Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Cinq Sentits - Barcelona

Those of you who have had; dare I say it myself, the considerable pleasure of meeting me in person, will no doubt have had me marked instantly as a man of exquisite taste, a worldly man…. an experienced international traveller. And yes, in some ways, you would be correct. I have whiled away many, many hours drinking Camparis in the company of likeminded international jetsetters in the foothills of the Matterhorn and my drunken braying laugh, penetrating the humid African night, has terrified away all manner of wild animals whilst on yet another safari.

But, and it’s a bit of a problem – I can’t order a white coffee in Spanish. I’ve tried, oh I’ve tried…. my Essex trained voice box just can’t get it right…. on my recent trip to Barcelona, I was a constant source of amusement in bars as I constantly pushed acceptable linguistic boundaries. Horrendous. More often than not I got what I wanted through sheer brass necked perseverance, but I almost starved to death the last two days I was there, as I couldn’t make myself understood.

Luckily for me, I didn’t need to embarrass myself with my awful Spanish at lunch in the Michelin starred Cinc Sentits – the staff spoke excellent English, and I was handed a menu also written in my mother tongue. Phew.

Eating here was a bit of an indulgent treat for me. I haven’t eaten alone that many times in restaurants, let alone in upmarket Michelin starred ones, but surprisingly I found the whole experience quite relaxing. I could concentrate on the food and take in the atmosphere without any distractions – although, it would have been nice to have someone to compare notes with, and the periods between courses were a bit awkward at the beginning… not so much when I was slightly pissed later, alcohol often being the remedy for feeling ill at ease socially.

The Cinc Sentits (Five senses) menu is a contemporary take on traditional Catalan cuisine, and interestingly there is not an a la carte option, instead there are 3 different, increasingly expensive tasting menus on offer.

I opted for the most expensive ‘Sensacions’ menu, which consists of 8 courses of 'this season’s best dishes', and their 'signature courses'. Exciting!

I opted to drink wine by the glass, and left it to the sommelier to make pairings with the dishes I was eating.
I was brought some nibbles to snack on; excellent Marcona almonds, stuffed olives and some cheese straw like things, I didn’t catch what they were, but they were very nice.

Next, I was brought an amuse; a shot glass filled with sea salt, maple syrup, cream and a cava sabayon. It was explained to me that I should down it in one to get the full effect. Being just the man for downing a shot glass in one, I wasted no time and promptly spluttered and coughed my guts up, my eyes filling with tears as it ‘went down the wrong hole’ – not good, somehow I don’t think I got the desired effect there… a bit of an amuse fail. No matter. Onwards and upwards.

The sommelier poured me a glass of Vallegarcia Viognier 2008, which was just what I needed after the amuse disaster, and I sipped it as I waited for the next course to arrive.

This was the Cinc Sentits take on the ubiquitous Catalan classic 'Pa Amb Tomaquet', consisting of fresh tomato sorbet, garlic air and peasant bread. It was bloody gorgeous; the tomato was in the form of an ice cream, the crunch of the bread against the ice cold, refreshing tomato was beautiful. I really enjoyed this.

Some excellent bread was brought to the table, along with two different bottles of locally sourced olive oil, one light and grassy, the other much thicker and syrupy, but also very grassy in flavour. Both were really good, and I munched happily, dipping the bread in the oil as I awaited the next course.

A bowl was placed in front of me containing some strategically placed ingredients; Marcona almonds, fresh cherries, cherry pit 'ice' and some sliced anchovy. The waiter then proceeded to pour a white liquid over it. This was the Cinc Sentits version of the Spanish classic Ajoblanco – chilled almond soup. It was rich, smooth and delicious, my only complaint being that I didn’t get enough of it; I had to tilt the bowl to get a spoonful right from the off.

At this point, I asked for another glass of wine and the sommelier recommended a sweet wine, which he thought would work well with the next course. The wine was amber coloured Caligo DG and the food was ‘caramelised foie gras' “coca” which the menu informed me contained a crisp pastry crust, chive 'arrope”'and glazed leeks.
Like everything else I’d eaten so far, it looked superb and tasted incredible. The sommelier was spot on with his choice. The sweet wine complimented the foie gras beautifully. Which, I should add was creamy, subtle and as rich as you’d expect. A truly outstanding course.

