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Sant Pau

Nou 10, Sant Pol de Mar, E-08395, Spain

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Editor's note: in July 2018 it was reported that Sant Pau will close permanently on October 27th 2018. 

Sant Pau is in a picturesque seaside town called Sant Pol de Mar. It is a one hour train ride from central Barcelona, the journey itself being quite spectacular as the train track follows the coast. At times you are just a few metres from the sea, and the waves crashing in almost touch the train. It was never like this on the Central line to Epping.

The restaurant is set back one street from the sea front, has a pretty garden and a partial view of the sea and the trains going by. Tables are large and generously spaced. There were just nine tables and twenty chefs working in the kitchen, an excellent ratio that really showed in the treatment of the dishes. The dining room was light and airy, with wooden floor and orange walls. The tables have crisp white linen tablecloths, and on our visit a single gerbera in a vase decorated each table.

The wine list appeared in a bound book, and not only has all the Spanish classics but plenty of good selections from around the world. Prices were a breath of fresh air after London. Veuve Cliquot champagne was EUR 73, Torres Mas la Plana 2002 EUR 75, Alion 2003 EUR 91. At the more rarefied end of things, the arre vintage Cuvee Frederich Emile 1983 was EUR 371, Unico 1994 was EUR 411 and Penfolds Bin 707 was EUR 205. Riedel glasses were used. 

There was just one bread, a farmhouse loaf made specially for the restaurant. It had good texture and was pleasantly crusty (18/20). To begin the meal there were some very thin bread sticks and olive oil. A few nibbles then began to appear. Guacamole and couscous was very refreshing and light (18/20). A sushi of cod, a little red pepper and raisin sounds rather odd but the flavours worked well together (18/20). A mini "hamburger" had no bun but was just a lovely piece of meat (18/20). A mini pizza was rather misnamed, as it was a pastry rather than a bread base, more a quiche, and pleasant enough (17/20). A broth of tomato, onion, red pepper and garlic had clean flavours (17/20). 

The first dish of the menu proper was a rather curious affair. Excellent lightly spiced tuna was served with cherry tomatoes of stunning flavour and wild rice (amusingly translated as savage rice), and for me this did not need a couple of strawberries with a strawberry sorbet. I give this 18/20 but I think it was more a 19/20 if the strawberry elements had simply been omitted. These lovely base ingredients just did not need a hyper-modern flourish.

Cod soup with chanterelles was very impressive, the cod a sandwich of cod slices with a filling of cod mousse. The fish was of the highest quality, as were the mushrooms (19/20). The next dish was an exercise in simplicity. A vegetable fideuada had a base of wheat noodles topped with stunningly good vegetables carrot, artichoke, perfect asparagus, morels, peppery cress shoots, broad beans and a single modern flourish, a parcel containing liquid asparagus. The vegetables were just superb, at a level you simply never see in an English restaurant (20/20).

Gamba omelette had a crunchy prawn tail, bread with tomato and a sauce of the coral of the prawn, pleasant but not in the same league as the previous dish (17/20). Conger eel was lightly deep fried, served with spectacularly fresh and sweet peas and a little jus made from conger eel bones (18/20). My wife at this point had European lobster. I had pork six ways, from loin to cheek. The pork was excellent, perfectly cooked, served with a little cake of celery with a hint of ginger 18/20

Cheeses were each served with a little condiment. Nevat cheese Cabriolet cheese, Manchego Torta del Casar and Bleu de Causses the only French cheese. the condition was excellent (19/20). For the petit-fours there were: strawberry coated in caramel (18/20),  a liquorice and sherbet ice cream (19/20), Amaretto financier (17/20), lemon jelly (19/20), a white chocolate cookie (16/20), black bonbon of coffee and rum with a liquid center (18/20), white bonbon of berries and tea (18/20) and a superb coffee tuile (20/20), which came with excellent coffee 19/20.  The bill was EUR 420 for two. The menu food element was EUR 129 per person. 

Overall I was very impressed with the cooking here.  Technique was uniformly superb, and ingredients were at times breathtakingly good e.g. the fabulous peas. The cooking is modern and is at its best when its sticks to modern takes on local recipes rather than when it heads off into flights of fancy (such as the strawberry tuna).

