Costa Brava is a special destination, one of the world’s leading gastronomic destinations – rivaled by another great part of Spain, the Basque Country – so writing a foodie’s guide to cover a region of this caliber is next to impossible. But I’m going to try. Whether it’s the best restaurants in Costa Brava or perhaps some Catalonian cuisine to try, here’s some of the sights, sounds, and smells you’ll find on your foodie adventure through Costa Brava.
The History of Gastronomy in Costa Brava
Catalan cuisine is very old and has had a number of cultural influences over the years, from the Greeks and Romans to the Phoenicians to the Jewish. One historical fact that highlights how well developed Catalan cuisine has become over the years are three medieval recipe books that were published in the 14th and 15th centuries. These were the first cookbooks published in Europe – establishing a gastronomic authority that continues to this day.
Perhaps one of the most interesting aspects of gastronomy in this region are the various guilds and partnerships that chefs participate in. These groups meet to discuss cooking styles and techniques, share ideas, and improve their own foodie experience. It’s an interesting experiment that has proven that collaboration is both profitable and tasty.
Costa Brava Food Markets
Just a quick mention that you should check out one of the many food markets that can be found in almost every town in Costa Brava. What’s more, many markets are at least a couple of times a week, so if you get the chance, go exploring – these markets make for fantastic photography opportunities (great photos that will make your friends jealous).
Catalonian Cuisine: Foods to Try in Costa Brava
While there are plenty of unique finds, there are several classics that I suspect you’ll get hooked on once you land in Costa Brava. Catalonian has a Mediterranean flair to it, with lots of seafood and sauces. A few personal favorites for you to try:
- Bread brushed with tomato and olive oil – shown above, this is pretty much a stable at any meal. It’s so good you will now find me rubbing my bread at home with tomatoes!
- Allioli – this garlic-and-olive-oil whipped concoction is found in restaurants around the world, but once you have the real thing handmade you won’t go back.
- Crema Catalan – tasty just by itself, but each restaurant seems to pair this creme-brulee like dish differently
- Suquet – this is similar to what I’d call a fish risotto, but the rice used is different (bigger). Tasty.
- Escalivada – you see this everywhere; it’s basically a plate of grilled vegetables, which usually includes onions, red peppers, and a green vegetable of some sort. Goes well on the bread or paired with any meat or seafood dish.
That is JUST a sampling of some personal faves, but wow – from desserts to stews to incredibly fresh fish, you won’t go away hungry here in Costa Brava.
Best Restaurants in Costa Brava
As I alluded to earlier, Costa Brava is rivaled only by the Basque Country & San Sebastien for the depth and breath of quality cuisine. I’d like to highlight a few noteworthy restaurants worth your attention as you wander the area:
- El Celler De Can Roca, Girona: This Girona restaurant has been rated the second best restaurant in the world, and their sommelier has been rated the best in Europe. Having eaten at many Michelin star restaurants, what I love about this place is the relaxed environment that the three Roca brothers have created. This is not a stuffy restaurant – they have fun with the dishes and want you to have fun and enjoy your meal. For example, our first course they brought out olive trees – with caramel olives hanging on the branches. Amazing. It goes without saying: book in advance.
- Restaurant Cal Sastre, Santa Pau: Santa Pau is a wonderful little, a must-see if you’re on a driving tour of the area. Restaurants in this region often serve “volcanic” cuisine, a nod to the geological aspects of the area. Cal sastre has a charming spot right on the main square and gets every course just perfect, right down to the ratafia, a strong liqueur to wash down the meal.
- Restaurant Iberic, Restaurant Iberic in Ullastret: Famous for their suquet and other fish dishes, homemade anchovies, as well as many other house classics. Ask what’s fresh and recommended!
- Hotel Aigua Blava, Begur: You could easily decide to make the Aigua Blava hotel and restaurant your dining/accommodation of choice based on the location alone – it sites on one of the most beautiful coves along the Costa Brava coast. But piled with heaps of hospitality, personality, and charm, both dinner and breakfast here are superb. A must see/stop/eat.
Costa Brava’s most famous restaurant, El Bulli, has closed as the owner/chef Ferran Adria is transforming the venue into a creativity centre.
Parting Thought: The Wines of Costa Brava
I’ll leave you with a glass of wine – because certainly there are few, if any, meals in Costa Brava where wine won’t feature heavily! There are wineries that offer tours and of course if you see something at dinner you like, a local store probably carries it. A couple of recommendations to consider should you find yourself needing a refreshing beverage:
- Celler Martin Faixo – Perafita: This winery is an absolute must because not only is it one of the most scenic, but you can even rent a room here! The wines are delicious and the family that owns the winery are delightful. Must, must must.
- Castillo Perelada – D.O. Emporda: Perelada makes a number of wines and has been making them for, oh, since the 6th century. You can actually visit the castle that is on the label, which is a restaurant/casino, but Perelada can be found everywhere, from its own wine spa (yes! wine spa!) to any of the restaurants in the area.
Been to Costa Brava? What were your favorite restaurants or foods?
Special thanks to Visit Costa Brava and Iberia for being such kind hosts during our visit. Learn more about our editorial policy on sponsored trips here.