22 March 2012

Moo, Barcelona – Restaurant Review

A recent weekend trip to Barcelona saw Mrs. Nibber and me have dinner at Restaurant Moo located in the über-sleek Hotel Omm, just off the city's glitzy Passeig de Gràcia. I'm not usually a fan of restaurants in hotels, often finding their atmosphere to be sterile and the food a bit of an afterthought, but I was intrigued by Moo. On paper at least, it's certainly got the credentials for a good meal – it has held a Michelin star since 2006 and the restaurant is overseen by the legendary Roca brothers, whose own 3-Michelin starred restaurant (and S.Pellegrino's second best restaurant in the world), El Celler de Can Roca, is about an hour up the road in Girona.

Restaurant Moo is located at the far end of the Hotel Omm's large lobby. With 'Euro-beats' playing over the speakers and an array of far too attractive people propping up the minimalist bar, this felt like one of those 'see-and-be-seen' places I usually avoid, and I was a little worried that our meal would prove to be an exercise in style over substance. Fortunately though, a mesh-like partition does a decent job of separating the restaurant itself from the main lobby, and with ample space between tables the atmosphere manages to feel intimate enough.

Although the kitchen at Moo is overseen by the three Roca brothers, it is Menorcan chef Felip Llufriu that has been running the restaurant since it opened in 2004. The menu at Moo isn't a replica of its bigger brother further north. Instead, chef Llufriu is tasked with executing the Roca brothers' vision of modern Catalan cuisine. Seasonal and local ingredients feature heavily, some of which come from the hotel's own onsite vegetable garden. For dinner there's an à la carte option as well as three tasting menus, one of which is exclusively vegetarian. We opt for the "Joan Roca Tasting Menu," which offers eight courses for €100. Matching Spanish wines can be added for a very reasonable €40.

We start with some amuse bouches, which were OK enough, but not the opening fireworks I was hoping for. Black olive biscuits were light and crumbly, with a good black olive punch to them, although morsels of fried prawns were chewy and soggy. The best of these were crisp potato skins filled with mayonnaise, although stuffed potato skins feels a bit TGI Friday to me and it seemed a little out of place.
Gossamer thin vermouth crisps were fine, although I couldn't detect any vermouth flavour.
The next set of amuse bouches arrived on individual plates. I didn't catch their exact description, but one was described as a 'juniper carpaccio'. The other two were soups of corn with vanilla oil and herring caviar, and a creamy potato soup. Both tasted fine but were lukewarm and had more than a hint of baby food about them.
Much better were tiny sandwiches (called 'bikinis' for some strange reason) of tender pigs trotter and cheese – very moreish.
Course 1: "Bombó de colomí" (Pigeon Candy). This first course proper was a technical, yet challenging dish that divided our opinion. It's a nod to a dish of the same name that appears on the menu at El Celler de Can Roca, and for a moment it seemed we were starting our meal in reverse with a dessert. Here, pigeon liver parfait is encased in a crisp sweet shell and served on a base of foie gras mousse sprinkled with pieces of sweet hazelnut biscuit. It's a very unusual combination of gamey pigeon liver, dessert amounts of sugar, and intense rich foie gras. The sugar levels increased further by the dessert wine it was served with: a sweet grenache made by Spanish winemaker Masia Serra. I loved this dish; Mrs. Nibbler hated it.

Course 2: "Fideuà sense fideus" (Fideuà without noodles) was another Joan Roca dish and is a play on the traditional Valencian dish of fideuà, which is essentially paella made with vermicelli noodles instead of rice. Jelly 'noodles,' made from an intense prawn stock were served with various types of lightly cooked seafood. I adored this dish, it was full of sweet and vibrant flavours of the sea and the prawn 'noodles' were a really clever touch. This course was well matched with a crisp 2009 Tayaimgut Sauvignon Blanc from the Penedès region.
Course 3: "Macarrons de porro i bacallà" (Leek macaroni and cod) was a dish of bacalao served with potato stuffed tubes of leek and a leek soup. The fish was well cooked, breaking into larges flakes of translucent flesh, but I didn't really care too much for the dish as it had no discernible taste other than salt. A refreshing 2007 Albariño Nora de Neve from Bodegas Viña Nora slaked my resulting thirst.
Course 4: "Llobarro amb fonoll marí" (Sea bass with samphire) was one of my favourite dishes of the meal. A perfectly cooked fillet of sea bass was served with pickled samphire, cauliflower "couscous," and a samphire sauce. Little dots of the most intense lemon and samphire gels really brought an extra dimension to the dish. This course was simply delicious. It was paired with a perfumed and citrusy 2008 Albariño Pago de Xoan from producer Benito Santos.
Course 5: Next came the meat course and here we were presented a choice of two dishes. Mrs. Nibbler chose the "Espatlla de xai amb ruca a la crema" (lamb shoulder with rocket and cream), which was slow cooked shoulder of lamb served with cubes of curd cheese and rocket jelly and a cream and rocket sauce. I managed to sneak a bite and can report that the lamb really was stunning, having that melting tenderness that comes with cooking en sous vide while still managing to have a crisp oven-finished skin. Another great dish.

