The Catalan kitchen is very much a distinct cuisine of its own and was once described as ” looking outward towards Europe and the Mediterranean rather than back into the Iberian interior”.
Some say its heritage lies in its history, dominated first by the Romans and later by immigrants from France and Italy but Catalans are proud of their cuisine.
Ingredients in the main include the following: aubergines, tomatoes, garlic, peppers, olive oil, onions, fresh fish and shellfish, wild game, pasta and wild mushrooms, red and white beans, broad beans, chick peas and nuts like almonds, hazelnuts and pine nuts, bread and wine…of course! The region has its fair share of red and white wines and the famous sparkling Cava wines. The Catalans love to eat and take their food seriously.
Restaurants within the modern areas of Girona
Many of these zones or districts are still centrally located and fan out to the more residential areas. In Catalan the modern part of a city is known as ‘Eixample’. The restaurants listed below are still not far from the old town and the major hotels.
Blanc, C/Nord, 2. Next to the hotel Ciutat, as its name suggests it has plenty of white decor with floor to ceiling shelves full of different coloured bottles-more for decoration I think. We tried it one Saturday night arriving at about 9pm, by 11pm the place was full. Seating is a mix of white sofa-type seats and hard wooden chairs with no padding-something I find uncomfortable if I’m dining out for a couple of hours.
Although there’s a normal full menu we ordered the weekend evening set menu, which includes 3 courses, bread and a bottle of house wine. Service was prompt, the food could’ve been a bit hotter, portions were for diners who’d probably eaten something before leaving home! The courses also appeared a bit too quickly, we tend to like a slightly lengthier gap between courses.
Cafe Parc Migdia, inside park Migdia, looks out onto an artificial lake with plentiful outdoor tables. It can get busy here on a sunny Sunday afternoon with families eating out on its large terrace, or just enjoying a drink. A nice safe spot for kids to run around as there’s also a playground next to it. Its large open layout inside can mean it feels a bit cold in the winter months. Offers a daily buffet-based vegetarian set lunch menu.
El Celler de Can Roca, Crta. de Taiala 40.This 3-Michelin-star restaurant has been voted the best in the world, in 2013 and again in 2015. Can Roca is run by head chef Joan Roca and his two brothers, one of which is the pastry chef.
These three guys have certainly hit the big time with worldwide recognition and fingers in other pies (forgive the pun) like opening a hotel, book deals and other food projects. This is the place for fine dining but expect to pay in the region of 500 euros per couple if you include wine. I’ve heard the waiting list runs to almost 1 year.
It’s about a 5 minute drive from Girona centre in a non-descript, residential area called Germans-Sabat. As it’s just near to the school that my kids attended I often saw the chefs sitting outside in their white aprons having a break. Closed Sundays and Mondays (presumably to count the takings!). Their parents run a normal looking restaurant nearby which also serves a more modestly priced daily menu for us ordinary workers. Jordi Roca, the pastry chef also has an ice cream shop Rocambolesc (Carrer de Santa Clara, 50).
La Gioia, C/ Figuerola. One of several different eateries in this street, this ex-Mexican is now a pizzeria
Still in the same street C/Figuerola is La Mafia, no clues needed to realise it’s Italian. I’ve heard good reports about their pasta dishes-one to try.
Konigs. There’s about five in Girona by my reckoning and one more in the Espai Girones shopping mall, but the one we prefer is next to St Feliu church steps in the old town, which has a large outdoor terrace. Perfect for an inexpensive snack it has a plain menu (even does egg, bacon and chips) and good beers like Bitburger. The one in Pl. Independencia is also a good spot, but sit outside as the interior is quite small. Does get busy at peak times like Sunday lunchtime so expect to wait.
L’Argada, Av. Ramon Folch 7. Opposite the large main Post Office (Correos) It’s been around a while and noted for its grilled meats. Some outdoor tables but this is a busy road so if you don’t mind the traffic noise.
Massana, Bonastruc de Porta 10. Another Girona restaurant with a 1 Michelin star. Blink and you’d miss it as it doesn’t look like a posh restaurant from the outside.
La Taverna, C/ de la Premsa, 2. Looking out onto Placa Susana and opposite the museum of Cinema. Plenty of outdoor tables here, selection of tapas, the quiche and calamari are good here. It catches the sun here so a good spot for a coffee and chill. Waiter service can be a bit patchy.
