From the first time I ate here it struck me as a terrible shame that we don’t all hot-foot it up the Montjuïc ‘magic mountain’ from time to time. Picnics in the grass aside, there’s some decent pickings in them there hills, among them Restaurante Forestier, which also happens to have one of the finest terraces in town, overlooking orange trees, a formal garden and the sea. Like most high-end hotel restaurants the steely grey hues of the dining room itself are just a little cool, but it does have plenty of swank and swagger, not to mention a brace of plastic fantastic chandeliers designed by current golden boy Jaime Hayón.
Frustratingly, it’s my third visit and still it is virtually empty. It doesn’t deserve to be; the food is consistently great and generous to a fault. We were full after starters, blatant gluttons through mains, and barely had room to trough our way through dessert, but research is research, right?
What chef Carme Marsá does so well is to use her knowledge of ingredients, and an instinctive what-works-with-what, to come up with creative dishes that inspire you to go away and get cooking. She’s not about wowing with showy scientific techniques, but more a champion for local and seasonal ingredients. If Carme Ruscalleda is Catalunya’s Alice Waters, then Marsá must surely be Barcelona’s Angela Hartnett.
We lift off with an amuse-bouche of sweet carrot purée with pinhead-sized croutons that crunch seductively against the pillowy sweetness of the vegetable. A lozenge of slow-baked osso bucco in a sticky red-wine reduction melts away the minute it touches your tongue and both promise great things to come.
Pumpkin purée with a wedge of roasted sweet potato topped with a slice of pink and tender foie is the perfect restaurant dish to emulate at home, although the mixed salad is rather ordinary and unexciting. We follow with traditional coca (the Catalan answer to pizza) draped with piquillo peppers and slices of tender boiled octopus, a dollop of some parsley-infused mayonnaise on the side.
We also have pickled mackerel with candied lemons and hearty Perol sausages, which is an extraordinary pairing and possibly one of the most original contemporary interpretations of mar i muntanya that I’ve seen. Less successful is the turbot on egg noodles with coconut broth. It’s not that it’s bad, because the turbot itself is delicately flavoured and perfectly cooked, but somehow the noodles and coconut seem wrong in the context. It’s veering too close to Asia in a restaurant that seems to have roots firmly in the Mediterranean.
A rack of lamb in a red-wine reduction has just slightly too much rosemary, so that it seems perfumed rather than herbace, but treacly pork ribs are rich and delicious, falling from the bone in slivers and nuggets like pulled pork BBQ in the southern US. That they are Iberian ribs adds an extra punch of flavour and makes them thoroughly irresistible. To this meat-fest we add thin slices of veal scallopine drenched in good olive oil and smoky pimentón, rolled up like sausages, sweet, tender and aromatic.
Caramelised pineapple and banana brochettes are sweet, punchy and palette cleansing. As is a steamed Granny Smith apple, slathered in syrup and topped with a gentle cloud of white chocolate. But the dessert highlight is a slice of traditional torrija (a sort of Spanish bread and butter pudding) with prune ice-cream.
Matched with a carefully selected wine list, Forestier is everything you expect of a high-end restaurant, and one that’s well worth treating yourself to. Especially to take advantage of the terrace on a balmy summer night.
The €25 day-time menú del día is a steal when it’s offering such gourmet delights as lamb’s lettuce with duck ham and orange vinaigrette, fresh parpadelle with lemon, thyme and clams, and cheese and honey cake. It includes water and coffee, but no wine.
Forestier: Hotel Miramar, Plaza Carlos Ibañez 2, Montjuïc. Tel. 93 281 1600. www.hotelbarcelona.com. Tasting menu €50 and €75. Main courses €18-€32. Open Mon-Sun 1.30pm-3.30pm, 8.30pm-11.15pm. Closed Sun night.