Hablo muy, muy poquito español y entonces escribo solo in ingles. Por favor, no dime "¿Porque no escribes in español?"
SEE FULL REVIEW AND PICTURES AT http://www.restaurantcritic.eu/the-reviews/spain/sant-pau
THERE ARE REVIEWS OF TWO VISITS TO SANT PAU ON MY WEBSITE
Overall rating: 9/10
The price for a tasting menu had gone slightly up on my second visit to €149, simply due to the rise in Spanish VAT from 8 % to 10 %. The price for wine and water remained the same.
The menu was completely different this time, although it was possible to have the two additional desserts that I had at my first visit.
First, we started with a starter broth again, although this was different than last time.
Then, like last time, four small appetisers followed. I think this has become a concept on this restaurant.
This time it was liquid spheres on small pieces of toast, “ocean and mountain” flat cake, a pork croquette (with mushrooms if I’m not mistaken), and a skewer with minced lamb, romesco sauce and calcot, which is a type of onion similar to spring onion typical from Catalonia.
The liquid spheres didn’t have much taste, but was nevertheless a nice combination texture wise with the bread. The flat cake was probably my favourite followed by the croquette. As my wife doesn’t eat pork she had a cube of breaded emmentaler instead. I can honestly say that this emmentaler probably was the best emmentaler I’ve ever had (overall 8-8.5/10).
Next dish was peas with a bit of leeks and a bit of pork (for me). To me, the peas were cooked a bit too much, but they were perfect for my wife as she prefers them a bit mushy. I’ve had nice peas in Spain before, but usually they are bitter and far from as good as the ones in Northern Europe. These were lovely, but I nevertheless felt there wasn’t quite the magic as in e.g. the peas with green tea I had at Noma (8/10).
Lobster was served with various greens and a light pistachio sauce, which disappeared a bit in this combination. Usually, I don’t like bitter things but these bitter leaves (as well as some less bitter ones) was a great combination. It was very refreshing to have lobster in a restaurant and actually be able to taste it’s lobster. This lobster and the one I had at Le Calandre in Italy have been the best I’ve ever had so far (9/10).
Raviolis with pork and grated truffle on top had a chestnut soup poured on top. To me, the soup practically didn’t have any flavour at all, but the raviolis were nothing short of magnificent. The waitress explained that there had been problems with truffles all over Europe this season, so these particular truffles were cultivated rather than wild. Both of us felt the truffles here were redundant, as they had no flavour. I have yet to have truffles (except for truffle oil) that had more than mildly pleasant flavour (whereas the odour is sometimes very compelling). My wife had raviolis with spinach instead and she didn’t like them so much. I tried one and they were definitely not in the same league as the pork ones. Nevertheless, the pork raviolis made this dish very memorable (overall 8.5/10).
“Prawn tails on sailor’s toast” came with a story: When fishermen had been handling fish and shellfish all morning and sat down and ate a toast for lunch, their fingers would be so fishy that the toast ended up tasting like fish and shellfish. So, Sant Pau had cooked prawns and then fried a piece of bread in the juices from the prawn heads to emulate this “dish”. A deep fried piece of parsley decorated the dish. Usually, I’m not keen on dishes that taste very much like the sea (oysters, clams, sea urchins, etc.), but here the result was very pleasant. The salt water flavour didn’t bother me at all. Due to the frying, the bread was intentionally crispy on the outside and soft on the inside, which was a great feature (8-8.5/10).
Monkfish rolled in a spice mix was served with a similar aubergine, saffron sauce, marinated onions, and a terrine of probably liver. I don’t really know what to think of this dish. The onions were really nice and just acidic enough to still be pleasant. On one hand I felt that the fish was perfectly cooked, on the other I felt it was dry. The aubergine was pleasant rather than extraordinary, and there were some small pieces of some undefined substance that mostly tasted like raw dough.
