Gourmet hotel breaks, Spain
Hungry for a gourmet break? From fine-dining country-house hotels and restaurants with rooms to Michelin-star-spangled kitchens at the culinary cutting edge, we've truffle-hunted hotels and foraged the world to cherry-pick those Smith stays that go above and beyond when it comes to cuisine. Whether you want a gastronomic experience par excellence or delectable farm-to-table fare, our gourmet breaks collection has a hotel to suit your foodie taste. Bon appetit!
For a five-star gourmet hotel break in Spain, rustic boutique hotel Casa la Siesta will sate your appetite. The owners’ table d’hôte is an unmissable feast of kitchen garden-gathered fruit and vegetables and excellent local delicacies. On your country getaway, look out for the secreto Ibérico (a hidden cut of marbled meat – fatty, but delicious), and the staple of Spanish cuisine, seafood straight from the coast, just 12 kilometres away.
As you might expect from a chef who trained under Ferran Adrià, Paco Pérez creates dishes that could pass as artworks, colourful culinary portraits painted in foams, jus and powders. But these are not just hollow theatrics – Pérez has a gift for combining flavours that has bagged him a quintet of Michelin stars over the years. Miramar, the seafood-slanted restaurant he set up with his wife in his hometown of Llançà, near Girona, has become a site of gastronomic pilgrimage (sea cucumbers are a speciality). Peréz has not confined himself to Spain, however. When he opened Cinco at the Das Stue in Berlin in 2013, expectations ran high. Within a year, its technically accomplished, Iberian-inflected, 25-course tasting menu had added another Michelin star to his CV.
Ex-El Bulli pastry chef Oriol Balaguer’s Easter eggs resemble Dali-esque fetishes, with laser-cut cubist choc sculptures, trompe-l'œil fruits and some that look like incubating Giger beasties. He’s also famed for explode-in-your-mouth sherbert and popping-candy chocolates and surrealist gateaux. His 40-hour, €2,200 gastronomy course (for English and Spanish speakers) tops many a pâtissier’s bucket list. You’ll learn to craft gallery-worthy cakes, chocolates, pastries, pies and even sweet cocktails; it’s hardly a cakewalk in the park, but well worth the effort if you want to end every meal with a bang – perhaps literally…
Stay Hotel Omm (nom nom) has a holy trinity of Michelin-approved fraternal chefs: pleasingly alliterative Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca. Restaurant Roca Moo’s menu has two excellent tasting menus highlighting haute Catalan fare.
Contemporary Spanish cooking may well be progressive and forward thinking, but, as in most countries, it’s still dominated by men. Elena Arzak, often lauded as ‘the world’ best female chef’, is a welcome exception. Elena and her father Juan Mari Arzak (one of the big beasts of New Basque cuisine) are responsible for Arzak, the triple-Michelin-star restaurant that has been in their family for 118 years and a standard feature of gourmet ‘must-try’ shortlists. It is set in central San Sebastián (across the river from Smith hotel Astoria 7), home to more Michelin stars per square metre than any other city in the world – possibly related to the fact it sits at the geographical and culinary meeting point of France and Spain. In the last decade, Elena (whose professional education, inevitably, involved a period at El Bulli) has emerged as a remarkable chef in her own right, continuing and building on her father’s legacy with unparalleled artistry and improbably brilliant flavour combinations.
Restaurants in Menorca rarely have finer dishes than the ones at rustic boutique hotel Torralbenc. Their eatery, Sa Taula de Torralbenc, is housed in a former store-house for wine barrels and their drinks list is still impressive. Their high-end Mediterranean cuisine is made with seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, and their kitchen was formerly helmed by a Michelin-starred chef – so its gastronomic pedigree is reassuringly high. Guests can be served by the owners in the cosy dining room, or on the open-air terrace overlooking the greenery.
The man behind the kitchens of 17th-century rural estate Predi San Jaumell in Mallorca may have been born in the Balearics, but his culinary travels have taken him all over the world (via a three-season stint at El Bulli). Here in the Mallorcan countryside, he has precision-crafted a small but explosively flavoursome menu that takes island ingredients (home-grown olive oil, fish fresh from the coast, bread from the hotel’s own wheat fields) and turns them into contemporary culinary masterpieces. At an astonishingly good-value €38, his tasting menu is unmissable.
Pioneers of the all-dessert tasting menu, and masters of El Bulli-inspired deconstructed tapas – by way of meaty Catalonian fare – Barcelona’s gastro scene is bold and boundary nudging.
What’s cooking? Surf ’n’ turf, bulging bocadillos and custard-filled xuixos doughnuts, washed down with a judicious slug of vermouth.
• Blow off tremendous but touristy La Boqueria market for Mercat de San Antoni, to summon a generous aperitivo at Milano Cocktail Bar and gourmet sandwiches at Bar Mariana; chase with vermouth at little-known Tarannà nearby.
• Van Van Market reflects the city’s growing hunger for excellent street food, where a convoy of delicacy-proffering trucks descend on Parc de la Ciutadella. Find bite-size bliss at Reina Croquette and the Jamoneta.
• Much like attendees after its first two outings, Eat Street food festival has grown in size. Come October scour this (potentially) moveable feast for Eureka Street Food’s fresh and zingy ceviche.
Stay at Stock up on the abundant fruit and veg, and decently sized slabs of carne, at the Mercat de San Antoni, to cook up in DestinationBCN’s designer kitchens.
At 24, Jordi Cruz became the youngest Spanish chef to earn a Michelin star for his imaginative and avant-garde cooking style. In the 12 years since, he has bagged another three – two of them for the hotel restaurant he’s been helming since 2010, ABaC Restaurant & Hotel in Barcelona’s Zona Alta – written a book on molecular cooking techniques, and been anointed as a judge on Masterchef Espana. In other words, he’s hot stuff (and let’s just say a certain proportion of his Masterchef audience haven’t tuned in for the cookery). Via ABaC’s startlingly inventive 15-course tasting menus (mole ice cream, tuna-skin curry, chocolate ‘earth’, plankton bread and oh-so-much more) Cruz demonstrates exactly how he lives up to the hype.