Dining at the world-famous El Celler de Can Roca in Girona has been on my to-do list for quite some time now; what gets in the way is the 11-month waiting list. But at least, in the meantime, I’ve been able to taste its fabled gelato creations at one of pastry chef Jordi Roca’s Spanish ice cream parlours. There are now Rocambolesc branches in Girona, Barcelona, Platja d’Aro and Madrid, and if you choose your timing carefully (mid-afternoon, midweek is good), you won’t even have to queue.
I love the name of this place, which combines the vividly descriptive word rocambolesque – meaning fabulous, incredible and wacky à la Willy Wonka – with a playful nod to the Roca family name. It rolls off the tongue and promises all manner of wondrous, fantastical adventures. The ice creams fairly roll around the tongue, too, full of swashbuckling, improbable flavours. The adventure starts with a base gelato on which to build your creation (from €2.90), drawn from four ice creams and two sorbets. Chocolate and vanilla are reliably present all year round, while the summer sorbet flavours – lemon and green apple with basil, and mango with lavender – have now made way for pumpkin and mandarin, and coconut and violet. Hanna, the smiling capitana in the Girona shop, offered up tastes to help us make up our minds.
Next comes a crazy artist’s palette of different toppings: toasted nuts, sugared sesame seeds, fruit-flavoured “bambolas” (crunchy sweets), popping candy, flowers, stars, chocolate brownie and shortbread cubes. My husband selects the yogurt ice with a lick of dulce de leche, guayaba sauce and toasted chopped almonds but eschews the suggested candyfloss option, while I agonise over a chocolate creation or something soothing revolving around baked apples. In the end we decide that a small tub of each will permit a proper overview of things.
Outside on a bench we savour and share our rocambolesque delights. The baked-apple ice is silky smooth but with the cubes of caramelised apple and crumbled shortbread, it’s a bit sweet and one-dimensional. The contrast of the sharp, lactic yogurt with its nutty and sweet toppings is terrific, but it’s the rich, dark and brooding chocolate, showered with cocoa nibs, chocolate cookie cubes and popping candy that takes the biscuit.