Spain has some of the most applauded restaurants in the world. Most of us may only go to one of these for a very special occasion, but there are also other options where we can enjoy good food at affordable prices. The Costa Brava has plenty to choose from, especially inland, in the small villages.
There are many things that contribute to a good experience when we go to a restaurant – the building, ambiance, service, and of course the meal. Since eating out in Catalonia is relatively inexpensive, you can eat out more often than you may do in the UK, especially in the better places, where you can enjoy a three course meal with wine for around €25 to €30 a head at lunchtime, and between €40 and €50 in the evenings. To put this into context, a simple menú del día (lunch menu of the day) in a standard local restaurant will set you back around €12 for three courses, bread wine and water, so we will look at some of the more upmarket restaurants which offer value for money. Many restaurants close during the winter months, or open only at weekends. Check before you go that they are open. Here are five recommended restaurants, which should be open for most of the year:
"You can enjoy a three course meal with wine for around €25 to €30 a head at lunchtime, and between €40 and €50 in the evenings"
Restaurant Mas Pou
One of my favourites is in the little medieval village of Palau Sator, located 12km from the coast. Restaurant Mas Pou is housed in a delightful old stone masia (country house) with a pleasant garden, and is made up of numerous dining areas allowing different configurations depending on the needs of the clientele. Here you will find quality Catalan cuisine using locally sourced ingredients, as well as a friendly welcome in a variety of languages (including English). This is not a restaurant of high end haute cuisine offering tiny portions, nor is it a place where you will be presented with a plate so full you don’t know where to begin, but you will have carefully cooked dishes, where the secret is in the quality of the raw materials. Try the asparagus tempura and chargrilled duck breast, washed down with a good Rioja. It is advisable to book at weekends and holidays. www.maspou.com
Restaurant La Vil-La
In another Masia, on the main road between La Bisbal d’Empordà and Girona, and on the edge of the village of Corça, is La Vil-la Restaurant. There is a pretty courtyard to enjoy on warmer days, but the interior offers year-round comfortable dining. The restaurant offers a menú del día, but in the evenings it is à la carte. Pleasant service and innovative cuisine makes this a good choice and children are welcome. I have enjoyed several family lunches here and at very reasonable prices. Try the snails (very popular in Catalonia) or the canellones (another Catalan favourite). http://www.lavil-ladecorsa.com
"It’s often a problem to find a restaurant that caters for people who are coeliac or vegetarian"
Restaurant La Cantonada
It’s often a problem to find a restaurant that caters for people who are coeliac or vegetarian. Mas Pou has a special menu, and so does a small family owned restaurant tucked away near the Castle in the town of La Bisbal d’Empordà, called La Cantonada. They use local produce and offer creative cuisine based on traditional Catalan dishes. There is a lunch menu and a seasonal menu and it is definitely necessary to book here, as you will eat very well and receive excellent value for money. http://www.lacantonada.cat
Restaurant L’Hort Del Rector
Bacallá, or salt cod, is very much part of the Catalan tradition. It has been around for about 500 years, and is a way of preserving fish, which must be desalinated and rehydrated in water for three days before cooking. It is delicate and demands expert handling, then becomes a delicious meal. There is a delightful restaurant deep in the countryside on the edge of the beautiful medieval village of Monells called L’Hort del Rector, which specialises in bacallá and in fact offers 15 different dishes using salt cod (there are other choices on the menu too!) You can sit in the conservatory, or in one of the many idiosyncratic rooms, which house antiques, books and objets. They have a lunch menu at €12.50 but to really enjoy their specialities, you will need to go à la carte, so think in the region of €35 a head, with wine. www.http://hortdelrector.com
Restaurant Pa i Raïm
Pa i Raïm is in the town of Palafrugell, and is in a lovely Art Nouveau building, which was once home to the Catalan travel writer Josep Pla. If you are after fine dining, you’ll find it here, with expertly presented dishes that taste as good as they look. In summer, you can enjoy a meal in the garden by the pool. The tempura prawns are delicious, as is the hake served with peas and cava jelly. Their lunch menu is priced at €23, served on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays, and there are tasting menus to sample as well. It’s always busy at weekends and in the summer months. http://www.pairaim.com