There’s been a quiet but common complaint from vineyards in the Catalunya wine region, and that is many restaurants don’t stock a good selection Catalan wines, if at all. I won’t say from which region most restaurants supposedly stock, but it usually begins with an “R” and ends with an “A”.
After spending two years in Catalunya, I have to agree with the vineyards. For whatever reason, the typical restaurant stocks “Spanish” wines as opposed to “Catalan” varieties. These restaurants are missing out on some top notch wines at comparable prices, and the opportunity to support fellow businesses in the Catalan region.
Restaurants in the city of Girona are definitely guilty of this phenomenon. Michael and I have spent quite a bit of time in Girona during our respective Catalan adventures, and we’ve investigated all the nooks and crannies of old town and new town to have this hypothesis proven correct. Yet, there are quite a few brilliant restaurants who stock a wide selection of Catalan varietals, starting at the top with the #2 restaurant in the world, Celler Can Roca, which has a 1975 Cartoixa from Celler Scala Dei in their 5000+ inventory of fine wines. So, I’m going to share five spots in Girona with great food, great service, great ambience, and a solid selection of wines from Catalunya.
Good Mexican food is nearly impossible to find outside of Barcelona, especially in the touristy areas of the smaller cities. So it was a treat to find Maguey in the heart of Girona’s Barri Vell, only a few steps away from the fabled steps Pujada de Sant Domenec, where everyone loves to take photos. Arturo, who is from Mexico City, and his wife Eva who is Catalan, have created a great Mexican vibe complete with outstanding margaritas, tequila, and a killer menu featuring quesadillas, enchiladas, and sizzling fajitas. Eva and Arturo personally work the restaurant, and have a dedicated, as well as friendly, staff.
The prices at Maguey are very affordable, and you’ll always have a different wine list as the owners like to rotate through their Catalan wine selection. With wine, you can eat a full course meal for two under €60, as long as you don’t go overboard on tequila! As a side bonus, if you’re one of those freaky Tour de France stalkers, many of the bike dudes who race in the Tour can be spotted at Maguey Fridays and Saturdays when they’re not racing all over Europe. Arturo tells us you can recognise them by their deep sock and sunglass tan lines.
We’ve enjoyed wines from Priorat, Penedes, and recently *Lavinyeta, Celler Can Sais, and Perelada during our visits to Maguey. Located at Cort Reial, 1, Girona. Across the street from Draps. Maguey doesn’t have a website, but you can check them out on Facebook, or call them 659 69 56 31.
The pintxo culture is alive in Girona, and Curcuma has taken this to an arty new level. Catalans like their tapas, and Curcuma has done a menu of tapas and pintxos with a real flare, including a vegetable ball version of Xupa-Xups.
The first time I went to Curcuma, I thought we’d be going just for a few tapas before dinner somewhere else. Instead, we ordered their sampler menu for €21 per person and found ourselves stuffed at the end. The menu featured meats, breads, vegetables all with unique combinations and flavours, paired with the best Catalan wines. I’ve been back several times since and have never been disappointed.
The highlights of the menu include their mini hamburgers, foie amb ‘Quicos’ i confitura, cured ham with tomato gently rubbed on the bread, and their mandarin duck. I’ve enjoyed the Gessami blanc from Cavas Gramona a few times, plus other, more local Emporda selections. Keep in mind that tasting menus aren’t available on Fridays or Saturdays, so if you want to do the sampler, you’ll have to do it during the week. Curcuma is located at Plaça Bell-Lloc, 4, just up from Placa del Vi. Check out their website at curcuma.cat
In my family, sushi is king. You wouldn’t think Sushi from a “chain” of Catalan restaurants would be good, but Wasabi does the best sushi in Girona, by far. Not only is the sushi divine, but the service is stellar, lead by their manager, Neil, who is probably the best at pouring wine I’ve ever seen. He deftly palms the bottle and has a style of pouring which is truly remarkable. The fish is fresh, the wasabi is as perfect as I’ve had in Toyko, and their special rolls have a real creativity to them. This includes a spider roll with a beautiful sweet sauce wrapped in avocado.
The Catalan wine selection is solid — mainly from Penedes — with white wines that pair well with their selection of white fish and tunas. You can order rolls a la carte, or you can do one of three combos which gives you a nice cross selection of sashimi and niguri. Wasabi is located at Avinguda Ramon Folch, 11, right by Placa Independencia, across the street from the post office. Check out the website for the group of restaurants at wasabigroup.es.
If you’ve never had Wagyu beef at Burger Mania in Tokyo, you’re missing out on quite an experience. Thankfully, you have an opportunity to have a pretty incredible Wagyu burger in one corner of Placa del Vi at the innovative NU Restaurant. NU is one of my favourite haunts when I’m visiting friends in Girona, because of their eclectic menu, plus the ability to watch the chefs work as they prepare many of the menu items right in front of you.
The menu features “raw” items from Ceviche, a Sashimi salad, to Foie gras baked in salt paired with banana ice cream, and probably the best eggs I’ve ever had (in which they inject the yoke back into the egg after mixing it with what can be best described as an aioli). If you can’t decide on what you want, NU has a tasting menu which samples their picks, but served at specific times during lunch and dinner.
Their wine by the glass list features Clot dels Oms, a beautiful Xarel·lo from Penedes (my favorite at NU), Espolla, Brunus, and two cavas from Massana and Raventos. The cellar has a great selection of bottles, as well, ranging from affordable to expensive and tasty. We recommend making reservations, as it is nearly impossible to walk in. Located at Carrer Abeuradors, 4 on the edge of Placa del Vi. Visit their website at nurestaurant.cat. NU is my favourite restaurant in Girona.
The newest phenomenon in Girona, and one neither Michael and I have eaten at yet. Based upon the architecture and the location alone, it is worth visiting. Vol is in a glass and metal rectangular building that was constructed offsite and craned into position beside the bridge at Pont de Pedra on the Carrer Santa Clara side of the river. We watched them put the restaurant into place, which was quite the event for the locals in Girona.
Vol is a cooperative venture between the city of Girona, the Costa Brava tourist folks, and several private entities. There is a rotating schedule of local and acclaimed chefs working their magic, and you get to watch, talk, and interact with the chef and staff as your meal is prepared. Vol also has partnered with local vineyards including our friends at *Lavinyeta, plus Mas Oller, Finca Espolla by Perelada, Empordalia, and Mas Vida to name a few. You can book your reservations online at their very cool and interactive website website, plus view the menus available for the day you wish to reserve. Vol Espai Gastronomic is located on Carrer Santa Clara at the Pont de Pedra bridge, you can’t miss it.