Out of all my travels this year, I think none of them have been as much about food as my trip to Costa Brava in Spain. Sure, there’s no lack of evidence that I ate a lot in Turkey and there are plenty of upcoming posts about the food in Greece, but by the time you’re done reading this post, you’ll know I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say I overdid the eating bit in Costa Brava. That’s one of the reasons why it took so long to write this post because one, I wasn’t sure about how to deal with the huge number of food photos from all over Costa Brava and two, I stubbornly refuse to deal with the guilt of my overindulgence that now hangs as an extra layer on my belly (hips, arms, oh well…you get the idea).
Five months later, I still haven’t lost all the weight that I gained on during my travels in Catalonia, but looking on the bright side, I discovered so many new flavors and tastes. The region is heaven for food lovers, whether you’re the kind that likes fancy haute-cuisine restaurants, family-run hole-in-the-wall eateries, or market-style meals made of fresh produce sourced locally. I loved everything from the pickled olives to the community lunch I had on my visit to Palafrugell during the spring festival of Flors I Violes.
In fact, I wasn’t even the slightest bit surprised to learn recently that the best restaurant in the world is in Catalonia- in the lovely town of Girona that I visited briefly. Costa Brava is well known for its amazing gastronomic experiences and so many of the world’s most acclaimed chefs either have roots or began their careers in Catalonia.
The best part about my food experiences was that I was more adventurous than usual with my choices and even tried a lot of seafood dishes, which is something I don’t usually do. That’s a smart thing to do in the region because its known for great seafood such as the red-bodied gamba de Palamos or prawns from Palamos that are high-quality and very tasty. It was my first time sampling pork sausages, jamón ibérico (Iberian ham), mussels, manchego cheese, monkfish, sardines, bluefish and anchovies and except for the sardines and anchovies, I pretty much LOVED everything else. Oily fish is widely used in Catalan cooking and though I loved some dishes and tapas, others I wasn’t a big fan of.
Without wasting more time I’m going to take you straight along on my culinary journey through Spain’s wildly beautiful coast. Here are some of my favorite meals from around Costa Brava with information about the restaurants. If you’re planning a trip and wondering about what to eat in Costa Brava and where, I hope this helps you just a little bit.
What & Where to Eat in Costa Brava
My first memorable meal in Costa Brava was an al fresco lunch in the beautiful garden of La Font Picant in Santa Cristina D’Aro. This historical restaurant is housed in a former railway station and inside the restaurant are black and white photos from the old days. This was my real introduction to the food in Catalonia and I loved how simple and delicious every course was.
Though I couldn’t muster up the courage to tuck into a blood sausage, (because ‘blood’), I did enjoy the different hams and white sausage, both served everywhere in Catalonia. I thought Iberian ham was especially delicious. The raw or cured sausage or botifarra is loved by locals and is used widely as an appetizer, in main courses and even dessert. I tried a sweet sausage here and was so surprised- Sweet and meat is just not something that usually sits right in my mind, but it was actually quite good.
I love a real Spanish omelet like this one (not the ones they serve in touristy places with just the egg and potato) and I think it’s time I tried making one at home considering how much I love omelets.
These are just some of the treats I got to enjoy with glasses of cava one afternoon while watching castellers pile up over one another to build human towers at Hotel Mas Tapiolas, a super luxurious rural retreat in the midst of lush forest trails ideal for hiking and cycling. I also got to tour their suites, some with a private Jacuzzi and others with a private swimming pool and I know that I HAVE to go back and spend a week here, to just enjoy the peace of the surroundings and work on my writing (life goals). The best part is that they’re only a 90-minute drive away from Barcelona and 30 minutes from Girona.
Fideuà is a traditional dish similar to the famous paella, and most locals I met like it better than paella. The most notable difference is that it is made with noodles (instead of rice) and seafood in fish broth. This was a new dish for me and after trying it for the first time at La Taverna del Mar, a fancy restaurant in Sant Feliu de Guixols, another town I intend to return to, I had to admit I also liked it better than paella. My first course here was a refreshing gazpacho, a chilled light soup of tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and olive oil. I liked it so much I could have asked for another glass!
