Day one revolved around lots of travelling and lots of food.
The above picture is from a rest stop in Logrõno, a city in the Rioja province of Spain. We stopped here to refuel, take a break and stretch our legs to stay refreshed for our drive from Salamanca to Barcelona. I love my car – it has taken me from Ireland to France through to Spain and all around, but it doesn’t have air conditioning, so in the Spanish heat, frequent breaks are a must!
The night before we left, my parents flew in from Ireland. They fell in love with Salamanca during their previous visit in May, so offered to look after our apartment for us while we went travelling for the week. It was a win-win situation for all involved and even more so for us when my lovely Mam presented us with treats for our travels, including beautifully wrapped macaroons for me! She brought them all the way from Dublin, as there’s no Ladurée in Spain, oddly enough. These special little guys got their very own cooler for the trip, there was no way I’d let them disintegrate in that heat.
We got to our hotel just outside the city a little later than planned, as it wasn’t the easiest to find. For our first night, I had made reservations for a tasting menu at Restaurante Montiel right in the heart of the city, so after a quick shower and change, we hopped into a cab outside the hotel and got to see some of the sights from the car while making our reservation in the nick of time.
Restaurante Montiel is near the Picasso museum on Calle Flassaders and specialises in fusion dining. It has both an upstairs and downstairs, both of which are quite small but intimate. The decor is moody – dark walls, some of which are stone, accented with paintings with deep saturated colours. The back of the restaurant is where the kitchen and wine coolers reside. There is a huge selection of wine and the restaurant offers a wine pairing menu. In the rush to make our reservation I forgot my camera so I used my Samsung Galaxy. The restaurant had very low lighting so I hope I did the food justice!
We started with a glass of red wine – in relation to other parts of Spain, Barcelona is quite expensive so keep that in mind. If you’re from Dublin, prepare to pay roughly the same prices or close enough. The waiter was very friendly and gave us a choice between two menus, one with eight courses and the other with eleven. We went with the eleven course gastronomic tasting menu, which is priced at €65 per person.
We started with the Iberian ham and bread (made with organic flour) which was covered from edge to edge with juicy ruby red tomatoes. Both were really good, fresh and flavoursome. I normally avoid Iberian ham as I don’t like the soft texture of the fat on most slices but this had no fat at all.
Course number two was a delicious oyster which came served on a bed of ice. A squeeze of lemon balanced out the incredibly fishy taste of the sea! I wish we got more than one in this course. Perhaps three? Three is the magic number.
Course three I really liked. Melon soup with extra virgin olive oil ice cream. It was refreshing and a lot lighter than expected.
Next up was prawn tartar with lime juice, fresh guacamole…
..and teeny crisp breads This was another one of my favourites. Loads of citrusy flavour, avocado (avocado makes everything better!) and prawns. Prawns are my favourite food. The texture was nice on it’s own or paired with the crisp breads and the mango salsa was a nice complement. The other sauce I didn’t like, but there wasn’t much of it. It was made of shellfish, the waiter couldn’t remember which kind but it tasted a little bitter and earthy for my liking.
Course five was albacore tuna on toasted bread with capers and romesco sauce. The tuna was delicious. The bread tasted more like a light puff pastry, which I think suits it better than regular bread could have. Romesco sauce is made of a mix of garlic, herbs, peppers and nuts and originates from Tarragona. I don’t recall ever trying it before but I hope it won’t be the last time as it was a perfect fish accompaniment.
Next came the lobster rice. This dish was much simpler than the others, leaving the lobster to do the talking. The rice was toasted and the lobster was as soft as butter.
This course. Oh, my. Duck and pear ravioli with wild mushrooms and Oporto sauce. I don’t like creamy sauces, I love mushroom and duck (always) but this portion was enough. It was incredibly rich, heavy and sweet. If it was presented earlier in the menu, I may have enjoyed it more, but may have felt a little full to enjoy the aforementioned fishy delights. That said, it was delicious and those who enjoy creamy sauces would really appreciate it. Well prepared and a lot going on, but not for me!
Next was Niall’s favourite. Wagyu beef, served with mustard, soy sauce, worcestershire sauce and chives. This beef was soft as butter and delicious on it’s own but the sauce accompaniments were perfect, whether mixed together or eaten alone with the Wagyu. Definitely one of my favourites too!
After the beef, our waiter brought us non-alcoholic ‘beer’. The little glass of questionable liquid tasted nothing like beer. It had very fruity flavours, fresh orange juice and lime I thought. The waiter asked us to guess, and although I got lime right, the other ingredients were fresh passionfruit juice and ginger. If they sold this stuff in bottles, I would buy it. It was very refreshing after the creamy duck ravioli. It was the perfect break before dessert.
Dessert started with peach yoghurt with crumble, celery ice cream and edible flowers. Taking a bite of everything mixed together was good – fresh and summery. The celery ice cream was delicious – compliments to the chef for making something exciting out of what is normally known as a boring and tasteless vegetable.
Last but not least was mascarpone cake with apples and chocolate. The apples tasted sweetened and stewed, the base of the cake was delicious, like Scottish shortbread. The homemade chocolate ice cream was definitely the star of this dish – not too rich or dark.
We finished with a cafe solo, which came with little white chocolate cereal and fruit bites.
Overall, Restaurante Montiel was a great experience. The menu was carefully thought out and the decor and atmosphere were a perfect setting. It’s nice to feel relaxed and comfortable when you know you’ll be there for some time with the various different courses. The staff are very friendly and well informed on dishes and wine. Although a little pricey, it would be nice for a special occasion and a lot of people there that evening were visiting from all parts of the world. My only tip and complaint is watch out for the wine, it might be cheaper to order a bottle. Living in Spain, since they produce so much wine here, a good glass of red costs next to nothing. A good glass is €6 in Montiel. If I was to return, I would ask for a table near the front. Despite the stone walls, toward the back can get quite warm. The front of the restaurant also gives you a chance to people watch!
Happy and full.
After our meal we were quite tired from a long day of travelling, so chose a bar nearby for a few nightcaps. The bar we chose ended up being Dunne’s Irish Bar (typical!) where we propped ourselves up at the bar and chatted with the wonderful Irish staff. Dunne’s is a huge open space with a centre bar, high vaulted ceilings, great music and atmosphere, and it was only Tuesday night. You can also watch all kinds of matches or games there, if sport is your thing.
After a long day in the hot hot heat, it was a great start to our little trip.
Has anyone else tried Montiels or Dunnes in Barcelona? Do you have a favourite tasting menu?
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