Els Casals, when product is king

In the Catalan countryside, Oriol Rovira is offering a limpid territorial cuisine. This is avant-garde too

08-09-2017

The Els Casals estate, hotel and restaurant in Sàgas, 100 km north of Barcelona, in the Catalan countryside, tel. +34.938.251200 (photo kitchengardenrestaurants.com)

This restaurant is much more than a place where you can eat. It is the life project of the Rovira family. It started in 2000, 6 years after the blaze that destroyed Central Catalonia. Together with his siblings Oriol Rovira, after an experience with Martín Berasategui and with young Jordi Vilà in the old Abredavero in Barcelona (it’s now Alkimia), decided to put the family farm back on its feet. This is located in the small village of Sagás, near Berga, 100 km north of the big metropolis.

Here he opened a restaurant that made great use of products from nearby Cal Rovira, breeding hens and pigs, and then growing vegetables too. It was a real tribute to product-based cuisine in the days of El Bulli’s cool culinary revolution. “Product”, of which everyone speaks these days, has always been king in this home, with all its power. And Oriol decided to become its humble servant: let others do the shows. He just wanted to intercede between product and guest.

Here, they go even beyond traceability. Only a few hours go by between picking tomatoes in the family garden, tended by the Roviras, and their consumption. Oriol is not a protagonist. His cuisine is something else. It’s more direct, transparent, sincere. It’s a cuisine in which everything is the way it looks.

The magnificent flan at Els Casals (photo Regol, observaciongastronomica.com)

The magnificent flan at Els Casals (photo Regolobservaciongastronomica.com)

They cook poultry in a piece or in halves, in cocotte, both the pularda (the neutered hen, which no longer lays eggs and uses all its energies to grow fat) and the magnificent duck with black turnips (57 euros per 2 people). You must taste those roast juices and enjoy dipping bread in them, even though you’re in a restaurant with a Michelin star.

Among the entrées try the beautiful sobrassada with pan tomate and honey, like in Mallorca. Or the Mushroom tortilla (in the winter it is enriched with black truffle). In the summer, the beautiful selection of tomatoes from the vegetable garden. And don’t miss the Cannellone with roasted chicken, a dish inherited from the many Italian cooks working in Barcelona in the late 19th century, and now an icon of Catalan cuisine.

How about the delicious Maccheroni with tomato, pancetta, basil and pecorino (23 euros)? They would make a good impression in any good Italian trattoria. Old flavours are filtered with elegant contemporaneity. You cannot leave without tasting the unforgettable flan (10 euros). Instead of the usual sweetish caramel, there’s a refreshing and pungent lemon sorbet, combined with a light, non whipped, cream. It is fat, sour and sweet. Its texture is simply sublime. This itself is worth the trip.

Oriol Rovira, 43 (photo gastroactitud)

Oriol Rovira, 43 (photo gastroactitud)

Oriol’s partner, Carolina Calvo Serra takes care of the dining room and of finding wines from every area, especially natural and organic wines.

Food at Els Casals is a sublimation of territorial cuisine. Without populism or fake nostalgia for the past. In its own right, this is avant-garde too.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

Els Casals
Els Casals s/n
Sagàs, Catalonia
Spain
+34.938.251200
elscasals@elscasals.cat
Average price: 65 euros
Tasting menus: El Petit (64 euros) and La Terra (78 euros)
Closed: 2nd-9th November