Another day, another Michelin starred restaurant. Difficult life eh? Headed by Victor Quintilla, winner of the Young Chef Award 2012 awarded by the Catalan Academy of Gastronomy, Lluerna restaurant was given a star by the Michelin Guide in 2013.
The night started with a rather unusual appetiser, the solid mojito. The name pretty much describes exactly what it is – a little frozen gel with the flavours that would be typical of the Cuban cocktail. The fresh mint garnish added a nice touch, and it certainly got me salivating in anticipation of the meals that would follow. A second appetiser, also inspired by an alcoholic beverage, soon followed. Inside two big plump green olives was a mixture of Campari and orange juice. Bitter, sweet, salty, perfect.
Just when the cocktail themed dishes were finished, out came…another cocktail themed dish. Perhaps the executive chef spends a bit too much time at the bar. This time we were served a “Bloody Mary”, a spiced soup of fresh tomatoes, celery, prawn and a smooth sherry jelly. The problem with some tomato soups is that they border on tasting like the sauce I’d put on my pasta, however not this one. This was good. Very good.
Now with the cocktails out of the system, for good this time, the dishes started to get a little more hearty. A brandade de bacalao came out, served with pine nuts and dried fruit. This mousse of salt cod is a typical Catalan dish and had a strong flavour of the cod. Eaten alone I found it a little overpowering, however with the nuts and dried fruit it was a very well balanced dish.
I love poached eggs, I love comté, and I love the flavour of onion. Bring me a plate of all three and I am in heaven, which is exactly where the next dish, a modern rendition of a French onion soup, brought me. The waiter brought out a plate with a crusted poached egg in the middle, along with a very airy piece of onion bread. He then poured over a soup of onion and comté, at the table in front of us. This was a spectacularly tasty dish, and so full of great flavours and textures.
The next two dishes were plays on the mar y montaña aspect of the Catalan cuisine. The first was calamari with mushrooms and meat mince, and the second was a pork meatball with thin slivers of squid and black sausage. Although incredibly tasty (especially the mushrooms, which were amazing), the squid on the first dish was a little tough. Not even close to inedibly tough, but certainly not the most tender squid I had ever eaten. The second dish, though, was perfect. The thin slivers were tasty and ever so tender, and the pork meatball was very well flavoured. The squid ink sauce underneath was also delicious, and thankfully not overpowering. Maybe not the most elegant looking dish, nor the most creative, but it more than made up for that in flavour and texture.
With the main dishes over, the waiter asked us if we would like a cheese plate. Being quite impressed with the previous dishes, but nearing the point of food overload (keeping in mind the desserts yet to come, and the food we’d eaten during the day) we decided to order a single plate to share. When it came out, we were so glad that we had opted for that instead of two individual plates because the portions of each cheese were massive. The waiter advised us to start from the milder cheese and work our way around to the intense blue cheese. Also on the plate was a fig jam, one of my favourite accompaniments to cheese. We thoroughly enjoyed everything on the plate; each cheese was distinctly different, but there was not one varietal that I didn’t enjoy. This plate proved to be a key difference between Lluerna and my previous Michelin dining experience at Restaurant Abantal, where the cheese portions were microscopic and some cheeses borderline inedible (for me at least, especially when it tasted exactly as acetone smells).
The first of the dessert courses was a white chocolate ice cream sitting on a bed of lychees and a pistachio paste. There was also popping candy in there somewhere, which made for a nice surprise as we were unaware of its presence before eating it. Although a simple dessert, it was perfectly executed. Flawless.
The second of the dessert course was a poached pear with ice cream and chocolate, and very fine slivers of a spicy dried pepper. Again, a very simple dessert, but executed perfectly.
To finish the night we were served three petit fours: pork crackle with nuts, a cinnamon spiced soup, and a liquid mojito truffle (ok, I lied before, it wasn’t the end of the cocktail based dishes). All three were great, but the pork crackle and nuts really stood out as a winner for me. I can just imagine sitting outside on a warm day with a beer or wine and a plate of these pork sticks. They were crunchy, salty, packed with flavour and just addictive.
I’m not sure if it was because he saw I had a camera, but the waiter invited me to go into the kitchen after the meal, where I found Victor and his team preparing some the dishes we had just eaten. It was a very calm kitchen, nothing like the Marco Pierre White episodes of Masterchef Australia where everyone ends in tears.
Overall, a great restaurant experience and very reasonably priced, at approximately 30 Euros for the meal (excluding alcoholic drinks, but including dishes based on alcoholic drinks). Although this is only the second Michelin star that I’ve eaten, it is now my favourite Michelin star that I’ve eaten. Although it is not really walking distance from heart of Barcelona, it is short metro ride away and highly recommended for travellers looking for something a little classier than the usual tapas (although the usual tapas in Barcelona is still amazing, if you find the right place).