Abac originally opened in 2000, moving to its current location in May 2008. It is within a boutique hotel just outside the centre of Barcelona. The dining room seats up to 56 people at one time, and there are two additional private dining rooms available, seating 20 and 60 people respectively. The room looks out onto a garden through picture windows. Tables are widely spaced and generously proportioned, covered with impeccably ironed white linen tablecloths.
Head chef Jordi Cruz earned his first Michelin star at the unusually young age of 25. He studied cooking at the “Escola Superior de Hostelería Joviat” in Barcelona, leaving at just 14 to work at Cercs Estany Clar, where he received his first Michelin star in November 2004. He was the youngest Spanish chef to be awarded a star. In December 2007 he moved to become manager and head chef at the restaurant L'Angle de Sant Fruitós de Bages, also in Barcelona, gaining that a star by November 2008. In May 2010, he moved to be head chef of ABaC Restaurant & Hotel, whose kitchens had previously been run by chef Xavier Pellicer, who himself had been head chef at Can Fabes in St Celoni under Santi Santamaria.
Two tasting menus were available, one at €135 and a slightly longer one at €155. The a la carte menu would be only a fraction cheaper. The wine list had almost a thousand different selections. Examples were Zilliken Rausch Kabinett 2010 at €70 for a wine that you can find in a shop for €24, Shafer Merlot 2004 at €120 for a wine that retails at €57, and Leoville Las Cases 1999 at €344 for a wine that will set you back €187 to buy in the high street. Alion 2009 was better value at €85 for a wine that costs €69 in the a shop.
The meal began with a theatrical touch: passion fruit sorbet was made at the table using liquid nitrogen, served with a sugar cane stick infused with mojito on the side. The passion fruit flavour came through well and the sorbet had good texture, but I wonder whether passion fruit is an ideal start to a meal as opposed to being, say, a pre-dessert? (17/20). Three breads were offered: plain white, seed bread and apricot and nut bread, all were lovely, the seed bread and the apricot and nut bread having especially good texture (18/20).
Mushrooms with curry sauce in citrus water tasted a lot better than it sounded, the spicy mushroom broth excellent, the mushrooms of high quality (18/20). Bloody Mary snow with mixed shellfish had good anchovies, prawn and squid, but the snow was too heavily spiced, even to my taste (16/20). Liquid Parmesan gnocchi with hazelnut and truffle with ceps and citrus juice featured very delicate gnocchi, excellent ceps and just enough acidity to balance the dish (18/20).
Duck foie gras with pistachio and hazelnuts was served on a crisp bread flavoured with Pedro Ximines sherry. Boldly seasoned, the crisp was very delicate, the liver flavour nicely balanced by the nuts (18/20). Next was a modern take on steak tartare. Raw beef was smoked lightly and topped with cucumber and cucumber flower, Dijon mustard, aromatic herbs, egg yolks and breadcrumbs. The overall effect was brilliant, the elements of the dish in lovely balance, with just enough mustard, the breadcrumbs giving some textural balance, the cucumber and herbs working well with the carefully controlled smokiness of the beef (19/20).
A prawn and wild mushroom infusion using prawn heads was poured over a single braised sweet prawn, crispy pork tail and a pork dumpling. Again this was very successful, the prawn superb, the jus having great depth of flavour (18/20). Squid in its own broth was served with baby cucumber and squid ink spheres. The squid was superb, very delicate in texture, the spheres avoiding the metallic taste that this technique often brings. The cucumber added useful lightness, the broth having deep flavour (18/20).
Red mullet came with sun-dried tomato, garlic and olive oil purée and pesto sponge. The purée had deep flavour, the pesto sponges very light texture and tasting of basil and pine nuts. Here was a nice example of modern cooking technique being used in a way that enhanced the dish rather than simply showing off (18/20).
Textures of veal consisted of sweetbreads, veal tendon and veal Royale, served with chanterelles, truffle and radishes. The veal was magnificent, the sweetbreads gloriously rich, the tendon delicate through slow-cooking, the radishes bringing balance to the richness (19/20).
A pre-dessert was called "Pink Panther" and comprised an ice cream of roses, white chocolate, wild strawberries, begonia flowers with yoghurt and kumquat skin. This actually tasted very good, the strawberries having excellent flavour, the crisp kumquat skin bringing an extra texture (17/20).
Cookies with vanilla cream and hazelnut "veil" came with toffee ice cream, cacao leaves and toffee crumb. The crumb brought just the right balance of texture to the dish, the hazelnut flavour coming through well, the ice cream with silky texture (19/20). With coffee came petit fours: strawberry and rose sorbet, white chocolate with salt and olive oil, peanuts, a delicate cracker of almonds and cacao, liquid truffles and superb tangerine gum (18/20).
Service was faultless. The bill came to €232 (£199) for one person, but that was with a bottle of excellent Alion wine. With a more modest wine shared between two a more typical bill would be around €175 (£150). This seems to me a bargain for food of this quality. This is very high grade cooking indeed.