L’Escala Eats-Bistrot l’Escale

Coastal resorts dotted along the Costa Brava are well provided with ample places to eat or drink. Out of season that amount dwindles to much less on offer, but this is Easter week.

Milder temperatures and an influx of Easter visitors sees many establishments coming back to life. While L’Escala has its modern suburban looking swathe that is Riells, we tend to gravitate towards its old village area (casc antic). Full of quaint, narrow interconnecting streets and far more characterful in look and feel.

Here there are plenty of seafront cafes and restaurants, which regardless of food quality always seem busy-more so when the skies clear. Maybe for some, the sea views and basking in mood lifting sunlight wins over the quality of the dishes.

Finding ourselves here mid-April it’s uncommonly overcast, grey and still jacket-wearing weather. Strolling along its seafront Passeig Maritim the slightly raging sea swiftly reminds us we’re not quite clear of the vestiges of winter.

I always like to explore the back streets, you often find something different or better value. Bistrot Escale looked a likely candidate and a quick ask if we could go inside with our dogs-yes no problem. Our corner table gave us ample space, the utilitarian decor is easy on the eye, a kind of step up from the usual ‘workman’ cafe. Thankfully the TV playing music videos is on mute.

The high-backed black chairs are a nice foil to the white topped tables. The place is empty, granted it’s one-ish so that means it’s early around here. The placemat doubles as the menu and the list is on the small side. That’s not a negative as I always think that mastery over a limited number of dishes-well executed, is to be applauded. A jack-of-all-trades approach to a large menu is often a let down.

Two of us opted for the Burger au Saint Nectaire(€13.90)-a fancy cheeseburger in essence, and a Suprema de poulet au bleu (€12.90)-chicken in a creamy cheese sauce. All well presented, with minimal salad leaves, stringy french fries, and I was left wishing for a larger burger size.

Still, the choice of four desserts would come to the rescue as we had set our sights on the Tarte au citron (lemon tart, €5.90) a French classic. Sadly it was not to be as we were told none of the desserts were available-no reason given, only ice cream was on offer.

I was beginning to feel some sympathy for them as we’d been their only customers during our visit. We might be enticed back another day as they do pinchos (tapas) after 7.30pm.

Final bill for 3, food (no starters), coffees, soft drinks and a bottle of house white wine, €62


Restaurant Nova Pasta, Llafranc

Seeing as we’re currently based in L’Estartit on the Costa Brava, it’s far easier and quicker to jump into the car and take a few hours out to visit nearby places. Whether it’s inland or a beach there’s plenty to choose from, even in the midst of winter.

During our time here we’ve lived mostly inland, in Girona, and have explored most of the province. This time we opted for the coastal town of Calella de Palafrugell where we hadn’t been for a very long time. Its handful of charming sandy coves are clustered close together, hemmed in on either side by a much craggier coastline.

With a village feel, boutique shops, restaurants and galleries it has already claimed that chic respect that other coastal spots still aspire to.

This makes it a popular summer destination for well-healed locals and lucky domestic and foreign second home owners. It also hosts one of the most popular and longest running outdoor summer music festivals, Cap Roig.

You’ll find the ‘cami de ronda Llafranc’ to the east of Hotel La Torre, where you can also park if driving. These walking routes are signposted in green, each one with a time duration. This one takes about 15 minutes to reach Llafranc, the next Costa Brava beach resort. Dogs in tow we headed off along the well worn path which hugs the coast, providing spectacular sea views and scary looking cliff edges.

The descent into Llafranc gives one a chance to view the resort in its entirety, with a verdant backdrop of pine forests and the vast expanse of deep blue sea.

Being a sunny Saturday post-Christmas the afternoon temperature just about allows for al fresco dining. Strolling along its pedestrianized seafont all our preferred options had no free outdoor tables, until we reached Nova Pasta. Our luck was in, as we spotted an empty table still bathed in sunlight. Their modern looking long narrow terrace sits next to a shuttered hotel but we had a generous beach view.

