I wish there were more places like La Cuina D’en Garriga in Barcelona. To be fair, I’m a sucker for restaurants with dedicated cheese refrigerators, vintage soda siphons, a snappy interior design and logo, and professional waiters in crisp aprons and ties that take their jobs seriously. However, the enchantment of this restaurant/gourmet shop goes far deeper than their malodorous cheese selection and bold branding. If you happen to come across their shady sidewalk terrace between Passeig de Gràcia and Rambla de Catalunya, just around the corner from Casa Batlló, step confidently in through their beckoning red shopfront and prepare yourself for pleasure.
What began seven years ago as a simple gourmet grocery shop selling various sundries and fresh produce, La Cuina D’en Garriga has now become a temple to pristine foodstuffs from Catalunya, as well as various regions of Spain, Italy, France and beyond. Owner Helena Garriga, of Girona, grew up in her family’s sifón factory, hence the obsession with vermouth and the soda siphon that graces the restaurant’s tables and logo. While it was immediately apparent that this would be a great lunch spot for any slightly special occasion (this isn’t the cheapest place in town), I was curious about how the casual, gourmet environment translated to the evening hours: a dinner date was in order.
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The carta de quesos at La Cuina D’en Garriga is organised by milk type, with several goat, sheep and cow varieties to choose from. The classic Catalan goat’s cheeses and the iconic Idiazabal of the Basque Country are kept company by an oozing Camembert of Normandy and veiny bleu Stilton from the villages of Nottinghamshire, England. To accompany a creamy and pungent selection of French cheeses came hunks of hearty bread from the famous Baluard bakery in La Barceloneta, and an ‘off menu’ dish of sublime simplicity—crudité (a platter of crunchy, vibrant, raw vegetables). This was shaping up to be a bit more French than expected. Still, an open mind is always more conducive to transcendent gourmet experiences.
The crudité arrived with a little dish of salty and rich olive tapenade, as well as a hard-boiled egg, still in the shell. I was slightly confused by the egg, but the crispy crunch of the vegetables and delicious olivada was a great start to the meal.
Next came a light, lemony quinoa salad, studded with toasted pine nuts and garnished with paper-thin rounds of peppery radish, and an obligatory order of huevos estrellados—a heap of fried potatoes topped with two fried eggs and plenty of succulent sheets of jamón ibérico de bellota from Cinco Jotas, one of the finest ham producers in Jabugo, Huelva. Both of these dishes were spot on and were quickly dispatched with eager forks and knives, making way for the final two plates of the evening—a dish of white haricot beans from the volcanic soils surrounding Santa Pau in La Garrotxa, topped with silky morro de bacalao (cod snout), a drizzle of basil oil and a hard-boiled egg, and a classic ratatouille, served in a vintage-style copper skillet, topped with poached eggs, their yolks perfectly warm and flowing.
You may be thinking that no reasonable meal should ever include so many eggs, and you’re probably right. It was my fault for ordering so many dishes with egg garnishes (although neither the crudité nor the bean dish listed hard-boiled egg as an ingredient), but really, I had no complaints. I love eggs and the ones at La Cuina D’en Garriga are special, coming from the famous egg-producing village of Calaf.
Throughout the meal, we savoured a superb bottle of Clos Figueras’ bold Priorat red, Font de la Figuera—a powerful and ripe blend of Grenache and Carignan, with a bit of Syrah, Mourvedre and Cabernet Sauvignon thrown in—I absolutely loved it. With an elegant oak character from 12 months resting in French casks, this wine was head and shoulders above most of the reds I’ve been indulging in of late.
Dessert was a temptation, but seeing as the flan was the most attractive option of the night, we decided that submitting ourselves willingly to any more eggs in this one sitting would be imprudent. Instead, we opted for belly-warming shots of Orujo de hierbas and strong coffee before wandering out past the shining racks of oils and olives and the sumptuous cheeses, heading down Passeig de Gràcia towards home, alone on the sidewalk and utterly contented.