The next course of wild Mediterranean red mullet, with basil risotto, apricot and micro herbs was more workmanlike. It tasted great, but compared with some of the previous courses it didn’t shine, although apricot, basil and red mullet is an interesting flavour combination and it worked pretty well.

For my next course the sommelier poured me a glass of Celler de Cervoles, Costers del Segre, CĂ©rvoles 2008. Another cracking glass of wine.

This was paired with Iberian suckling pig, cooked for 14 hours, with apple 'textures' and ratafia (which I’ve since found out is a liqueur made from peach or cherry kernels, bitter almonds or other fruits). The suckling pig was beautifully crisp, but soft, falling apart at the touch of my fork. The accompanying sauce and apple textures complimented it well. I thought it another fantastic dish, probably one of my favourites so far.

A cheese course came next, an artisanal farmhouse cheese with 'contrast' in the shape of sweet crisp bread, (which I’m afraid I snapped before realising I hadn’t taken a picture yet, hence the appearance). This was pleasant enough, but didn’t blow me away – the cheese was good, quite mild and creamy. Maybe I’m just not much of a cheese person.

With the cheese signalling the end of the savoury courses, the first dessert arrived, a palate cleanser. Citrus 'snow', consisting of lemon ice cream, effervescent lime sugar and yuzu foam. This was superb; the citrus flavours were extremely pronounced, yet with just the right balance of sweet and sour. The effervescent lime sugar reminded me of ‘space candy’ crackling and popping on my tongue. A really nice, light and fun course.

Dessert proper arrived in the shape of 'Grand Cru' chocolate 67%, with olive oil ice cream, shattered bread and macadamias. I thought this was ok, the olive oil ice cream was nicely flavoured, and the chocolate mousse was great, but the shattered bread and macadamias were a bit dry and I thought it took something away from the dish, making it a bit too cloying.

Excellent coffee came next, with a bizarre selection of test tubes containing different varieties of sugar, I wasn’t entirely sure about this and it seemed a little gimmicky to me.

Finally to round off the meal, some petit four; a ‘false egg’ made from white chocolate and passion fruit. Upon eating, the yolk burst in my mouth, flooding my palate with passion fruit which mingled with the white chocolate. It was bloody gorgeous. The other two, chocolate with herbs, and cream with violet jelly, were somewhat less spectacular in comparison, albeit very nice.

I settled my rather hefty lunch bill (around 135 Euros from memory, £112) and wandered a little unsteadily out into the blazing sunshine and humidity of Barcelona in July.

I liked Cinc Sentits a lot. The food is extremely interesting, beautiful to look at, carefully constructed and the play on traditional Catalan cuisine – contemporising it, is fascinating. I loved pretty much all of the courses, only a couple being merely ok instead of amazing. Yes, expensive but for this standard of food, and considering the bill included three glasses of matched wine, and a bottle of the beautiful artisan olive oil (I asked if I could buy one, and they agreed), complete bargain. If you’re visiting Barcelona, it should definitely be on your list of places to eat.

Cinc Sentits

Aribau 58
08011 Barcelona

Telephone: +34 93 323 9490



Sausage King said...

Disappointed to see no sausages but I bet slow, 14 hour cooked pig is amazing?

Su-Lin said...

How much was the menu minus the wine? They don't list the prices online. Tis a shame they don't offer the more affordable lunch menus anymore...

Mr Noodles said...

I like the look of that suckling pig cooked for 14 hours! I agree that the test tubes of sugar are a bit gimmicky although I can think of ruder adjectives. Great photos too.

BTW - does your Essex accent really render you incapable of saying cafe con leche por favor? It can't be that hard.

Food Urchin said...

That's one hell of a splurge for lunch Dan but looks like it was worth it. Very nice

Like a true brit I hope you clicked your fingers everytime you wanted to get the attention of the sommelier and shout "Oi GarCON!"

Greedy Diva said...

You're hilarious, Dan. Promise to remind me to make you speak Spanish next time we meet.

Dan said...

SausageKing - I told them about the lack of sausages on the menu, they said they'd sort it.

Su-Lin - The menu was 69 Euros, there was a cheaper menu at 49 Euros, and a Business lunch menu - think that was 29 Euros.

Mr Noodles - Thanks very much - 14 hour suckling pig rocked.
My Essex accent renders me incable of saying cafe con leche por favor? without drawing correction, comment or giggles...often all three. I'm crap at Spanish, better at French. Oui.