It’s one thing to sit down and wait for a menu or to want to place your order if you happen to possess the menu. Daily life here is peppered with numerous encounters where time or punctuality are unimportant. If being laid back and procrastination were college subjects I’d be up there with the best of them. However, waiting to be served is perhaps my achilles heel.

The waiting staff were busily dashing up and down the length of the terrace, seemingly invisible to us. I saw a group of people who’d sat down after us, giving their order. Even with my wife’s disapproving stare I duly sent my daughter inside, with a smile and a confident swagger to hurry things along.

Menus in hand we chose the following; a meat based pizza, a goat’s cheese salad and a pasta dish with mushroom sauce, oh and some home-made meat croquettes to share. Thankfully the wait was noticeably normal, and, in my opinion these types of dishes are hard to muck up. The setting sun and the drop in temperature gave us a hint that it was time to make a move.

Verdict. Nova Pasta’s food offering was just what we’d wanted, and while well executed it was ordinary fare at a good price. 

Final bill for 3, included 2 small beers, 2 coffees and a coke, 60€


Craft beer-El Birrot, Jafre

It was time to shake off the shackles of Estartit and widen my horizons bar-wise. The choice of drinking holes in the middle of winter is small. Coupled with this lack of choice is the lack of an atmosphere or vibe makes that number even smaller.

So, when a craft beer loving friend recommended El Birrot I was happy to go and try it. The slight downside was having to get the local bus there, a mere 20 minute journey to the inland village of Jafre. 

It had just got dark by the time we arrived, as the bar’s winter opening times are 6pm to midnight (closed Mondays and Tuesdays). You could drive along the main road here and easily dismiss this place as another sleepy looking medieval Catalan village where not much goes on.

We pressed on into the bowels of the village to be met by a large metal gate into what looked like someone’s front courtyard. The ‘Tancat’ or closed sign was a scant reminder to the building’s true purpose. Its enclosed frontage is littered with plain wooden tables and a smattering of newly lit fire pits. This isn’t the night to be drinking outdoors, it’s too cold, so the welcome sight of an indoor spot next to the fireplace was our choice.

The young staff are welcoming and seem to recognise my two friends from previous visits. I dare say they get next to no Englishman here, I mean how would you hear about this place. It’s not on any tourist trail that I know of, maybe that’s its allure.

We survey their board’s offerings hanging above the bar which lists their alcoholic strength and prices, which I must now admit are on the high side. My beer was 8€ for a pint and looks wise, resembles a cloudy fresh orange juice, but more refreshing, with a tangy bite that reminds you of what you are really drinking.

Perusing the not too large plain interior, it has connotations of a super man-cave-shed project that went a bit too far. These images are quickly dismissed as the beer takes effect and bar food snacks appear. Nachos, patatas bravas, chicken wings and ‘sticks de pollastre’- breaded chicken goujons-in generous proportions help to soak up the strong ale.

I can only presume that these are locally sourced Catalan craft beers and I’m reaching the point of when I want to stop and switch to red wine. Although their shelves are prolifically decorated with empty wine bottles, sadly they don’t sell any wine of any colour or type. 

This dedication to craft beer even extends to the absence of any run-of-the-mill popular commercial lagers.

We continue with the craft beers and both the interior and exterior space is filling up fast, they’ve certainly cornered the market for an evening venue for miles around. Our own situation dictates that we need to catch the last bus through here at about 9.20pm. It’s always a wrench to depart just as things are getting off the ground. Still there’s always a next time.

Final bill for three hours of fun, for three of us, food and drinks was an eye watering 46€ each. I think the young, bearded, hipster, college dropout looking owners are having the last laugh.


L’Estartit Eats- Restaurant Camelot

As we hunker down for winter I’m noticing that quite a few cafes and restaurants that were open in November, are closing as we enter into December.

I guess that economically things don’t stack up for them to remain open. I know from personal experience how expensive it is to run a business here, or to be self-employed.

However, others remain open but restricted, perhaps to only from Friday to Sunday. The meagre influx of weekend visitors helps to remind us we’re not totally cut off.

