Barcelona's Essential Fine Dining Restaurant: Disfrutar

By Jack Southan on August 9th, 2016


When Disfrutar opened in late 2014, there was an excited buzz on the foodie circuit to see what the head chefs from el Bulli could do after the success of their first venture independent from the watchful eye of Ferran Adria, who masterminded the former best restaurant in the world.



And almost two years on, the restaurant has blossomed into one of the best restaurants in Barcelona. So, when we were invited to go and speak with the chefs and eat in the restaurant, it was an opportunity we could hardly pass up.

Sitting in the shaded courtyard at the back of the elegant and beautifully designed restaurant, we feel perfectly at home. Everything is relaxed, as if we are on holiday in some familiar family villa. There’s no pretentiousness or veiled elitism at play here. So when the chefs come out and we shake hands, it all feels very informal and civilized. But it’s no wonder, considering how long these guys have known each other. They are completely at ease.



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“We all met and worked together at el Bulli for more than 18 years. El Bulli closed in 2011 and so in 2012 we decided to pursue a dream that we had had for a while of opening up our own restaurant. And that year we opened in Cadaqués,” says Chef Eduard Xatruch.

He takes a sip of his drink and continues to tell us about how their first restaurant led to the opening of Disfrutar.

“We had the experience of what it was like to run a business after two years, but our culinary ambitions, and our hearts, were set on Barcelona. So we began to come up with the idea of a new project with a style of cooking that we had always been used to: Food with a much more modern and avant-garde style. And so, in the end, Disfrutar was born here in Barcelona.”

The style of food on offer here is a little difficult to describe. We like to refer to it as molecular gastronomy, science and cooking combined. They offer a 19- or 25-course menu that has enough aspects woven into it to please everyone. The food is unfamiliar to the eye and each dish has something incredibly unique about it that separates it from almost anything else on the planet.



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“We already had plenty of experience from el Bulli that focused on this alternative style of cooking and we were, in fact, central to its creative process there. It’s what we have done for most our lives and what we love to do,” Xatruch said.

“Here at Disfrutar (the food) is all very normal to us, because we have spent our whole lives focusing on contemporary cuisine, and this is just what we have continued to do here. The only difference being that during out time at el Bulli, we were part of a much larger team, albeit we were an important part, but we had a leader, Ferran Adrià. But here, we are on our own and must take on the responsibility of the business because it is ours alone,” explains Chef Oriol Castro.

They have certainly created a distinct type of cuisine here. It is definitely not generic in its styling or production and although they tell us they had planned to offer simple food, it has evolved rather a lot from that. The food is very different from that served at Cadaqués, but it seems as if this is what they are most comfortable cooking.

The gastronomic offerings in Barcelona are set up to a very high standard, and the competition is exceptional, so the risk of opening a restaurant of this kind has obvious drawbacks. But they are so confident in their abilities as chefs and with the ingredients they use that they continue to stand out from the crowd.



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“Our unique style requires very pronounced techniques in a lot of cases, and therefore it is risky and conceptual. It is food you might be able to see but not actually know what it is. However, we had always clearly envisioned that the taste of the food was going to be very familiar, and we believe that this is one of the biggest successes of Disfrutar. While we have created a gourmet style of cooking, a person completely new to this style can come to the restaurant and still enjoy it because when they eat the Tomato Shortbread, for example, it’s made from wonderful local tomatoes; or when they eat an olive, it’s an excellent local olive,” Castro continues.

As with many restaurant nowadays, the idea of locally sourced and sustainable produce used on the menu is paramount for the chefs here. But that’s not to say they won’t get an occasional specialty product from some far-flung country, says Xatruch.

“We only use ingredients that we like and that are of the highest possible quality. And sometimes, to get the best produce, you have to look further away. But the base is always made from a product grown around here in Catalonia. Of course, it’s only logical that if you prepare a dish with prawns, the prawns come from local sources.”



Throughout our evening here, we come to realize this isn’t just a dinner, it’s not just a meal out. It is a complete sensory experience. Every dish is multi-faceted, multi-dimensional and exciting. Some things seem unusual on their own, and then suddenly come together when the explanation of the dish comes (each dish is explained by a waiter and advice on how to eat it is essential). Every sense is used, sight, smell, sound and taste, it is an all-encompassing journey through food.

Castro says that this is exactly what they wanted to give people.

“We might say it’s a mind game, a hit to the senses, because we don’t believe that the act of eating is simply just eating and saying ‘it’s nice.’ When someone visits a restaurant like this, they search for something unique and different. And when you cook, there has to be a connection between the chef and the diner.



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“But with each dish that we put on the menu, we try and test a great deal so that everything that goes on the menu has the essence of Disfrutar. In the end, each dish has to offer you something. When you produce creative food, you must respect and trust yourself, because it does not always work out, and you must be realistic about what’s good and what’s not so good. It has to be food that surprises people! People come here and try food that you cannot try anywhere else in the world and that surprises them the most,” he finishes.

This restaurant isn’t just a restaurant. It is something far beyond that. It isn’t a place you come to have a burger and a beer and wander home satisfied. It is a place you come to experience food in a way rarely experienced. It is like a painting, and each course is a color, the complete menu a work of art. The ultimate goal for these chefs has always been the same, to make people happy, to have them share food, respect it and, most importantly, to enjoy it. After all, the translation of the word enjoy is Disfrutar.

Meet the author
Jack Southan

Jack Southan is a freelance journalist specialising in food and travel. He has worked his way around the world sampling the tastiest dishes and strongest local brews, but now lives in London and writes for magazines from the comfort of his armchair. ... More