the opportunity arises I would light my favourite Hoyo de Monterrey Epicure No. 2 cigar after a memorable meal and this was one of them. But before puffing away on the deck over looking Mauro’s gardern and the Mediterranean, I savoured the Menton lemon macaron, citrus jelly and blown rice pudding, followed by a shot of Argentinian grappa to go with my cigar. Perfect recommendation I must say!

P1070609I couldn’t quite put my finger at describing Colagreco’s cuisine for it wasn’t constricted to a region or nation. If anything, Colagreco’s focus was really on drawing out big flavours from a handful of ingredients and produce, keeping the flavours harmonious. The dishes appeared deceptively simple, yet every component down to the wild flowers and herbs picked from his garden added a new dimension and impact to each dish. And then there was also the spectacular view, the friendly service and Colagreco’s passion that was evidently contagious to his team. We couldn’t help but smile throughout our five hour experience that felt like it ended all too soon. This undoubtedly is one of the best restaurants in the world right now.