With time on our hands we boldly venture out to continue ticking off those lunchtime menus. This time we drove into the nearby inland town of Torroella de Montgri, on the back of a recommendation.

There’s a bit more life here with plenty of little alleyways, squares and side streets to wander around. It’s better known for the Castell Montgri atop a hill. Visible from miles around, it was never finished and there are walking trails up to it-but not today.

From the outside, Restaurant Camelot doesn’t invoke much of an impression. Located within a largely residential area you’d be hard pressed to chance upon it by accident. Entering was much better, with rustic bare stone walls and a large dining area, divided by a glass partition.

Because, as in most outings we had our two dogs, I made sure I’d perfected the Catalan for ‘are dogs permitted?’ That out of the way we were offered a table within its first section. 

At least we had a patio heater near our table. Whilst we weren’t alone most new arrivals would go into the more warmer, cosier-looking second section.

Still, not feeling we’d been hard done by, I must remember that it’s the food that’s under scrutiny. We must be giving something away as we’re handed the menu in English. Their ‘a la carte’ section looked solidly interesting, and there’s a choice of set-lunch weekday menus at 22€ and 17€. 

We opted for the latter, choosing starters of carpaccio, and I had asparagus with shavings of cured ham in a romesco sauce, plus goats cheese caramelised top.

This was an untried combination for me, simple but satisfying, unlike the wife’s carpaccio, which though visually creative, failed to impress. A nice bottle of house white wine duly appeared and the place was filling up.

We were pleasantly surprised to see Monkfish as one of the main dishes. It’s more usual on higher priced menus, so a no-brainer choice for us both. Happily the pieces of fish were large and like most other places there’s little else added. No heavy sauces, just the main ingredient and a gentle nod to the veg department.

My dessert was a baked apple, adequately done, and now I’m full.

Verdict. Polite and efficient service, I’m sure the legendary English knights would fit in quite nicely here (sadly, no round tables!. 

Vfm (value for money) rating, a solid 9/10.

Final bill, 2 lunch menus (17€ ea.) and an extra drink, 40€


L’Estartit eats- Don Quijote restaurant

The winters here can still remind you of what it was like back in England, shortened constant rainy days with little to do. It’s late November and colder, we’re on the low side of double digits. 

The recent downpours have left a lot of surface water making navigating pavements trickier. Gutters have become like tributaries, but not for too long.

We’ve decided it’s time to try Don Quijote for the simple reason it’s just around the corner. We’re surrounded by a wilderness of empty tourist apartment blocks. They seem well serviced with cafes and restaurants but understandably shut until people return next season.

Perhaps Don Quijote is the last culinary outpost open in this part of town, stubbornly refusing defeat, or maybe they have nowhere else to go. I’ve walked past its low white unassuming facade a few times, noting their black A-board advertising their weekday set lunch menu, at 13€. 

It’s an uncomplicated run-of-the mill offering, unfussy home-cooked fare, keep your expectations to a minimum. Like I’ve said before, no one’s expecting to be bowled over or wowed at these prices. 

I’m as happy with a paper napkin as the next man, just don’t give me plastic cutlery please. However, we’re still mindful of the other elements that go into a visit. Things like service, the ambience, who knows we may return to try the a la carte options.

Our Thursday visit means paella dominates, as it’s a dish traditionally served on this day. I vow to find out why one day. Variations generally fall into two camps, meat or seafood, rice of course and bulked out with some veg. Quite how much meat or seafood you get is down to the chefs generosity.

For me, I like it not too liquidy and with a crusty base. Truthfully speaking paella nirvana elsewhere will cost you in the region of 30€ + per couple.

We entered and asked if our dogs were welcome, yes no problem, and were led through to their rear. My first reaction was that it felt a bit cold, though enclosed it felt more suitable in warmer times. The interior has a fireplace and I tried asking again, when they gave us a table by the front door. 

No sooner than sitting here we were then ushered to a larger table further inside, which was a bit warmer. The initial indifference had changed to a more friendlier welcome.

Given its location the place was busier than I’d imagined. No paper menu, our waiter reeled off the options, good job we’d already read their board outside. We both went for the fish soup for starters followed by the paella. 

