Photo by Tara Stevens
Genevieve McCarthy is the CEO of Madrid-based Cellar Tours. We got together for a pre-Christmas blowout at Embat recently where we tucked into a great value tasting menu of pancetta wrapped scallops on celery puree and rich duck canelones, pigeon three ways (liver pâté, roast legs, pan-fried breasts) and slow-braised veal jowls with Llanega mushrooms. It’s not exactly light, but it’s easy to see why chefs Fidel Puig and Santi Rebés say autumn and winter are their favourite times for cooking.
Tell me about your business. Why Spain?
Spain has incredibly diverse wine country from volcanic vineyards in the Canary Islands to unique slate soils in the chic Priorat region, to sun-baked flatlands in the centre of the country where the native Tempranillo grape (called Tinta Fino in Ribera del Duero) thrives. My favourites at the moment are the red Mencía-based wines of Bierzo (great value, old vines, balanced acidity and not over the top alcohol levels) and white Godello, especially from Valdeorras, a kind of underdog to Albariño but gaining more popularity all the time.
And your lunch choice?
Embat is a refreshing surprise. Barcelona can be so painfully aware of its coolness, so it is nice to be served inspired dishes in a friendly setting without “airs”. I think it’s a great lunch venue, especially for Saturdays when you can blow three hours sitting at the table sipping wine and sharing the dishes. My favourite dish today was the dessert (rosemary soup with lemon ice cream). It’s amazing how the flavours worked together and the fresh herbiness has totally pepped me up!
What are we drinking?
Vallegarcía Viognier is a very interesting wine made by the terrific Pago de Vallegarcía (www.vallegarcia.com) wine estate in the Montes de Toledo area in central Spain. It is not unlike a good Rhône Condrieu, with aromas of apricots and white flowers and a delicious, long citrussy mouthful. I’m impressed to see it on Embat’s list, as production of this wine is limited.
Any other Barcelona recommendations?
I love Fonda Gaig for its comfort food, stellar service and relaxed yet elegant ambience. Breakfast at Pinotxo in the Boqueria isn’t much of a secret, but it is always fun. I love Joan’s garbanzos and morcilla with a glass of cava.
Tel. 93 458 0855
Tue-Fri 1pm-3.30pm, Sat 2pm-3.30pm, Thurs-Sat 9pm-11pm
Weekly lunch menu €20. Tasting menu €34 and €42