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Restaurants

Arrels restaurant, Quart

I do like a Catalan country restaurant and Girona is blessed to have many dotted around the surrounding countryside. Luckily many aren’t too far away, so locals take advantage of these larger dining spaces and easier parking. 

No more so than at the weekends where booking is highly recommended. Those of us with a looser work timetable can take advantage of a week day visit which is a much simpler exercise. And less expensive.

A good few have a daily set lunch menu priced so as to be affordable and don’t get too overcrowded.

The only slight downside is if you’re driving you ought to watch the amount you drink, fair point. 

So when it came around to paying back a favour for a friend recently, we thought of one near to where he lives, in Quart. A few minutes drive once you leave Girona’s outer limits and you reach Arrels (roots in Catalan), a large, handsome, imposing stone building set back from the busy main road.

I should add that I’d been here before, about 6 years ago when by chance we stopped here because of car trouble. Back then it was called by a name I no longer remember.

This time it’s sweeping entrance driveway welcomes you into a spacious car park. The restaurant sits in a generous plot with the addition of outdoor tables that I don’t recall before.

The interior dining space has had a facelift and our Tuesday visit still boasted a decent lunch turnout. Even with the usual chatter and clanking plates from other diners, it was unobtrusive.

Our table for 3 was ample, crisp white tablecloths and cloth napkins are always a nice touch. Service was swift, polite and jovial. The set weekday menu is 17.50€ for 3 courses, wine and bread.

We’re sufficiently good at understanding menus in Catalan but asking for one in Spanish shouldn’t be a problem. Getting one in English is often hit and miss. Culinary vocabulary is sometimes a minefield getting the correct equivalent translation. Still, we’re in Catalonia and must show willingness.

Starters (primers) and mains are the first decisions to be made. 

Todays’ included  Nicoise salad (my choice) with green beans (mongetes verdes), anchovies and candied potatoes.

A lot of mutual nodding and slight clarification followed. We were unsure what Papardelle was-it’s a type of pasta, which came with a mushroom sauce and parmesan (crema de ceps i parmesa).

Our drink of choice was red wine and a bottle duly appeared- and remained.

The choice of seconds (segons) was slightly bigger and included:

Bacallà amb salsa verda (cod with green sauce).

Arròs sec de pollastre i bolets (dried rice with chicken and mushrooms).

Bracets d’anec a la taronja-my choice (duck with an orange sauce)-bracets translates as ‘arms’ ?

Two further steak dishes had an additional small supplement.

Whilst portion sizes aren’t in the XL stakes it is tasty, fresh, home-made quality food. When it’s this good you don’t always need much. My mind always thinks back to what this all might cost if I was in the UK-at least 2 or 3 times more.

For dessert I’m glad I chose the ‘Textures de xocolata’ a deliciously tasteful mix of 3 different chocolates, topped with a scoop of chocolate ice cream. Top notch. I’m usually unimpressed by the dessert choices in most places, many appear to be shop bought.

No better way to while away a couple of hours, with good food and friends.

Restaurant Arrels, Carretera C-250, KM7, 17242, Quart, Girona

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Restaurants

4 Good Girona restaurants

In recent years Girona has come under the international foodie spotlight due to the much publicised El Celler Can Roca becoming the world’s best restaurant in 2013 and again in 2015 according to Restaurant Magazine. 

A well deserved accolade no doubt but there are other Girona restaurants worthy of fine dining that deserve a mention. And, less expensive than having to remortgage your house for a meal at Can Roca. Whilst not boasting their 3 Michelin stars or even 1 star (Massana) they offer delicious tasting menus. A good enough reason to dress up to go in search of dining excellence. Plus, who knows, one day they may even reach those same Michelin stellar heights.

A good few of the kitchens here are also staffed by people that had working links with top restaurants in Girona or Barcelona. Girona’s well-renowned Escola de Hosteleria cranks out in-demand catering staff at home and abroad. This school also receives strong support from the Roca brothers who are former alumni.

Divinum, C/ de I’Albereda, 7

We’ve been here a couple of times, old town setting with a vaulted interior. Upon entering the heavily-wooded panel reception, the imposing front desk (yes-wood again) reminds me of some grandiose country house hotel. Just add a couple of stag or deer antlers to complete the picture. The small number of covers, the just right lighting level makes for a cosy couples spot. We chose its tasting menu (menu de gustacio), 3 to 4 starters followed by the same number of mains and desserts. I managed to name-drop one of my students who was a good friend of the chef, which earned us a freebie dish.