A large bowl of piping hot fish soup duly arrived, with submerged pieces of fish, prawns and mussels. The addition of a tiny bowl of croutons was a nice touch, altogether a perfect antidote to a cold November day.

The elderly man who’d tried to relegate us to their rear cold dining area came by a few times fishing for feedback. 

Our seafood-packed paella appeared and was kindly served onto our plates. There was plenty for us two, flavoursome and filling. What with a small side salad and bread, the need or wish for a dessert became immaterial. Still, in pursuit of research we had a flan and the chocolate cake with the usual squirty cream. Nothing to write home about there.

Verdict. It’s fictional namesake would surely approve.

VFM rating 9/10

Final bill, 30€ we often go over the standard price as we have extra drinks or coffees.

Beaches Restaurants

L’’Estartit Eats-Irreverent

We’re on a mission, at least while we’re here until next June, to slowly discover what the remaining open eateries here have to offer. A good many have shut up shop until the tourists return next summer. Have we been left with the dregs?

Perhaps I’m being a tad harsh, I’m sure that’s not the case as every sunny weekend or national holiday brings in extra clients eager to eat and drink. I quickly notice a fair amount of French visitors from the conversations I hear as I walk around.

I’m slightly curious as to why they venture down here, and I’m aware the border is less than an hour away. I’ve always thought the French med coastline has a plentiful supply of pretty looking resorts. Maybe their euros go a lot further here, especially when eating out.

I’m trying to keep the criteria to only lunch menus as they’re keenly priced and we love finding good food at good prices. Of course one line of enquiry is trawling the online restaurant review sites to check on what is good or bad. One bad review is often followed by a good review, where does that leave you?

Still, there’s no better way than first hand experience to fill in the blanks, and taking onboard other users comments is part of the picture. 

Just to clarify matters, we’re not just after the tastiest, cheapest food available. We’ve been here long enough to recognise that the price versus quality ratio is a fine balance. Get it right and you’re on to a winner. Word of mouth, they say, is the best form of advertising.

Next on our haphazard hit list is a bar/restaurant called Irreverent, situated on the long straight road that links Estartit with Torroella de Montgrí. Word has it that it’s under new ownership and even the Google reviews section gives it a hefty 4.8.

I went the day before to book a table for 4 just in case there’s a rush. I needn’t have worried, the one solitary diner had the place to herself. Oh, and they accept dogs inside, a big bonus for us.

From the outside it looks ordinary enough, I’m thinking of those transport cafes in the UK that used to hug the ‘A’ roads, popular hangouts for motorbike riders. 

Still, don’t judge a book by its cover they say. The interior space is a mix of exposed beamed ceilings and warm yellow coloured walls. I look around in vain for the usual wall-tv in a corner blaring out the latest celeb gossip.

Our large, solid looking, tiled-topped table was roomy enough, and we were offered menus in the usual 3 languages. Sometimes the short and sweet workman-like translation into English doesn’t quite do it justice.

The weekday lunch menu is 13.50€, with bread and a drink included. 

I chose a lentil based dish for starters, others had mussels in a garlic sauce and battered brie in a pineapple and ginger sauce. It’s nice to see a bit of originality, a lot of places seem to adhere to a universal format. Salad, pasta or soup starters and ‘a la brasa’(grilled) meat offerings like pork, chicken or beef.

Thursday is traditionally paella day, which I chose, a bit like fish and chips on Fridays in the UK. Not bad, not over seasoned with a token gesture to seafood being a single prawn. Friends had the rabbit stew, and the sea-bass, both well received.

As an aside I remarked on the colourful Mexican themed plates, not something I usually notice. Eager to please they even provided a floor blanket for the dogs, with the water bowl being by the outdoor terrace.

Back to the dessert choices which included mango sorbet, caramelised orange with Cointreau and the inevitably predictable crema catalana. I went for the ‘pera al vino’, a baked pear in red wine.

At weekends they only offer an a la carte menu, plus tapas and music on Friday and Saturday nights. Closed Wednesdays.