Sushi If sushi is your thing Girona has seen a new influx of places opening over the last few years.
Tokio, Ronda Ferran Puig, 26. I find most of the Chinese and Japanese served up here quite bland, boring and samey, except for this place. The interior really looks the part and even has private areas for groups. I’ve had the daily lunch menu a few times which is good value.
Here’s a review from one of our friends (from quite a few years ago): Make sure they give you the menu del dia, it’s on a white plastic card, they don’t automatically give it out, yes it’s about 12 euros. From this you can order what you want, as much as you want and then if you want more you just order more. it’s all in the price. Drinks are extra, if you have Japanese tea and want a top up make sure that you ask for more hot water and not more tea or they will charge you double. The food is excellent, really fresh, small portions, sushi takes a while to make as it’s fresh too, it usually comes at the end but it is all really good. The manager speaks English very well too, the staff are typically polite and attentive, a little too much sometimes.
Apple Cafe, Av. de Sant Francesc, 4. A perennial favourite of ours with a good range of sushi, noodles and Asian beers. The interior lets it down a bit with peeling wallpaper in places and grubby toilets.
Just across the road is La Llarga. Modern, L-shaped, contemporary interior proving to be a hit with the locals. We like it here as they offer a set price lunch /evening menu where you can keep ordering. Upon sitting down they give you a small slip of paper and pencil, as well as the full menu. You place your chosen selection onto this slip which gets returned when the food arrives. If you want to order extra just fill-in the slip again. Drinks are extra and the price goes up on weekends and festival days.
Sushimore, C/ Migdia, 1 and Sushi Time at Placa de Catalunya, 15 are both sushi take aways.
Sakura, C/ Figuerola, 34. Good sushi selection, we tried it one Sunday night and they were very quiet, also offers take away. In the same street is One, a late night bar and sushi restaurant.
Umai, Placa de Jospe Pla i Casadevall, 18. Tucked away in a dark corner you’d easily miss it. Good reviews.
Osaka, C/ Migdia, 93. Near park Migdia and opposite the O2 fitness centre. It has a conveyor-type system with small plates going by your table. Just pick the ones you want, fixed price which goes up by a few euros evenings and weekends. Drinks extra. We’ve tried it a few times, there’s always a tendency to overeat when it just keeps appearing!
Udon, C/ Santa Clara, 47. A chain of noodle bars with its predictable standardised menu. Long, narrow interior.
Restaurants outside Girona.
There are of course many and these are just a few we’ve tried. Many country restaurants get quite busy, especially for Sunday lunch as mums tend not to cook, preferring to eat out or buy-in ready cooked meals. Some also close Mondays or mid-week so check before going.
Can Xifra, Mas Artigues, 17199 Cartella. Situated amongst lush, pretty countryside in the village of Cartella, near St. Gregori ,5kms outside Girona. One place that I’ve heard about from quite a few locals who say it’s the best place for a Sunday lunch with the family but book ahead.
We tried it on a week-day, without booking and had a very good lunch for a modest 36€ (for 2) for two courses with wine and coffee. I had the escalivada which is grilled vegetables, followed by home-made sausage called butifarra. It’s a large, well kept stone building with a big interior dining space. Traditional Catalan fare at its best, notably its meat dishes like wild boar stew, which I had on a subsequent visit. If you’re traveling from Girona towards St. Gregori you’ll see the yellow Can Xifra sign on the last roundabout before you enter St.Gregori.
La Avellana, Fornells de la Selva. Situated along a long, commercial strip full of large furniture sheds and showrooms. Another big masia style restaurant offers all the usual Catalan grilled meat, fish and rice dishes. During summer they also have a late-night chillout bar area.
If you ever enter into the village of Fornells nearby, there’s a social centre which does a well-priced set lunch menu, with outdoor seating.
Can Joan, Canet d’Adri. This cute tiny village just up above Girona is host to a couple of Catalan country restaurants. Can Joan is a favourite lunch spot for well-healed Girona locals, who tuck into hearty dishes like wild boar (senglar) stew and slowly roasted pig’s cheeks (galtas). Take your time as a 3 hour lunch is not unusual.
El Restaurant Can Roquet, Romanya de la Selva (nr. Santa Cristina D’Aro). From Girona take the road towards St. Feliu de Guixols (C-66) towards the coast and after about 25 mins. take the turn-off for Santa Cristina then lookout for the Romanya sign. This small Catalan village is about 6 kms up a hill. Can Roquet has an exquisite interior with views out onto the rolling, verdant Catalan countryside below and the surrounding hills.
