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Insider: Rob Roy

Author: Anothertravelguide.com0 COMMENTS

Insider: Rob Roy

Barcelona is a holiday town

Rob Roy is one of two head chefs at Hoja Santa, a Mexican restaurant in Barcelona. Having opened a little over a year ago, the restaurant is one of the establishments in the Adrià brothers’ elBarri restaurant empire. Born in South Africa, Roy travelled to Spain for the first time when he was 20 years old to visit a friend and ended up staying there. In the beginning, he worked at a variety of restaurants, which made him realise that the culinary arts are his true calling. He later studied in London, but  eventually returned to Spain. As the result of some fateful coincidences, Roy ended up working at the legendary El Bulli restaurant, where he met the Adrià brothers.

“At first, I worked at 41 Degrees, their first restaurant in Barcelona. Then I left them for awhile,  travelling and working in the most diverse countries and regions to gain experience, such as Scandinavia and Mexico. I returned specially for this project,” Roy says.

How would you describe living in Barcelona?

I’ve been here for about four years, working a lot. It’s busy, there’s always something to do. The good thing is that the city is small enough and you can get to know a lot of people. So, you feel comfortable here. At the same time, it’s big enough for you to do a lot of stuff. You can head off to the other end of town, where you haven’t been for a while, and you’ll always find something new. It’s not like in London, where you live in a certain area and might not even leave it because it’s so big. You can live in just one part of London and never see the rest of it.

Which are your current favourites among Barcelona’s restaurants?

There are a lot of restaurants in this city. Not all of them are good, but you can always find something new. Of course, as a chef, the most important thing for me is a place that I can go to on a Sunday or Monday, because those are our only days off. However, most of the best places are also closed on those days. So, we chefs often don’t have the opportunity to try all of the restaurants that we’d like to try. But I can name the following places as my current favourites:

Kak Koy (Carrer de Ripoll, 16) is new and small, and a great Japanese snack bar.

Suculent (Rambla del Raval, 43) is very good for Catalan food. It’s a small but innovative tapas bar in the Raval district.

Quimet & Quimet (Carrer del Poeta Cabanyes, 25) is a classic, a legend. It’s always fun to go there. It doesn’t change much. The only problem is that most of time it’s a bit full.

Disfrutar (Carrer de Villarroel, 163) is the place that everyone in Barcelona is talking about right now. They’ve got former El Bulli chefs working there, and it just got a Michelin star.

Do you think that there’s still room for another new restaurant in Barcelona? It seems that the city is already a paradise for gourmands.

Yes, I’ve thought about that a lot. Sometimes you really do feel that Barcelona’s gastronomy scene is oversaturated. But people still open new places. For example, chefs who have worked at Tickets, once they leave, they usually start their own restaurants. There’s always room for something new. I think there will always be room. Of course, you’ll find some foreigners among the guests at Hoja Santa, but the majority of our guests are locals who live in this same district. We have loyal clients who return every week, every month. People here eat out a lot, they spend more money at restaurants than they do in shops.

Which of Barcelona’s markets is the favourite among chefs?

La Boqueria. The sellers are like old acquaintances to us, and you can always see what’s new at the market. If it’s mushroom season, then you’ll find the biggest array of them at La Boqueria. To be honest, La Boqueria has changed a lot in the last four or five years. Its reputation as being Barcelona’s most legendary market has had its consequences. The food in the snack bars is a bit overpriced because you’re at La Boqueria. You’ll find food that’s just as good, but for half the price, at a snack bar on one of the small side streets just around the corner. I usually go to La Boqueria to shop, not to eat, and the atmosphere there is still great.

Which are your favourite places in Barcelona?

La Barceloneta. Just sitting on a terrace there by the beach. And El Raval as well. I lived there four years ago, when it was a bit more dangerous, but now it’s cleaned up a lot and you can walk through it safely at night. El Raval is the way El Born used to be. There are a lot of small independent shops and restaurants, tapas bars, etcetera.

What do you tell your friends to induce them to visit Barcelona?

I don’t think I have to sell the city; I think everyone already has an idea about Barcelona. Most people imagine it as a holiday town. And it does feel like that when you come here.

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