This year the Hotel Omm and its emblematic restaurant Moo turned eight years old. And 2011 also saw its gastronomic directors, the Roca brothers, earn their Can Roca restaurant in Girona the accolade of ‘second best in the world’ at the San Pellegrino Restaurant Awards. It’s been four years at least since I last ate at Moo, so I was excited to return for a number of reasons.
I’ve always been a fan of the Omm. It has a certain hedonistic spirit about it that makes you want to hang around: the lively bar, the moody lighting, the upbeat DJ mixes. And when I pondered my list of potential fine dining experiences for Christmas I picked Moo because I thought it was the least stuffy of that particular ilk of restaurant. After all, who wants to be on their best behaviour for the silly season?
Being a month too early to cover what sounds like a solid, traditional Christmas menu (see opposite), we were invited to the ‘Joan Roca Tasting’ (€140) interpreted by Moo’s head chef Felip Llufriu, who’s been king of the stoves here since day one. He’s usually great, but I’m not sure what happened that night. The first set of amusing little morsels comprised two lumpy cocktail lozenges—Mojito and Bloody Mary—encased in a waxy film, a chunk of melon rolled in not very nice jamón bits, a pastry thimble filled with creamed anchovy, which did at least pack a punch, a flabby oyster, something unidentifiable in a flavourless foam, and a squiggle of squid on a tepid, gloopy soy sauce. It was a bit of a rabbit-caught-in-headlights moment, which happily was saved by a cooling shitake jelly as delicate as anything you’d get in Japan and a very moreish, miniature papada and apple ‘sandwich’ that almost made me oink with delight.
A shout out also to sommelier Xavier Ayala who pointed us towards two of the best wine recommendations I’ve had in a Barcelona restaurant. An aromatic white Masia Carreras 2009 from the Empordà and a limited edition Torroja from the Priorat, which was curiously light and zippy, almost Pinot Noir-like in its rather more dangerous 14 percent. Still, it’s nearly Christmas, right?
An egg yolk encased in edible gold surrounded by crispy, crunchy bacon bits came close to the kind of bedazzlement I was hoping for—like an English breakfast laid by a golden goose, I think. It’s fun, irreverent and smacks of festive frivolity, but I was less enthused by the deconstructed Russian salad. It had some clever molecular gastronomy tricks, granted—the esférico olives and the shards of beetrooty ‘leather’—but compositionally it was a little dull.
The next few dishes were good. The carpaccio of ceps with foie gras was earthy, foresty and reassuringly rich, and the sole with five Mediterranean themed sauces was excellent, grilled to perfection and brimming with oceanic freshness. A shoulder of pigeon on pigeon tartar comprised big, gamey flavours and looked totally haute, like something you might see at the Tate Modern! And I enjoyed the pungent sliver of sheep’s cheese cleverly paired with candied apple and fennel.
In my notes about dessert, I’ve jotted down the mysterious words ‘fairground heaven’, which I assume referred to Catherine wheels of jellied strawberries and the general pinkness of the thing. There’s something fanciful and quite fun about it, which is more than I can say for a soufflé of white chocolate with berry sorbet that was strangely lacking in much of anything. But we ended on a high with a nibble on a couple of densely chocolately petit fours representing all that is great in patisserie.
All in all then, it wasn’t a bad meal; it was just a bit varied and I expected more va-va-voom. You can’t deny the technical skill and the prettiness of the plates, but it seems that somewhere along the way that essential sprinkling of pixie dust had got lost. Weirdly, when I researched public opinion on Trip Advisor everyone was raving about the Vegetarian menu (priced €80) so perhaps that’s the way to go. It’s certainly worth considering for a non-carnivorous special occasion. Meanwhile, here’s hoping Moo gets its mojo back for Christmas.
Moo—Rosselló 265 (in Hotel Omm). Tel. 93 445 4000. Mon to Sat, 1.30-4pm and 8.30-11pm. From €80 to €140 for a tasting menu, less if you go à la carte. www.hotelomm.es/moo.
MOO’s CHRISTMAS MENU (2011)—€74 (not including drinks)
- Christmas ‘escudella’ (Catalan soup)
- Wild sea bass on a bouillabaisse broth
- Confit of goat kid in rosemary with parmentier of potatoes
- Caramelised apple tart with vanilla ice-cream
- Torrons and other sweetmeats
- Petit fours