We were here one hot July, Saturday afternoon and sat outside, it had several tables some under the shade of trees, with pleasant vistas and a clutch of healthy-looking chickens running around its courtyard. Strangely, when I tried to order roast chicken for the kids I was told there wasn’t any? The food was fantastic and the service friendly and efficient. Each dish was delicious and well presented, a real onslaught on our tastebuds. The dessert menu should be totally re-written, the descriptions didn’t do justice to what you got, pure creation on a plate. Our young waiter spoke good English, the chef is Belgian. We were told the restaurant’s location is a popular spot for tourists to stop and take good pictures of the sunsets.
Simply one of the best meals we’ve had, not cheap but we truly had a memorable few hours here. Top-notch and one to re-visit or bring friends to.
La Barca de Bescano (signposted as you enter Bescano) C/ La Barca de Bescano. A pleasant, small satellite village just a few kms. west of Girona. La Barca (the Boat) is down a long side street off the main road that runs through Bescano, and you’ll see La Barca next to the river. This large restaurant was recommended to us by a Catalan friend, and we had the Calcots which is a traditional dish around February and March when the calcots are in full-season (I have seen them for sale in December). Here’s an interesting and more detailed article I found about them. http://eatwords.blogspot.com/2007/02/not-just-bunch-of-old-onions.html
They’re like very large spring onions, about 60 cms in length and when cooked over hot ashes they’re served in a large upturned ‘roof tile’. You’re given plastic gloves and a bib because it’s quite messy work, pulling off the blackened outer leaves. You then dip the Calcots in a special home-made nutty almond sauce.
Restaurant Monells, C/ Vilanova, Monells. The picturesque medieval village of Monells itself is worthy of a visit, about a 25 minute drive from Girona. It’s like walking back through time or onto a Game of Thrones film set . The restaurant is next to the Arcs hotel. We sat outside with a large round table, as we always prefer this option in the summer and the place was busy. The food was good but could have been better cooked especially my wife’s monkfish and the service bordered on slow. A bit pricey but then it was the tourist season and out-of-season many of these places simply close-up for the winter.
L’Escola, La Pera. About a 20 minute drive from Girona,. Small delightful village, this place is next to the church. We’ve been here a few times, preferring one of the outdoor tables, park nearby and walk in. Small and tasty menu, pity about the uncomfortable metal chairs.. Near here is Pubol, where you’ll find Dali’s castle which belonged to his wife Gala and is now a museum.
Can Po, Rocabruna. This place is a bit off the beaten track but we were invited there by some good Catalan friends who know the area. Head out of Girona towards Banyoles, following the signs for Olot, and up towards the pretty mountain town of Camprodon and continue along the C-38 following signs for Beget. The road past Camprodon narrows but the views are stunning out across the hills. We eventually arrived at what looked like someone’s private house from the outside. Our friends booked as it was a Sunday and the place was packed. It’s quaint with buckets of rustic charm and low wooden beams, a log fire and intimate dining areas.
Ours was a private, seperate room with a large round table, its walls adorned with signed photos of famous past diners. A place noted for its meat dishes the meal was very good. The home-made starters of humous were exquisite.
El Cincuanta Cinc C/Riera 4, Peratallada. About 30 minutes by car from Girona. We stumbled upon this place as a result of a recommendation by a Catalan friend. We found ourselves in the lovely, stone village of Peretallada on a sunny afternoon thinking of having lunch somewhere. This little village has quite a few restaurants, some with outdoor tables but we found Cincquanta cinc (55) just on the edge. We sat outside as it has a shaded terrace area next to a small, grassy area which our kids enjoyed playing on. We both had the set menu and thought it was okay, with plentiful helpings, but if we found ourselves here again we’d try somewhere else.
Mas Sorrer Jazz Bar. Gualta. Situated on the road from Parlava to Torroella de Montgri as if you were going to Estartit from Girona, and opposite the Gualta pitch and put golf course. There is a small yellow sign outside, well worth a late night drink here. Summertime this place doesn’t get going till quite late and stays open till the early hours. We still saw people coming in at 3am as we were leaving.
