Nestled in the heart of Barcelona, Caelis offers more than just fine dining. With its intricate pairings and sophisticated atmosphere, the restaurant offers patrons a meal and a night they will not soon forget
By: Sarah Holbert
Posted on: July 25, 2016
LF Says: ★★★.5
I love food. I also love the idea of trying things I have not had before, including dishes and cuisines I am not familiar with. The Michelin star Caelis, located inside Hotel El Palace Barcelona satisfied that curiosity thoroughly in me! It fulfilled both my desires - to sample new food, and to enjoy it, minute by minute.
The restaurant fits into the palace theme of the Spanish hotel, a part of The Leading Hotels of the World consortium, with elegance apparent from the moment I walked in. Arriving a little early, I had time to wander around and fully take in the beauty of Caelis before the dinner began. The restaurant is cloaked in sophistication from ceiling to floor. Sparkling chandeliers, hanging from the roof, create a cozy and welcoming atmosphere with their dim light. After being seated at my candle lit table, I noticed the colors gold and purple highlighted in the color scheme, a detail that made much sense - the colors of royalty in a restaurant fit for just that. Minimalist yet grand, the restaurant indeed sets the mood right from the beginning. Seated on the velvet purple sofa, I anxiously awaited the dinner service to commence.
Setting the table
The amuse-bouche, the first thing to arrive, established the expectations quite high. It was so intriguing that I feel each element deserves a description. The service began with a trio of three small appetizers, a savory mozzarella ball with tomato, a sea urchin broth featuring caviar, and a slightly nutty foie gras. Being my first time with a sea urchin, I was a little wary upon seeing its bright orange color. However, it proved me wrong, digging into the shell-shaped bowl it was presented in, I found it to be more solid than liquid, and furthermore mixed nicely with the slight hint of salt from the caviar.
The trio was followed by a fried egg, which was still in its shell, and filled with potato cream and ham. The potato cream was just that - creamy, and smooth, and it paired perfectly with the Cava “Brut Reserve” 2011 sparkling wine we had been served with it. A light refreshing taste after the heavy yet delicious cream.
Creating all these delicious sounding palates is Chef Romain Fornell, the youngest chef to have earned a Michelin star and the only chef to be awarded this distinction in both France and Spain. Caelis serves new tasting menus every week, with mine having debuted on the night I was dining.
Eager with anticipation, I eyed the first main course with a tiny amount of skepticism. A Mediterranean Bluefin tuna ceviche was wrapped in a thin slice of Granny Smith apple with a crunchy sweetcorn corneto. I was suspicious of how Bluefin would pair with apple, but sure enough it worked, and very well at that. The crunch of the apple slice complimented the smoothness of the fish. It created a sweet and salty taste mix which I could not get enough of. The Cava white wine again did its job beautifully, adding crisp dry taste, refreshing after the slight sweet hint from the fish and the apple. This paring was only the beginning in a line of inventive combinations which continued through the rest of the courses and the night.
The next dish was one I had been looking forward to since I had read both tasting menus earlier that morning. It was one I had been hoping I would get the chance to enjoy, one of my guilty pleasures: macaroni. And this was not a regular American macaroni, but a variation. The “Surf and Turf” Lobster Macaroni. Each noodle was stuffed with lobster, the garnish was more lobster, accompanied by a side of foie gras. The lobster was tender and bursting with flavor, and as each noodle was stuffed with the perfect amount, each bite proved a perfectly portioned amount. The Macaroni “surf and turf” was paired with another white wine, a Penedes “El Clar” 2015, which worked well without subtracting from the creativity of the dish.
The meal continued with a Wild sea bass covered with tarragon jelly, beurre blanc and peas. The fish and jelly alone were good, but the dish was taken to another level of flavor when the sauce was added to the fish. The tenderness of the bass and the buttery flavor of the sauce allowed the dish to practically melt in the mouth, yet had a hit of salt from the jelly. I was so enamored with the sauce alone, I put it on my peas as well, and found myself reaching for some of my father’s when I had polished mine off.
The next dish was by far my favorite of the night. A smoked beef fillet wrapped in cinders with foie gras and truffled artichokes. The steak, cooked at a perfect medium rare, melted in my mouth. That is where the cinders came in, combined with the tenderness of the steak, they added the perfect crunch and an extra shot of coffee flavor, which was unique to anything I had had before! It was another dish I found myself stealing from my father. The crust was one of the highlights of the night, as its mix of flavors paired well with the fillet, and showed the true sophistication the restaurant strives for. The red wine paired with the dish, a Costers del Segre “Conca de Tremp” 2013, had a smoky taste that highlighted the tenderness of the steak and the sweetness of the cinders. Personally, I found this to be the best pairing of the night.
As I waited for the staff to bring out another plated dish, they came forward with a mat. At first I was confused, then I realized they were preparing the table for dessert. Soon, the staff arrived with a chocolate egg, placing it on the table in front of us. This chocolate egg was part of the “Explosion St Honore” featuring a Neapolitan type ice cream with a twist. Instead of vanilla, the egg was featured with mint foam. Along with the more traditional chocolate and strawberry. We had to wait to dig in however, as the wait staff began to paint swirls of raspberry glaze, chocolate, yogurt, and of course a crumble.
The egg was surrounded with fresh blackberries, strawberries and raspberries, and when it broke, to my surprise there was caramel popcorn inside. Though unsure how to tackle the dish at first, I quickly dug in. Using the chocolate pieces as spoons of sort, I scooped up the fresh fruit and the raspberry glaze. I quickly finished the fresh fruit, and then proceeded to mix the mint foam with the caramel popcorn, a mix of cold and warm that created quite the explosion of flavor. The dessert presented endless possibilities to mix flavors, and I am sure I did not hit them all, but the ones I did helped create a perfect finish to an amazing meal. The dessert was paired with a Port Jumilla “Dulce Monastrell” 2011 that had a sweet taste along with a slight hint of cranberry, mixing with the fresh fruit, and of course giving the night a “sweet” end.
Overall, the meal was incredible, in terms of flavors and the exceptionally devised presentation. By the time we left, it had been almost three hours, but the anticipation for the next dish never faded the entire night. The staff was ever present, ensuring we had everything we needed to enjoy our luxury meal, and helping add to the experience. If you find yourself in Barcelona and are looking for an excellent meal experience, I highly recommend Caelis and its intricate and delicious menus. The drama will stick in your memory throughout your life.
LF Says: ★★★.5
Coordinates: Gran Via de les Corts Catalanes, 668, 08010 Barcelona, Spain
Details: In addition to their two tasting menus and a la carte menu, Caelis offers a regular menu Wednesday through Saturday from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM. Caelis is open Tuesdays from 8:00 PM to 11 PM and Wednesday through Saturday from 1:30 PM to 3:30 PM and 8PM to 11PM