I first tasted a dish by Disfrutar at the OAD (Opinionated About Dining) Awards earlier this year in San Sebastian. The seafood recipe was inventive, intense in flavour and a marvel to look at. Then, a few months later, the 50 World’s Best Restaurants list was announced, and Disfrutar was one of the highest risers, being awarded a coveted place in the top 10. Needless to say, I fast-tracked it to the top of my to visit list and booked flights to Barcelona immediately.
The restaurant is run by three chefs, Oriol Castro, Mateu Casañas and Eduard Xatruch, who all held important roles in the El Bulli kitchen. Prior to opening Disfrutar in 2014, the trio opened Compartir in Cadaqués on the Costa Brava, a more casual eatery.
The Dining Room at Disfrutar is simple and elegant, and foliage plays a leading role in the decor. The tables are left bare, giving no clues about the meal ahead.
There are two multi-course menus to choose from… the ‘Classic’ menu, featuring favourites of the house and the ‘Festival’ menu, recommended to returning guests, with an array of new seasonal dishes. We opted for the Classic menu, an elaborate meal of 30 unique recipes, featuring the flavours of Spain in an entirely new and unexpected interpretation.
The pace was quick and the courses were small, it was a perfectly composed symphony of culinary twists and turns, and I loved the excitement of it all. Many of the dishes are served or completed table side by the charming waiters, who seemed to be enjoying the performance just as much as the dining audience.
I was delighted to sample a few of their most recognisable dishes – the miraculous Gazpacho in sandwich form, beautifully spherical bursting olives, and a favourite of ours, the macaroni carbonara – transparent mock pasta made from pork gelatine, served in a divine sauce of parmesan and cubes of bacon.
Not every course was a bite to eat, some came in drink form… one section of our menu was dedicated to rabbit inspired treats, including a cold consommé with a hint of orange, it was like a meaty rich old-fashioned cocktail.
Nothing is as it initially seems at Disfrutar and some of the most magical dishes deceive you on first glance. Towards the end of the menu we moved onto sweet dishes… two tiny padron peppers are made from thick and indulgent chocolate mousse, seasoned with a peppery hint.
Sweets continued with cheesecake cornets – bite-sized cherry cones filled with sour cherry sorbet, Kirsch jelly and cream, a wonderful palate cleansing mouthful of deliciousness.
It was great fun to receive our courses but also to watch the excitement unfold around the room, as other tables ooh-ed and ahh-ed at their imaginative dishes. One table nearby to us were receiving completely different dishes, when I asked the waiter about their meal he commented that they’d visited 3 times already so the kitchen were preparing a totally unique set of new experimental dishes for them… an indicator of the care and effort they go to for every diner, whether it’s your first or tenth time at the restaurant.
Disfrutar translates as ‘to enjoy’, and I can whole-heartedly say I enjoyed every aspect of this exemplary restaurant. An unmissable experience from start to finish, and a must for gastronomes visiting Barcelona.
More information and book a table at Disfrutar here.