Also has a cocktail bar, pool tables, a food truck and a restaurant area. The bar areas are all outdoors, many with small log fires attached. To enter Mas Sorrer you walk through an illuminated avenue of tall sunflowers. I visited one late Thursday night and it was quiet, Fridays and Saturdays get very busy. Nice jazz music in an ambient setting makes it a nice chillout place. It also hosts concerts with well known Jazz musicians during the summer. Not sure of whether it closes during the winter period or just the restaurant is open.
Cotton Club, Castell de Peralada. A late night place for drinks set inside the castle in Peralada, opens from late June, Thursdays to Sundays from 10pm. This is also the location for a popular annual music festival.
Casanova, Banyoles old town. Near the Placa Major main square in a narrow street, that offers freshly made pizzas and pasta dishes. With a nice stone arched interior, we had a pleasant pizza lunch here in an almost empty restaurant.
Ocells Perduts, Zona San Medir, s/n 17150 St Gregori. A pleasant country house (masia) restaurant just outside Girona, which serves traditional Catalan cuisine. We had a really good set-price xmas day lunch here for just 25€ (2012) each including wine, which we felt was good value as the few places that are open on the 25th do charge a lot more. In a tranquil setting with outdoor tables in the summer means its one place we’ll be returning to.
La Vila. Bar/restaurant on the edge of Pals, a pretty, inland medieval village well worth wandering through. We sat outside one Saturday night even though it was early October and enjoyed a selection of tapas mostly. We also ordered a local dish I’d heard about, arros a la cassola (rice and sepia) which was good but did bump up the final bill.
Grop, C/del Port 21, L’Escala. In the old village and facing a pretty small beach. If it’s tasty tapas and fresh seafood you fancy then this is our preferred spot, ideally with an outdoor table in summer. Not the cheapest but consistently good. Still in L’Escala is Origins, a well kept secret by locals but has no outdoor seating. I’d recommend its set lunch menu.
Can Pi, Verges. A good inexpensive place to stop at and try its set price daily lunch on your way to the coast. Large country restaurant with an ample shaded terrace at the rear, serving typical Catalan dishes like canelones and fideua. Standard ‘cheap and cheerful’ fare.
L’Horta de Can Patxel. We pass this place on the way to the Gualta pitch and putt golf course (which also has a decent restaurant). Lookout for a small, yellow, roadside sign with its name as you can easily drive past. Turn off and follow a twisty dirt track through apple orchards to reach this country restaurant. Popular with locals summertime especially on weekends (book ahead). Large interior dining space and outdoor seating makes it a quiet, picturesque spot to wile away a few hours over a leisurely lunch or supper.
Sa Marinada, St. Feliu de Guixols. Smart, modern seafood restaurant facing the port that offers a pleasant set lunch for about 25 euros. Cloth tables and napkins are a nice touch, portions sizes are a little disappointing.
El Celler del Vi, C/ del Pont Vell, 10, Tossa de Mar. This sleepy coastal town has plenty of seafront restaurants and they do a brisk trade summertime. It doesn’t seem to attract Gironians in the same numbers as the resorts further north though. We went on one cold December day in the expectation that we’d find a few restaurants still open for lunch. Those expectations were dashed as we scoured the beach areas below its castle, shuttered doors and windows everywhere.
Salvation was in sight when we came across El Celler del Vi, down a short alleway that led to the beach. A handful of outdoor tables were all occupied so indoors we went. I have to add that this was during the Covid pandemic, so its doors were wide open-which meant we kept our jackets on. As its name suggests the bodega-like interior has the customary dark oak wine barrels above the bar, bare red-brick walls and whitewashed chairs. A nice roaring fireplace would have gone down a treat on a day like today.
Quite a big menu with a seafood bias, we chose a large mixed platter consisting of prawns, calamari, clams, chipirones (fried squid) for sharing. Also a traditional local dish ‘Cim i Tomba’ It’s usually cooked in a large iron pot, full of fish pieces, sliced onions, potatoes, diced peppers, tomatoes and even whole garlic bulbs. It’s such an institution that every September Tossa de Mar holds a month long celebration, with many places featuring it on their daily menu.
This large dish is often served up for two people, and we’ve had a good example of Cim i Tomba on a previous visit to Tossa some years back, in a different restaurant. This time ours was a much smaller affair with pieces of monkfish, but still tasty. Feeling we still had some room for dessert and influenced by our waiter, we chose a nice selection of homemade chocolate bonbons. After leaving we still had sufficient daylight to take a brisk stroll along the deserted windswept beach. I think I prefer the summer version of Tossa.