Restaurant review - La Grava Hotel, El Morell

by Neil Morris - 14 June 2012

la-grava-logoLa Grava Hotel and Restaurant
Pareteta 6,
El Morell,

At first glance, the small Catalonian town of El Morell does not seem to offer much for the culture-seeking tourist; the peaceful facade and industrial backdrop makes this a place that could easily be overlooked by those travelling through the region. In fact, it is probably the last place you would expect to find one of the area's most charming boutique hotels.

Tucked away on a quiet back street, La Grava Hotel not only makes El Morell a great base to explore the surrounding countryside and the nearby cities of Tarragona and Reus, it also happens to be home to one of the most intriguing restaurants in the area.

I had been keen to visit La Grava to experience the cooking of Chef Gerson Ribal for some time and on a recent trip to the vineyards of Conca de Barbera with my partner; we based ourselves at the hotel and booked a meal in the restaurant.

The impressive restaurant is full of character and has a warm and relaxing ambience; the service in both the hotel and restaurant was attentive and sincere. After ordering our food, the waiter guided us on wine selection and then presented us with some delicious hazelnut and foie nibbles to whet our appetites. My first course; a candied vegetable tower with salt cod and 'romesco' sauce, was a perfectly executed example of the modern Catalan style of the Chef. The dish was delicate, light and bursting with the flavour of local produce.candied-vegetable-tower-salt-cod-romeco-suace

I plumped for fish again with a main course of hake with baby squid and iberico ham; it was equally well cooked and lacked any of the over-richness that can plague some dishes in fine-dining establishments. In fact, everything tasted healthy and full of goodness.

My personal highlight of the three courses was the dessert which was a hazelnut cake with chartreuse ice cream. Just the smell was extraordinary and I did not even have to taste it to know how good it was. Once I did cut open the cake to reveal the delicious hazelnut sauce contained within, I struggled to remember a time when I had been so impressed by a dessert. Everything about the construction and flavour of the dish worked perfectly and I was honestly left speechless.hazlenut-cake

Not long before visiting La Grava, I had eaten at a Michelin-starred restaurant (that shall remain nameless) in the UK and I found myself comparing the differences between the two. I soon realised that the difference was not the food but it was the finer details that really do not matter to a humble diner like me. The Michelin-starred restaurant had obviously ironed the tablecloths, polished the plates, removed every trace of dust from the lightshades and had far too many staff waiting to fill my glass or remove my plates faster than I could blink. The truth is; I preferred the service at La Grava because it felt more natural and honest and the best course I had at either restaurant was the aforementioned hazelnut dessert.dessert-or-breakfast?

There was one more pleasant surprise about our stay at La Grava Hotel and that was the breakfast. It's fair to say that this was the best breakfast I have had anywhere in Spain. If you want to know more you will have to go and stay at the hotel and see for yourself and I recommend that you do, you will be guaranteed to start your day with a smile on your face!


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