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.