Another place with a great location in Sant Feliu de Guixols is Sa Marinada located right by the marina with fantastic views perfect for a sunny afternoon lunch.
A cold and somewhat creamy yogurt soup that reminded me of a Turkish yogurt corbasi was the perfect start to my meal along with a tapa that looked fish-ier than it tasted, chickpeas salad (I love chickpeas as a salad), and steamed mussels in white wine. On this trip, I ended up having a lot of mussels, something I’d never tasted before because of my former tendency to avoid seafood. Of course, that’s changed after my trip to Catalonia where mussels are widely served in coastal towns. Then again, they’re simply not as good back home in Dubai.
Sa Marinada also does a delicious fideuà and the aroma wafting around the table when the pan was placed on it was incredible. You’ve only got to see the photo to believe me, look at that gorgeous orange color!
One of the things I did not expect to experience was a showcooking session in the kitchen of a monastery but Costa Brava was full of surprises when it came to gastronomy. Not only did I tour the dining hall of the monks in the Sant Feliu de Guixols Monastery but I also got to see the kitchen where their meals are cooked.
At El Ginjoler, I got to watch and learn as two chefs whipped up a delicious bluefish preparation dressed with beetroot cream (made of beetroot and locally produced sheep cheese) and vinegar reductions, and Crema Catalana, a traditional Catalan dessert (made of milk, egg yolks, corn flour, sugar, and lemon zest) that has knocked off kunefe from its top spot on my list of favorite desserts from around the world. Some people compare to it to crème brulee but I think it tastes so much better. If you’re curious about the recipe, here’s one on the Jamie Oliver website.
If you find yourself in Platja d’Aro, I highly recommend getting dinner at Can Cristus, Hotel Bell Repos. The restaurant has a garden courtyard that has a very cozy at-home feel and a lovely indoor dining area as well. It’s the right kind of place to enjoy a few glasses of wine over good conversation before you continue onto dinner. The owners of the place are really warm and friendly and you’ll understand what Catalan hospitality is all about once you meet them.
I had another incredible meal here and was completely blown away by it, especially my starter- Courgette millefeuille with goat’s cheese and tomato.
After an active morning of hiking the coastal path in S’Agaro, I got the opportunity to enjoy lunch at Hotel S’Agaro with a beautiful view of the sea, and it wasn’t just the view that was amazing. Their Sa Conca Restaurant serves up delicious Mediterranean cuisine, and I simply loved the mussels in tomato sauce. Another tapa that I equally love and is widely served in the region is the codfish croquette. Croquettes are both simple and delicious, and some version of the croquette exists in most cuisines around the world.
Lastly, I think it’s also worth mentioning that a food truck festival called ‘Happy Food Trucks’ was in town when I was attending TBEX Europe 2015 in Lloret de Mar. We hardly get to see any food trucks in Dubai and so the entire thing got me very excited, especially since I just had to walk ten steps out of my hotel to get to the trucks. In true festival style, the grounds were lively and full of energy with live music bands and general all-round high spirits. I ate my way around with different croquettes and little bowls of deliciousness and cupcakes and what not. If you plan to visit Lloret de Mar, it’s worth checking to see if the Happy Food Trucks are in town during your visit.
So there you have it- these were my most favorite meals in Costa Brava and I am grateful to Visit Costa Brava for taking the time to show me the best of their regional cuisine. Whether you go with my recommendations or decide to make your own culinary discoveries of the wild coast, I’m confident that you will have your mind blown by Catalan cooking and will come back with an even bigger appetite for Spanish cuisine. In fact, I’m already looking forward to going back to Spain and exploring the food in the Basque country. But you can’t blame me now, can you?
If you’ve had some memorable food experiences in the region or elsewhere, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below.
Disclaimer: I was hosted by Visit Costa Brava on all of the above visits (except the food trucks in Lloret de Mar) during TBEX Europe 2015. All opinions are honest and independent and the selection above is truly representative of my favorite food experiences in the region.
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If you’re traveling to Spain and looking for general information to help you plan your travels and suggested itineraries (including off-the-beaten-path places like Cap De Creus), check out my Spain Travel Blog. If you’re a food lover check out this amazing food tour in Barcelona and find out where to go for the best chocolate in Barcelona.