Food Urchin - It was a splurge, but bloody nice :) Oh without a doubt mate..."Patatas Bravas?!!! I ordered fucking chips mate!...and where's my fried egg?"

Greedy Diva - Glad I amuse :) Yes, I shall speak Spanish for you....not that you'll know it as such.

May said...

That looks like my kind of meal and the prices don't look too bad, compared to what we are used to in London.

Will pass it on to my friend who is there this week.

Unknown said...

Lovely blog that has me drooling, entirely jealous and trying to think of an excuse to get me to Barcelona!

meemalee said...

I am consumed with envy. That is all.

Dan said...

May - I think compared to London, the prices are pretty good, although I think the real savings are on the wine...the prices are nothing like they are in London.

Kanga_Rue - hahaha Barcelona is cracking, loads of good restaurants and eating to be had.

Meemalee - Yes. I appreciate your being consumed with envy. Thanks for letting me know.

Lost in the Larder said...

I've wanted to visit Barcelona for a while but never made it yet. The 14 hour slow cooked Iberian Pig sounds gorgeous. Sometimes it's nice to splurge, and this place seems like a worthy candidate. Great post mate.

Graphic Foodie said...

Last time I was in Barcelona, I had a chocolate / olive oil and bread dessert at the excellent Celler de Tapas and it is still one of the most memorable desserts I've ever eaten. A great combo.

Oh blimey, Ratafia..my family home brew it with the fruit and leaves of the cherry trees out the back. 3 glasses makes your legs and upper lip go numb. Weird.

The Ample Cook said...

'Garlic air'? Isn't that like a belch after a curry? ;-)

I think your meal was very good value Dan, considering the bill included wines and olive oil.

Lovely descriptive and humourous write up.

BTW Why were you on your own?

Unknown said...

Sounds absolutely wonderful although some of the descriptions drive me to the point of insanity: 'garlic air' - why not foam? 'Shattered bread' - that'll be breadcrumbs then, yeah? Also I'd love to know how willing a hand model the sommelier was; I'm imagining a conversation along the lines of 'Yes...just hold it there...no turn the label to the right a bit...no YOUR right...'

And please don't feel bad about regurgitating your 'shooter'; the Spanish are more than used to seeing Brits abroad throwing up after downing shots...

Dan said...

Lost in the Larder - Barcelona is a wicked city to visit, and yep the 14hr Suckling pig was bloody delicious. Thanks dude :)

Graphic Foodie - Chocolate/Olive ice cream/bread dessert? Sounds like almost exactly the same thing. I'd never heard of Ratafia till I Googled it - sounds potent.

Jan - Garlic air hahahaha yes, I produce my own quite regularly. Thanks very much. I was on my own, as I travelled to Barcelona alone. First time I've been away on my lonesome. Elly was at a wedding in Sweden, I wanted a break and couldn't find anyone to go with - so went alone.

Hugh Wright - I know, I thought exactly the same thing - quite pretentious, unless something had been lost in the translation perhaps. Hahaha surprisingly the sommelier was quite game as a hand model.
Yes, indeed - us Brits abroad eh? - thing was, I couldn't catch my breath - I haven't felt like that since a few years back eating a particularly dry piece of Chicken Tikka, which absorbed every ounce of moisture in my body as I ate it. I swear I almost died.

gourmet traveller said...

I love Cinc Sentits! Been twice and they served the pan con tomate and the gorgeous suckling pig both times. never seen those off sugar test tubes though - must be a new addition.

great post and a timely reminder to visit Barcelona again soon...

Unknown said...

Good on you for going this alone Dan - looks amazing and I look forward to the rest of your Barcelona posts

Dan said...

Gourmet Traveller - I actually visited on your, and someone else’s (who's name escapes me) recommendation, so thanks, it was cracking!

Gourmet Chick - Thanks Kara :)

PDH said...

This looks awesome and one hell of treat just on your lonesome

Helen said...

Great post Dan. I absolutely love the fact that you went for such an indulgent lunch all on your own.

Northern Snippet said...

Me too what a treat to do that on your own.

Dan said...

Pavel - It was mate.

Helen - Thanks very much, I didn't have much choice as I was on my own, but thought I may as well. Wasn't anywhere near as bad as I thought.

Northern Snippet - certainly was :)