Meanwhile I had opted for the classic dish of "Llebre a la Royal" (Hare Royal). This is another dish that is similar to one served at El Celler de Can Roca. Here rare saddle of hare is served with jugged hare, beetroot and truffles. Hare is only in season here for another couple of weeks, so I was glad I got the chance to try this dish as it was wonderful – rich, earthy and unctuous. A 2004 Prado Enea Gran Reserva Rioja from Bodegas Muga was full of notes of strawberry and leather and was a great match.
Course 6: "Terrina de formatge amb fruita" (Cheese and fruit) sounded fairly tame on the menu, but what arrived was an intriguing looking little yoghurt pot. A light mousse of fresh tasting local Tou de Tilers cheese was topped with sour apple foam. This was a great combination that served as palate cleanser and cheese course at the same time.

To her detriment, Mrs. Nibbler is not much of a cheese fan, but even I admit she got the better deal here when her substitute dish of strawberries arrived. El Celler de Can Roca's pastry chef, Jordi Roca, is known for the artistic, almost abstract look of his desserts, and this beautiful looking dish of "Maduixes amb nata" (Strawberries and cream) was no exception. I wasn't allowed a bite of this, but judging from Mrs. Nibbler's smiles it was pretty good indeed.
Course 7: "Postre Làctic" (Lactic Dessert) is perhaps one of El Celler de Can Roca's most known dishes. An airy mousse of goat cheese was served with dulche de leche sauce, a cotton candy-like 'lactic cloud' and wafers of frozen guava sorbet. It was sublime; a wonderful mix of textures and temperatures.
Course 8: "Xocolates del món" (Chocolates of the World) was the final dish and it was a safe crowdpleaser. I mean how can you go wrong finishing a meal with nine different preparations of chocolate? Chocolates of different cocoa percentages from around the world were served as mousses, truffle, crumble, wafer, jelly, and a brownie-like cake. It tasted as decadent as you can imagine it did.

Finally, we finished with coffee and petit fours of blood orange jelly and white chocolate covered cashew nuts.

Although I was expecting more in the way of culinary fireworks, I really enjoyed dinner at Moo. Yes, there were a couple of dud dishes, and I think the hotel lobby setting leaves a lot to be desired in terms of atmosphere, but overall this really is excellent cooking. There's just so much culinary creativity coming from this part of the world.

With the Roca brothers overseeing the restaurant, it's inevitable that some dishes take their inspiration from their famous 3 Michelin-starred restaurant, which is no bad thing at all. However, it's clear that chef Felip Llufriu is a considerable talent in his own right, and it would be fascinating to see what he could do without the Roca brothers' influence. In the meantime, if you're in Barcelona and looking for modern inventive Catalan cuisine, then Moo is a great choice.

Food:           8 / 10
Service:       8 / 10
Ambiance:   6 / 10

Carrer del Rosselló 265
08008 Barcelona
Tel: +34 93 445 40 00


  1. An intriguing meal, though looks like a bit of a slow start...
    The last amuse reminds me, in appearance, though not flavours, of the Thai Explosion amuse at Viajante, also served on a slate.

  2. In Catalonia "Bikini" was a local name for grilled ham & chesee sandwich. In the rest of Spain they call it "Mixto".

    Good post!

  3. Hi Kavey, yes it looks very similar, although I can imagine the intense Thai flavours might work better as an amuse than rich pig trotter and cheese.

    Hi Victor, thank you for your explanation! I kept seeing "bikinis" advertised in cafés and was really curious why they were called that.

  4. Nice pictures ,you can see that portions are really small but they do look tasty and just nice to look at.I also love the restaurant itself especially by the window, there are is just some sunlit wall with some greenery but it looks great