An achingly hip Roca Brothers venture in central Barcelona

Roca Moo is overseen by the legendary chefs behind three-Michelin-starred El Cellar de Can Roca

The Roca brothers of Celler de Can Roca oversee the menu at Roca Moo
The Roca brothers of Celler de Can Roca oversee the menu at Roca Moo | Image: Olga Planas

If you wander up Barcelona’s Passeig de Gracia in the Eixample district, past countless alluring shops and modernist Gaudí masterpieces, and hang a right just beyond La Pedrera, you’ll fall straight into the embrace of Hotel Omm. The place is so achingly hip it hurts, from the limestone façade that looks like the fluttering pages of a book to the rooftop pool from which you can view the crazy chimneystacks of La Pedrera one way and the Sagrada Familia the other. Little wonder the ever-hip Roca brothers of El Celler de Can Roca oversee the food in the restaurant. It’s called Roca Moo, which combines the family name and a kind of reverse-engineered Omm.

The food at Roca Moo is all down to chef Rafa Panatieri
The food at Roca Moo is all down to chef Rafa Panatieri

It’s a straight glide through the lobby to the bar beyond, open plan and flooded with light, and from there into the dining room. The tables are generously spaced and through the windows at the end is a small plantation of slender silver birches, which contributes to the sense of peace and calm.

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The menu is overseen by El Celler de Can Roca (which describes the restaurant as an extension of its own), but the food is all down to chef Rafa Panatieri, who has full licence to stretch his own creative limbs. For a bit of culinary voyeurism, sit at the counter between the bar and the restaurant and watch him and his team at work.

Through the windows at the end of the dining room is a small plantation of slender silver birches
Through the windows at the end of the dining room is a small plantation of slender silver birches | Image: Olga Planas

If I’m here for a break from shopping, I go for the lunch menu, a snip at €49. For a recent celebratory feast, I was led through the Joan Roca menu (€120 for 12 courses). If I had nothing planned for the afternoon beyond a spell in the fabled spa, I would take the wine pairing option (add another €80), because sommelier Nerea Sorribes has put together such an engaging wine list that it’s a shame to get hung up on a single bottle. Her selection is a combination of lesser-known producers, historic estates and legendary vintages, with a big focus on wines from Catalonia and the rest of Spain.

An all-white dessert features wings of white chocolate sharpened with yoghurt and served over a silken rice pudding
An all-white dessert features wings of white chocolate sharpened with yoghurt and served over a silken rice pudding

On my most recent visit, the butter arrived spelling out the name M O O in tones of herby green, mushroom and primrose yellow, and we began with a dramatic asparagus and sweetcorn confection floating on a soup of black huitlacoche fungus, which took me straight back to Mexico in the rainy season. Fishy offerings – such as squid noodles with sea urchin’s yolk – came in bowls resembling rocks or shells. And I loved the treachery of the chef’s “sardine” (a sort of “ceci-n’est-pas-une-sardine” job),which turned out to be a finger of slow-cooked Ibéricopork with the iridescent skin of the tiny fish draped teasingly on top – a modern riff on the mar y muntanya(surf ’n’ turf) so beloved of Catalan chefs. 

Butter served spelling out the name M O O in tones of herby green, mushroom and primrose yellow
Butter served spelling out the name M O O in tones of herby green, mushroom and primrose yellow

Just when I’m beginning to hanker after a proper piece of meat, a small chunk of veal is produced, soft and gelatinous after 72 hours’ cooking sous-vide, served with morels, truffles and sweetbreads. This is swiftly followed by a succulent piece of suckling pig with its crisp skin intact, served with salsa romesco, the gorgeous sunset-coloured tomato and almond sauce that typically accompanies grilled calçots (a type of spring onion).

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The ever-present risk with tasting menus is that everything dissolves into a sort of haze of courses and ends in gastro amnesia. I admire the way Panatieri navigates this hazard by mixing colours, flavours, textures and temperatures so that every dish manages to be distinct. The final, all-white dessert (“Lo Blanc”) – wimple-like wings of white chocolate sharpened with yoghurt and served over a silken rice pudding – comes on a blood-red, raku-glazed ceramic plate and brings events to a memorable close.

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