Rocambolesc on Barcelona’s Ramblas serves lollies and ice creams worth licking, based on desserts by superstar chef Jordi Roca.
The Ramblas are ground zero of Barcelona’s tourism explosion. The shock-waves of undiscriminating diners that roll down the boulevard have scorched clean all traces of its gastronomic appeal. Even the mighty Boqueria market has seen its habitual customers blown away by crowds and high prices, and selfie-snapping visitors sucked into the vacuum. Most restaurants and shops now exist only to extract the maximum amount of money from hapless, one-time visitors. Fortunately, a flame of hope still flickers; not everywhere is awful. Opera Samfaina in the Gran Teatre del Liceu opera house, for example, appeals to tourists but also succeeds as a fun experience for locals. And sharing a door with it is an ice cream shop from Catalan cuisine’s greatest international flag-bearers: the Roca brothers.
Rocambolesc is the brainchild of erstwhile World’s Best Pastry Chef Jordi Roca (of three-Michelin-starred El Celler de Can Roca – read my review here) and his partner Ale. The original branch opened in their home city of Girona but there are now branches in Platja d’Aro on the Costa Brava, Madrid and Barcelona. It sells ice creams and lollies inspired, to different degrees, by famous desserts from the restaurant.
The ice creams and sorbets (starting at €3.50 for a small cone or tub) are first rate and include unconventional variations such as pumpkin & mandarin, and coconut & violet. ‘Làctic‘ combines the creamy caramel of dulce de leche with guava confiture and comes shrouded in a cloud of milky candy floss (cotton candy).
The lollies are made in custom moulds and each has a fun backstory. ‘Helado oscuro‘ is shaped like Darth Vader, and the name is a play on the Spanish for the Dark Side. ‘Hand’ is an edible replica of the detached appendage of Jaime Lannister from the TV show Game of Thrones, which was filmed in Girona. ‘Rocanas’ (‘Roca-nose’) is cast from the distinctive sniffer of Jordi Roca himself.
My own favourite, especially as an indulgent late breakfast, is the panet (€4.95). This is a brioche filled with ice cream (baked apple is the one to go for) and sealed in a custom-made hotplate to create a hot-and-cold snack. Miraculously, it doesn’t melt instantly but instead somehow holds onto its deliciousness long enough for you to walk up the street, decide you want another one, and walk back to the shop.
So yes, it’s located where it is because of tourists. But it’s got character and quality and the locals love it too. It might even tempt a few back onto the Ramblas, and that can only be a good thing.
Rocambolesc Barcelona: La Rambla 51-59 (next to the Gran Teatre del Liceu), 08002 (El Raval), Barcelona; www.rocambolesc.com; Metro Liceu; Open noon-11pm Mon-Thurs, noon-midnight weekends.