Just sit back and let them keep coming, there’s a thoughtful pause between each one and I couldn’t fault the service. Small portions, each accompanied by a different wine.The poor dishwasher must have been working overtime as each plate came with a fresh set of cutlery. I like this way of eating as usually I’m terribly indecisive when faced with a standard menu card. 

Mimolet, C/ del Pou Rodo, 12

Once again it was time to put on a jacket and tie, not a common occurrence for me, living in a hot climate. Down a narrow alley away from St Feliu church past the hotel Llegendes is the unassuming Mimolet. Being a Saturday night we’d booked, and saw walk-ins getting turned away. Same as above, we chose the tasting menu and the house wine. Tasty morsels started to appear on an irregular basis. The fall back position in such cases is to talk and drink more. Ordinary we don’t mind a long drawn out eating session but this time it dragged on a touch too long. The large group of nearby diners were making a night of it. They overheard our English and proceeded to engage in some one-sided entertainment-theirs not ours.

Nu, C/ d’Abeuradors,4

I’d walked past this place many times on my way out for my usual Friday night escape into Girona’s old town labyrinth of night time liquid offerings. Always busy with an equal mix of locals and tourists who’ve no doubt been aware of its top standing on sites like Tripadvisor. The culinary talent pool has links with nearby 1 Michelin star Massana.

So crossing our radar we booked a late Saturday night table. Not too near the front door mind you, as it was a cold December night. A long narrow layout also includes a parallel counter where clients can eat, and get a birds eye view of chefs at work. No pressure then. The de rigueur choice for us was of course the tasting menu. Well presented, well made dishes, I sometimes think how much more the bill would be if this was in London.

Cull del Mon, Vall de St Daniel

A little less of an impact on your pocket, but not by too much, we’ve visited a good few times over several years. One time we even saw Jordi Roca eating here (the pastry chef at Celler Can Roca). This stone built house stands alone tucked away in the sleepy hollow village of St Daniel. Up behind Girona’s cathedral it’s a nice improve-your-appetite stroll up to here, or squeeze your car into its handful of spaces. The bare-stone theme continues inside, bright, contemporary and uncluttered. On a warm sunny day or balmy evening go for its shaded side terrace.

Charming Moroccan owner/chef Lofti and Catalan wife Montse who’s front of house. The menu reflects this fusion of both cuisines which obviously works as they’ve certainly crept up the list of preferred Girona eateries on big review sites. Starters (primers plats) include two favourites, the Catalan cheese selection and the foi raviolis in a mushroom sauce. Mains (segons plats) includes lamb tagine and locally-sourced steak.

On our last visit in June 2020 the hit was just shy of 200 euros for four. That for me falls into the ‘go there once a year category’. If there’s one last thing to add, it’s that the menu hasn’t changed much, if at all for a very long time. I suppose it’s a case of if it works then why change things. Closed Mondays and Tuesdays.

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Restaurants

Top tapas bars in Girona

Visitors and locals alike all enjoy a cold beer and a tapas to munch on. Bite-sized, snacky and tasty, tapas are a perfect start to a night out. Girona has many bars that offer them, ranging in price and quality.

At the cheaper end of the scale even a bowl of green olives is accepted as a basic tapa. Nothing unusual there but hardly imaginative. Moving further up the scale or originality and ingredients usually means paying a touch more. The following are a selection of Girona bars and restaurants I’ve found to be constantly good. You can easily make a night of it and visit all of them, appetite withstanding.

Txalaka, C/ Bonastruc de Porta, 4

Basque cuisine, it offers a good range of tapas as well as a more traditional menu (la carta). Walk in to be faced with a long wide counter heaving with a tapas selection to suit all tastes. With most of these types of establishments, grab a plate and help yourself. Sit inside, but we prefer an outdoor table when the weather is good. Order a drink and keep going back for more. Leave the cocktail sticks on your plate so the waiter knows how much to charge you. Don’t ignore the dessert section if you have room. My verdict. Good quality and variety, nice desserts but a bit pricey.

Artusi, Placa de les Castanyes, 6

Another quality tapas bar and regular restaurant where you can also choose from a menu of Catalan dishes. Their tapas range is much smaller than Txalaka and it’s mostly standing room only. It does have a few bar stools and a couple of tables outside. As before, order a drink and choose your tapas. The rear dining area which also includes a small enclosed patio is more for those dining al la carte. My verdict. Better known for its more refined diners, tapas are a nice side hustle. Not a place to hang around for too long, keep moving.