Verdict. Given its name it’s far from disdainful. A bit of ‘a diamond in the rough’.

VFM (value for money) 9/10


Old Ambient bar and restaurant, L’Estartit

Migratory birds fly south for winter, however we’ve relocated eastwards, a mere 40 km drive away from Girona.

We’re wintering in L’Estartit, and the remaining number of watering and eating holes is slowly dwindling. If solitude and peace is your thing, this might be the place. Seagulls circle our apartment, their whining is the only thing we hear sometimes. 

It’s a Saturday, early evening, so we head towards the only Irish bar in town O’Malleys. We’ve got the dogs so choose a table on their front terrace with a fine sea view-well the ‘club nautic’ which we’d call a marina.

The view is mostly small boats and yachts but there’s little activity. It’s not exactly Monaco but it suffices.

We ordered drinks, I asked for a Guinness, ‘we don’t have any’ was the reply. It’s a bit like an English tea-room running out of tea. I hadn’t allowed for an alternative so I’m stumped. 

Bottled Guinness? Same reply. The reason we’re given is that the bar is closing soon, until the following March or April.  A bit of a moving target it seems. I look around and there’s only one other client watching the rugby on their tv, they might have trouble covering the electric bill for today.

Drinks consumed we moved on closer to home, to the bar/restaurant Old Ambient. Its long street terrace has been enveloped with a clear protective side covering. It’s surprisingly cosy looking and the patio heaters make a difference. Dogs and smoking are permitted within this section, so we’re happy to stay.

The owners appear to be Dutch by my reckoning, and for late November it’s bordering on mildly buzzing with locals and visiting weekenders. The beer list is mighty long with some nice Belgian craft beers. Still, they have draught Guinness, so I finally got what I wanted albeit in a non-Irish bar. 

The good wife had the same, strangely hers was warmer than mine, I’m less bothered so accept a swap. Time to peruse the food menu, a mix of tapas dishes and mains. 

Their burger list stands out for me, so I chose one with goat cheese. She orders the locally sourced steak, which the small print advises there’ll be a 30 minute wait.

No problem as we’re busy chatting, but the wait time can reach a point that for me becomes an irritation. It’s one of those alcohol induced tipping points which is hard to judge.

I’m mindful that we all want to eat together but the 30 minutes is starting to irk me a bit and feels longer.

It allows me to peek inside the slightly overdone dark wood and soft red interior, with large oval tables for groups, and wooden booths lining the walls. It even has a back room with a rickety looking pool table. The decorative and eclectic wall adornments add a homely touch too

Our two attentive young servers eventually bring us our food order. My meager portion of fries are cold and the other groan is sachets of ketchup. The steak however proves to be a big hit.

Verdict. This could be the only place in town with a pulse on a dark winter’s night, we’re pleasantly impressed to promise ourselves a return visit.

Final bill for three, 88€ (3 pints, 2 burgers, a steak, 2 desserts, 2 bottles of Mon Perdut red wine at 11.95€ ea.).


L’Estartit Eats – Masala

I’ve mentioned before that we’re ‘wintering’ on the coast in Estartit and part of the fun of discovering a new location is trying local restaurants. Especially those that offer a set lunch menu or ‘menu del dia’.

Being late October invariably means a lot are closed for the season. It still leaves a decent amount that remain open and a cursory walk about town identified them. The set lunches here are priced less on weekdays, ranging from 12€ to 22€. Good value when you get 3 courses, bread and one drink. Weekend visitors can expect to pay a few euros more.

Of course we’ll be keeping an eye on value for money (VFM), as a higher priced menu doesn’t always equate to better quality food.

As big curry fans, Estartit has two to choose from, this time we chose Masala, whose weekday set menu is 11.95€. We appear to be the only customers. As it’s a sunny day we choose an outdoor table under a large canopy.  We’re given what appears to be the usual menu, economically arranged as a jumble of loose leaf plastic wallets. No expense spared there then.