The main courses were back in gear. I had deer loin served with a small bread stick with what I believe was apricots and dates, as well as a braising sauce. The deer was cooked less than what I usually prefer, but was nevertheless terribly pleasant. The waiter told me that it had been very difficult to find a good seller for deer, and I have actually never seen it for sale anywhere in Valencia (where I live). Close to my hometown in Denmark there’s a restaurant in a forest, where they breed deer just outside the door (you can see them from the vindow) and then cook them (it’s their specialty). We held our wedding dinner there, and the deer at Sant Pau was far better than in this restaurant. Of course, Sant Pau is a three star place, but still… (8.5/10).
The other main course was duck with wild celery and swiss chard with a braising sauce. Despite the almost identical sauce, this dish was a bit more refreshing than the other main course, but nevertheless I just liked the other one a bit better(8/10).
Cheese was a firm goat cheese called Payoyo in three different combinations with dates and sunflower seeds. The waiter told us that in the past they had served different cheeses in one cheese serving, but when they started doing it this way, the customers liked this better. I probably would have preferred the other way.
I usually skip cheese servings as it simply doesn’t do much for me to just have cheese, but this dish was definitely better than the cheese serving last time – better cheese, better combinations (7/10).
A pre-dessert was the spirit calisaya with a passion fruit sorbet. They advised us to dissolve the sorbet into the liquid, which helped quite a lot, as I really didn’t like the spirit on its own (7/10).
The first dessert was a bit of an oddity, and more interesting than good: Avocado, tequila, coriander and lime with a few biscuits and a bit of tomato at the bottom. As usual with Spanish tomatoes, the tomato wasn’t very flavourful, and this combination seemed a bit too odd for me. This was the first day they served this, and the waiter told us that if people didn’t like it they would discontinue it. We spoke to a couple sitting next to us afterwards, and they didn’t like it much either, and I see that they have now removed it from the menu. I honestly don’t know what score to give this
The next dessert was a bit better. A chocolate and banana fondant was served with an ice cream (banana, if I’m not mistaken), coated berries and nuts, and chocolate and caramel paper. Unfortunately, the paper tasted a bit burnt, the fondant being better, with the berries and nuts as the strongest element here. Nevertheless, this dish seemed to lack a bit of inspiration except for the berries and nuts (7/10).
Petit fours were again served in a train carriage, which I believe has also become a stable feature here: Orange dark chocolate truffle, white chocolate and puffed rice, white chocolate and puffed rice, rum financier, raspberry crumble, mini Sarah Bernhardt, limoncello jelly, and coconut bisquit with liquorice and sherbet sticks and puff pastry stick with angel hair and pine nuts. I also had the two sticks, the jelly, and the rum financier first time at this restaurant (the rest were different), and the financier was definitely better this time. Again, very nice petit fours (8-8.5/10).
The bill came to €335 for two, meaning €167 per person. I found out later that this was less than expected. My wife wasn’t feeling well, so when they brought her an already poured glass of red wine she declined. They left it there and said I could drink it. They didn’t charge us for it though. She also had a coke for free, and they didn’t charge us for the dessert wine I had either. Maybe this was simply an oversight by the restaurant.
Although they still kept a very high standard, at my second visit I was a tiny bit less impressed with the food than first time around. I contribute this more to luck than to a decline in cooking capabilities. What I mean is simply that I happened to like the first menu better than the second one. I have a very sweet tooth, and at my first visit it was very refreshing to have desserts that stayed at the same level as the rest of the meal, which rarely happens in Spain. Unfortunately, this wasn’t the case at my second visit, which in part was due to the experiment with the tequila and avocado dessert. At my second visit, there weren’t quite so many dishes that stood out as the first time either, and there were two dishes that I didn’t know what to think of either.
Nevertheless, I still feel it’s justified to keep the same score – especially when you take the other aspects into consideration – the perfect service (again), the perfect pace of the meal (again), the very nice chef Carme Ruscalleda who came out to speak to all the guests (again), and the very beautiful restaurant (again).
To me, Sant Pau has been one of the few three star restaurants that I have been to so far that has been worth its three stars.
Un blanco de colección que ensambla el patrimonio vitivinícola más valioso de la DO Rueda y la labor de tres generaciones de enólogos.