Snack in style at the Roca brothers’ Barcelona gastrobar, annexed to their Michelin-starred Roca Moo restaurant in the luxury Hotel Omm.
2018 Update: Roca Bar is now PERMANENTLY CLOSED.
Barcelona is an informal, unstuffy city, where jackets and ties are always optional. Even in five-star hotels in Barcelona there are always a few tourists whose idea of dressing for dinner is to match their flip flops to their Hawaiian shirts. In the Hotel Omm (C/Rosselló 265, Tel. +34 93 445 40 00) however, flip flops simply won’t cut it. The flagship, Michelin-starred restaurant Roca Moo and its gastrobar annex Roca Bar are impossibly stylish – all low-key lighting and Japanese lines – and they attract a casually but expensively attired crowd.
When I last ate at Roca Moo I was very impressed. Head chef Felip Llufriu (since replaced by another Celler de Can Roca alumnus Juan Pretel) riffed on the Roca brothers’ three-Michelin-star ideas with great skill. The same Celler-lite idea applies at Bar Roca but the fine dining aspect is scaled right down to a selection of snacks and dishes which strike a balance between Roca-brand inventiveness and more straightforward, ingredient-led cooking.
There are a selection of tapas, from humble €4 anchovies to not-so-humble €64 caviar, fresh oysters, and two categories of sandwich: house special Rocadillos (€0) and standard hotel-fare bocadillos like hamburgers and club sandwiches (€14).
The main dishes are also divided into two categories: simplified versions of Roca classics and the Rocasaludables range of healthier options, all in the €10 to €20 range.
Prices are on the low side of standard for this kind of gastrobar in a luxury hotel but it’s worth noting that a three-course menú del día is available at lunchtimes for just €19 which represents astounding value for this level of cooking.
Roca bar’s by-the-glass drinks selection comes from a high-tech wine machine, which keeps the opened bottles temperature-controlled and vacuum-sealed to maintain freshness. It’s a good idea but it does limit the choice a little.
I kicked off the evening with some deep-fried sardines with lemon and basil. No surprises, just the right amount of greasiness, just the right amount of crunch.
The ibérico ham croquettes looked like any other croquettes but biting into them revealed a world of jamón happiness. Made with less béchamel and more ham stock, they were lighter and more liquid but also more intensely meaty than the ones your yaya used to make.
A Roca classic, “Nikkey”-style fish tiradito, was a Japanese-Peruvian marinade of corvina that zinged with freshness.
My timbal of apple and foie gras with vanilla oil was delicious, but a note of warning: despite the delicate apple wrapping and transparent flakes of almond, this is at heart a large, filling lump of creamy foie and I’d only advise ordering it to share between two people. In this instance it is possible to have too much of a good thing.
A glass of 2010 Jean Marc Boillot Bourgogne Rouge helped cut through the richness and soon I was ready for a ‘healthier’ option, the low-temperature-cooked wild salmon with citrus emulsion.
The success of the dish rests entirely on the quality of the fish which fortunately was sublime. The light emulsion had just the right amount of citric tartness to complement the soft, flaky flesh and the vegetables added welcome texture. Outstanding.
Also slow cooked, but for closer to 15 hours than 15 minutes, was the ibérico suckling pig with orange and clove sauce.
The first thing to hit me was the smell, an olfactory siren luring my fork onto the perfect crackling. As thin as the sugar crisp on a crema catalana, it broke easily to reveal tender white meat underneath. One mouthful and it was instant pork doom – that end-of-the-world-and-I don’t-care bliss that only good pork can give you. The cloves in the sauce were subtle, letting the orange do the hard work of cutting through the richness of the meat. The dish wasn’t beyond criticism (the outer skin of the onions was leathery and should have been removed before serving) but I certainly wasn’t complaining.
From my seat near the partition wall of open cubes that half-separates Roca Bar from Roca Moo I kept getting glimpses and sniffs of amazing things going on over on the other side. I wasn’t too sad, though; what Roca Bar lacked in refinement (comparatively speaking) it was certainly delivering in big flavours.
A black chocolate coulant with stracciatella ice cream (€7.50) put a full stop on proceedings. Served with a glass of my current favourite dessert wine, Alta Alella Dolç Mataro, it hit the bullseye. Really well executed, with a feather-light cake around a molten, massively deep cocoa core, it literally oozed quality. The ice cream was, surprisingly, slightly crystallized in places and not a smooth as I’d expected. That said, I’d order the dessert again without hesitation. Highly recommended.
Bar Roca is confident enough to keep things fairly simple. Quality ingredients are put front and centre and the evident technical know-how of the kitchen team is used to cook instead of to just show off. It’s a top option for midweek business lunches or for those low-key evenings when you don’t want the kind of full fine-dining experience that empties your wallet and stretches your waistband. Full disclosure: I didn’t pay for this meal but the prices, especially the lunch menu, aren’t stratospheric. Gastrobars in luxury hotels are increasingly popular in Barcelona – and increasingly competitive.
Post dinner, the rooftop bar offers live music and cocktails. The cocktails are better than the music, unless you’re really into bad lounge versions of Peter Andre songs. The views are lovely though, and it’s a great place to relax with friends. Like the rest of the Roca Bar experience, it’s very tasteful.