I had to ask for the set lunch menu, another 1 page effort that is a dramatic cut down version of the normal menu. There’s a choice of 4 starters, we chose the onion bhaji and shish kebab. The main course choices were limited to chicken, available in 3 different sauces. I asked for my dansak to be extra spicy.

I tend to find most of the Indian food I’ve eaten here in Spain is still not hot enough for my tastes, even when menus have it as very spicy. I have it on good authority that Catalans even find  a mild sauce like Korma too spicy.

My partner was curious to know if she could have the tandoori mix grill instead, and pay the extra. Not possible was the reply, as the till is programmed a certain way. What happened to keeping the customers happy, and a chance to make a bit extra. 

This could get interesting, a red rag to a bull scenario with flailing arms. I begin to argue the point and notice a dissaproving look on my wife’s face. The mountain, or the till in this case will not be moved, and I dutifully comply. She chose a normal chicken curry.

We added a portion of rice and a garlic nan to share and two beers. The waiter appeared to be on his own, so I guessed he’d be doing the cooking too. Still, we’re in no rush, he was cordial, pleasant and the wait time between starters and mains was fine.

We ordered another beer, could he use the same glasses he asked. Mmm, I suppose so but not what we’re used to. Fresh glasses in any bar or cafe are de rigueur.

Rate the plate. Good effort all round, well spiced and left me wanting a bit more. Top marks for the garlic naan. Portion sizes are always going to be a contentious issue where a set menu is offered.

I take a peek inside before we leave, the stuck-in-the 90’s decor with lime green tablecloths leaves a neutral feeling. There’s a pool table at the back and a slightly tatty kids playground area out front. 

I will return to try the normal priced menu, and to do battle again with the tyrannical till.

VFM score. 8/10. Final bill 2 lunch menus plus 2 extra small beers, 28.30€

 Masala, C/ Eivissa 21, L’Estartit 17258


Mooma restaurant and cider house

The Costa Brava isn’t the only place to find good restaurants, hidden gems can also be found inland. The countryside is littered with many fine farmhouse or ‘masia’ type restaurants offering traditional Catalan cuisine.

Serious foodies are flocking to the region which boasts many Michelin starred places like Girona’s Celler Can Roca and Massana. For my not deep pockets they’re still on my bucket list.

The ongoing quest for somewhere fresh and different led us to Mooma, a cider house and restaurant. I’d googled the place beforehand and read some good reviews. How did I not know about it? Are people keeping it a secret?

You enter along a long dirt track flanked by extensive apple groves, arriving at a mix of commercial looking warehouses and buildings. It is after all a place where they make cider, as evidenced by the sheer number of large wooden crates containing green apples.

Car parking is plentiful and dotted with a mish-mash of wooden sign posts and information panels, spouting sustainable agriculture. Are they trying to set the tone of what to expect?

Turning a corner brought us to its large stone built restaurant building. We were meeting friends who’d already arrived. We followed the young server through a mix of well appointed interior and exterior dining spaces. For a Friday lunchtime the place looked busy. Not a bad sign.

Maybe because we had our dogs, we got given a large wooden table within a marquee populated with patio heaters. It is late October and the clear plastic sides means we’re protected against the wind.

Our friends have already sampled the house cider (1 litre 6.90€), curious to try it all we ordered a further 3 bottles of the other types on offer. The menu can be viewed via their QR code or on paper. Rarely does a menu excite or cause doubt about what to have, but this one is fresh and intriguing.

We shared the following dishes as starters: 

Assortit de croquetas, 8.20€ (assortment of different croquettes), Amanida brie de fruits, 8.70€ (green salad with brie cheese and a mix of red berries). 

Calamars Andalusa, 10.90€ (squid, Andalusian style) and Xistorra a la sidra, 7.90€ (very small sausages in cider). All eagerly consumed and their own brand cider is going down well too.

For mains two of us had the slow cooked lamb (Espatlla de xai) 18,50€, which came on the bone with diced fried chips, some cooked tomatoes covered with fried onions. I begin to regret what I’ve chosen.

A tuna dish, 17€ (Tataki de tonyina), and I had a sweet sausage with braised apple pieces in a cider broth 11.50€ (Botifarra dolca poma).