Zanpanzar, C/de la Cort Reial, 10-12

Smack in the middle of the old town it’s not too hard to miss for the random strolling tourist. The short street its on has a few other places to test your tastebuds, Indian Taj, Catalan Llevataps or Mexican Maguey. Same as before, pick up a plate and take your pick. Stand by the bar or sit down. This place is what a tourist imagines a typical Spanish tapas bar looks like. A long counter full of plates of different bread-based tapas, rather let down by an uninteresting, boring interior. However, it does a brisk trade on weekends. Sadly, for me I fell foul of the weasel-looking, bonkers barman one night and haven’t returned since. Shame, as we used to pop in as a one-for-the-road type place. My verdict. Run of the mill tapas, inexpensive, just missing sawdust on its floors.

Vinitu, Placa Bell-Lloc, 4,local 2

An unashamed plug for this tiny Girona old town bar enthusiastically run by a young couple, Danny and Carla. No problem with English here too. Rather than individual tapas which aren’t really what’s on offer, I’d recommend their sharing boards or ‘fustas’ of local cheeses or cured meats and ham. If you fancy a mix of both ask for a 50/50, (not on the printed menu). One of my favourites is the newly introduced item ‘pollo rabiosa’, breaded chicken strips with a spicy sauce that Peruvian Danny developed. My verdict. A nice alternative to a typical tapas smorgasbord, friendly welcome and leave with a smile. Oh…you can also take your dog inside.

Can Vidal, Placa de Miquel de Palol, 1-2

Sometimes you find a back street place, frequented by locals and not on your typical tourist trail. This is such a place, local to me, that serves up a good range of Galician based tapas on Friday nights and Saturday lunchtimes only. It’s quite a hit with the Devesa residents. A small menu with a mix of seafood and meat based tapas like ‘cloises’ small clams, ‘pulpo’ octopus, and their patatas bravas are a must try. Get here for about 1.30 to 2pm as it fills up quickly with local families and groups. Closes about 4pm.

Wait at the bar if you have to and order a small plate of something. Genial and friendly host Vidal will come by your table after you finish eating to offer you a free shot of liquor. Not sure what to choose? go for a ‘poma’ apple liquor shot. No English menu or spoken English here, just point or use your Google translate to decipher the menu card. My verdict. Home-cooked food, served promptly but limited to weekends (Sundays-closed).

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Restaurants

Let’s do lunch

If it’s lunch you’re looking for in Girona you really should go for the ‘menu del dia’ or set lunch menu, available weekdays at a reasonable cost. 

The two-hour break is another entrenched local custom and many local eateries battle it out to attract diners.

That can be between 10 to 20 euros but don’t expect to be too impressed at the quality and quantity at the lower end. You can however expect a limited choice of 3 courses including bread and a drink. Fewer places offer set menus at weekends and do charge more. 

The drink part of the deal can be a bit of a grey, murky, ill defined area. Some offers include a glass of wine, small beer or mineral water. Others we’ve tried have a more liberal interpretation and will place a full bottle of wine on the table. What’s a person to do, well being from the UK restaurant wine is expensive and no one would dream of leaving any.

Yet here, a decent table wine is far cheaper. Time and time again we’ve noticed that locals think nothing of leaving a half-full bottle. I’ve known friends to accidentally lean over and pinch that bottle.

The overall experience varies widely and the good nuggets are out there. It’s just a matter of trying them out to see what you like. For uncomplicated, home-cooked food it ticks a lot of boxes, it might not leave you full but its time well spent. In my time here the dessert choices often disappoint and the majority appear to be shop bought. Sure, it’s a cost issue so maybe I’m aiming too high.

My current favourite is a too small restaurant, Bionbo in C/ del Carme which I’d heard a lot of good things about and put it on my list of places to eat at. It’s become so popular that it requires booking several days ahead. 

Lastly, I should mention a little well-kept secret amongst locals that I’ve tried twice. I doubt you’d even find this mentioned on sites like Tripadvisor or Apps like the Fork.  

I live opposite the Escola d’Hosteleria i Turisme de Girona which teaches kids how to cook and serve food. It was the place where the now famous Roca brothers started their careers. In order to train their student chefs and waiters how restaurants operate, their dining rooms offer a quality tasting lunch menu at a rock bottom price (last time it was 30 euros). 

Each serving has its own wine choice and this entire meal would easily be double the price elsewhere. Their website features upcoming menus, often influenced by famous Catalan chefs, and it all ends in May when the college closes. Book in person if you want via the door person in reception, expect to wait several days. Just remember to clear your diary after you’ve finished this 3 hour long sojourn! www.ehtg.cat