There are plenty of cheap and cheerful tapas restaurants to choose from in Barcelona, but when you feel like a special sit-down meal head to Caelis. Located inside the grand Hotel El Palace, this restaurant is refined and sophisticated in appearance and yet exudes a relaxed and calm atmosphere. When we dined at lunchtime the surrounding tables were crowded with families – despite the grandeur there is no stuffiness here.
Chef Romain Fornell creates haute cuisine with a whimsical and imaginative twist. His Michelin-starred talents are illustrated in the various menus on offer. We chose to order from the a la carte, which offers the most diversity. Sitting back in the plush velvet seats, we enjoyed a sparkling aperitif of Spanish Cava and tiny mouthfuls of happiness, of which the foie gras sweetie was most memorable. The starters were artistic delights, presented in clever bowls with a colander plate on top, allowing the delicious juices to drip down into the soup-sauce underneath. This meant we were treated to a two-tier first course. I tried the summery Warm Vegetables with thin Parmesano tart served with orchard vegetables soup, a colourful dish of assorted vegetables pureed, boiled or left raw, with buttery parmesan shortbread and a thin cheesy sauce. My companion opted for a decadent Macaroni: a surf and turf mixture with lobster, celery and foie gras, it smelt as aromatic and comforting as it tasted, with a flavoursome broth beneath.
Mains were a tour de force. I think everyone in the dining room was jealous of my Duck “a la presse” – it arrived whole beside me to be cooked again by the accomplished waitress, a delicate gravy made with the juices, butter and stock at the table. The highlight of the dish was the extra duo of accompanying duck treats: ravioli with bolognaise and warm crispy duck with oriental dressing, these demonstrated the versatility of Fornell with different cuisines and seasonings. The Dry Age Beef “Rossini” is served chunky and red, oozing rich juices and topped with grilled bone marrow, foie gras parcels placed alongside the beef steak. We were pleased to find a minimum of carbohydrates involved, leaving more space for more courses! The sommelier paired our food with elegant red wine that suited the meats perfectly.
We were persuaded to order the speciality Explosion St Honore, a chocolate creme glacee and strawberry dessert which must be chosen by the whole table; I didn’t understand why until it was brought to us. First a gold tablecloth was laid down, on which the dessert was made. A smooth chocolate sphere, filled with minty mousse, caramel popcorn and other sweet ingredients is placed on the table around which sauces, fruit, flowers, biscuit crumbs and dry ice is casually thrown. The chocolate ball explodes on the table and you are invited to eat the sugary mess in front of you. I have never seen anything like it.
Caelis offers so much more than just a meal, it gives an exciting experience filled with surprises and treats from start to finish, you will remember this food long after you have left Barcelona.
More information and book a table here: caelis.com