Thumbs up all around, and someone commented on my dish looking slightly phallic. I liked it but felt there were too many apple pieces, and wondered whether a dollop of mash and some gravy would have been better for my Anglo Saxon tastes.

Still, we’re not finished yet and the next hurdle was deciding on which desserts to have. Are these their achilles heal or a cut above the rest? 

I needn’t have worried. We chose: pastis formatge, 6.50€ (cheesecake), xuixo de poma, 5,90€ and a crumble de poma, 5.90€ (apple crumble with condensed milk). 

I think I’ve had my apple-fix today. I tried a piece of the cheesecake- it was sublime. I’ve had my fill and I’m ready for a siesta, but it’s a 15 minute drive away!

Mooma or shooma? Oh definitely a Mooma moment.

Final bill. 

Okay some of us got carried away with one too many of their top notch versions of Calvados (spirit de Mooma). At 6.50€ the generous measure would make any Frenchman smile-if that’s possible.

Add our shared starters, 4 main courses, 4 desserts, ciders, coffees it all came to 187,80€

Sidreria Mooma, Ctra de Fontanilles, Mas  Saulot, s/n Palau-Sator 17256


Sushi, sushi everywhere

I know I’ve been living here a while but I can remember a time when sushi restaurants were a rare sight in Girona. Anything new or different food wise would make the local grapevine twitch. 

Fast forward to today and sushi establishments seem to be springing up on every street corner. Have the locals suddenly changed their taste buds and adopted this Asian cuisine? They certainly seem to be lapping it up as most look busy with clientele.

Surely we’ve reached the sushi-saturation point, maybe not quite yet. I’d always thought about the large number of opticians, dental clinics and shoe shops in Girona. Do Gironians suffer from poor eyesight, bad teeth and poor footwear?

On and on new sushi cafes and restaurants keep appearing. Many in what were once previous food premises but revamped and restyled. Luckily we’re a family that loves sushi so the more the merrier. It’s fun to try out new places, and the ‘buffet libre’ is our personal choice. It’s basically what they call ‘all you can eat’.

As a quick recap or guide, the cheapest deal is to eat during weekdays at lunchtime where you’re offered a set menu which in my experience is sufficient. The all-you-can-eat option is a few euros more. The same option at night, weekends and festival days is the most expensive. The average is around 16-17€ and often excludes drinks.

So it was that we ventured out to try Koyo, a small chain with several restaurants, in premises which had been a Chinese restaurant before. The one thing I remember about the old place was how large the interior was, and how unwelcoming it all looked with bright lights. It made me think of school canteens.

In its new reborn form the interior, though still large, has been thoughtfully redesigned avoiding that cavernous look. Together with the extensive use of wood panelling and softer lighting, it’s a big improvement.

Being so big it’s swarming with staff and the workmanlike greeting was unremarkable and slightly off putting. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not after the kind of enthused smiley greeting you’d find in the US, something in between.

Our table for four was fine and maybe because of covid overhang rules, sufficiently spaced apart. We went for the buffet libre at 16.50€ each, excluding drinks and desserts. The menu is in the form of a picture book, and you’re given a paper and pen to write down all your chosen dish numbers.

The place quickly filled up as it was the evening of a national holiday. The beauty of the buffet libre is that by using the pen and paper you can reorder stuff-as often as you want. But, being so full it was getting progressively harder to grab a waiter’s attention to hand him/her the paper.

There was also a tardy approach to collecting the stacks of small plates that this kind of eating generates. More napkins too were needed which we asked for but none arrived. 

The food was good-when it arrived, but the wait time when reordering was becoming painfully slower. I’m sure they missed out on some items too. Our drinks seemed to arrive quicker though.

Verdict: A good place to retry, but on a less busier night or for lunch. As for the level of service-could try a bit harder.

Cost: With 2 Asahi beers, 2 soft drinks, 2 bottles of white Penedes wine (11.95€ ea.), no desserts, it all came to 103€.

Koyo, Restaurant Japones, Joaquim Vayreda, 4-6, Girona 17001