 

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  • Bacon

    We dined at Sant Pau in July and were sadly disappointed, we felt there was no wow factor in any of the food. For us the meal wasn't as good as other 3 stars El Celler de Can Roca, Azurmendi and even Alkelare. My review is here: http://www.bacononthebeech.com/2013/08/sant-pau-sant-pol-de-mar-spain.html

  • RestaurantCritic.eu

    I lived in Spain for a year and a half and was often disappointed with both traditional Spanish cuisine as well as by the top restaurants around the country. I went to Sant Pau twice, and both times it was a true pleasure for both food and service. This has been one of the few three star places that I've been to so far that deserves its three stars! See full review and pictures at http://www.restaurantcritic.eu/the-reviews/spain/sant-pau

  • MSH

    I came here with my wife on our honeymoon. We had lunch on a Tuesday on September. Andy was correct in his description of the train-ride: an interesting feature of our trip was that it occurred after the high-season, and so the coast was desolate – combined with the damp weather we had that day, it made for a study in contrast with what I anticipated and reminded both of us that no place is always sunny (in every single way). The trip lasts about 1 hour (each direction) from the main Barcelona train station (Sants) and costs about 5 euro per person round-trip. The town of Sant Pol de Mar is small and consists of a variety of row houses, one next to the other. It was beautiful to a couple from New York City. The walk to the front of the restaurant from the train station takes two minutes and the restaurant garden abuts the station (the trains are generally quiet and there is no noise from them in the restaurant – it was neat to see them pass by every 15 minutes or so). We saw no one else on the streets. There are three rows of three tables each. We were seated front row center, next to the full-length window that offers views to the garden and the sea. Eight of the nine tables were at some point occupied during our lunch. The restaurant asked us to arrive between 1:30 and 3 pm: we arrived at 1:45 and left at 6 pm, easily the longest meal either of us ever had. We had an amazing meal: for me, my all-time favorite. Having been to a variety of the best restaurants in America, I wanted to see how one of Europe’s best (using 3 Michelin stars as a proxy for “best”) compared. As examples, I preferred this to Daniel and Le Bernardin (though Daniel was excellent). I discovered this restaurant through Andy’s website, and I do not know anyone who has dined here. We had the tasting menu (approx. 140 euro per person) and, not being big drinkers but wanting to have a full experience, shared a wine pairing (10 glasses for approx. 55 euro total, with the restaurant pouring more of a few varieties we particularly liked). The tasting menu consists of a welcoming broth, a “mini-meal” of four one-or-two-bite amuses (each representing different courses of a meal), eight or nine courses (including a very thoroughly thought-out cheese course and multiple desserts), and petit fours. The menu here gradually shifts, probably each month: even the plates change, as our petit fours were served on a different plate than Andy’s (see his photo for his plates). The quality and variety of the food was amazing: highlights included an olive-oil ice cream cone (part of the “mini-meal”), sea cucumber, cod with figs, and three of the four desserts (I actually ordered two extra desserts over and above the 8 or 9 courses for approx. 14 euro – my wife thought I was crazy and ultimately we shared them 50/50). The single meat course was the least good of what we tried. Service was superb. A few staff speak fairly good English, and English speakers should have no problem here: the menus also come in English (a nice bonus is that diners can take the menus home – the menus are also very nicely illustrated). Carme Ruscalleda visited all the tables around the mid-point of our meal: my grandmother often complimented a restaurant by saying it “had someone in the kitchen” (further to this point, and like Andy wrote, more than 20 people work in the kitchen, I would think generally outnumbering customers). The pacing of the courses was excellent, and we left feeling pleasantly full. The dining room is on the second floor, and we enjoyed walking downstairs to the garden and spending 15 minutes there before the desserts (we were the only people to go outside, likely due to the drizzle). From the garden one can look into the first-floor kitchen and all of the aforementioned staff members working away. Again, this meal was a pleasure. I find that my favorite dining experiences are my favorites for reasons more than the dining, for example the journey. Here every element of our afternoon was amazing to me: travelling to a new and beautiful place and experiencing something rare – all with my wife. The staff told me that Ms. Ruscalleda will soon open a restaurant in Barcelona. She already has a restaurant in Japan (I believe it has 2 Michelin stars), and I hope that Sant Pau does not suffer for the expansion. Even if the restaurant improves, I doubt any single meal will ever be as good for me as this one. I am fortunate to have been able to have had such an extravagant experience.

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