There’s a dish at El Celler de Can Roca called ‘Growing up in a Bar’. It’s a collection of appetisers that arrives before the menu itself, served on a paper pop-up version of the family’s bar, Can Roca, and featuring historic pictures of the Roca boys. The one-bite delights are interpretations of traditional snacks served at the bar: mother Montserrat’s fried calamari, kidneys with sherry, Campari bonbon, escabeche mussels and salt cod with spinach and pine nuts.
It’s a typically playful representation of the brothers’ childhood memories, but it also references a characteristic that has helped cement the Girona destination as one of the world’s very finest restaurants: hospitality. The Rocas were raised in an environment where they cooked for and served others – it’s very much in their blood.
It was at his parents’ café-bar-restaurant that Joan first donned an apron to help his mother out in the kitchen. It was here that Josep learnt about drinks, largely through sampling the bar’s various tipples while still a child. It was against this backdrop that the much younger Jordi first rebelled and then returned to the fold, having found his own unique forte in the form of pastry and desserts. It is this heritage that means that guests dining at the serene and now quite luxurious El Celler de Can Roca still feel at home.
From the moment they enter the restaurant premises up a passage from a discreet street entrance, guests are transported into a tranquil haven. They might linger in the garden first, before embarking on the journey into sommelier Josep’s cavernous wine cellar, or be escorted through the calm but industrious kitchen. Diners then descend a ramp into the triangular glass-walled modernist dining room surrounding a mini forest of trees in the centre.
Service is, of course, highly professional and engaging; the wine list exceptional; the food well documented as being among the best and most imaginative on earth. At the same time, the Rocas’ warm fraternal dynamic pervades the atmosphere of this unique restaurant, raising it to an even higher level.
Outside of the restaurant itself, the family business extends to encompass a celebratory event space (overseen by family members), a new creative research facility called La Masia (I+R) and a glass-recycling centre. Montserrat still oversees the daily staff meals for the large team, who also have access to weekly psychology wellbeing sessions. If it’s difficult to define the intangible notion of hospitality, one thing’s for sure: the Roca family have mastered the art.
The Ferrari Trento Art of Hospitality Award was introduced in 2016 in collaboration with the Italian winery to celebrate the outstanding work of front-of-house and service teams at restaurants around the world. The category was voted for by the same body of 1,040 worldwide voters that makes up The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Academy. The first winner of the award was Eleven Madison Park in New York.