Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas
Why go? Set behind a façade that could be the front of any common or garden tapas joint in Barcelona lies one of the world’s most experiential restaurants. A skinny entranceway wheels directly past the kitchen to reveal the cavernous main restaurant space, where excited chatter and a vast array of crockery and table-side service instruments fill the room. Stepping into the dining room is the first indication that everything will not always be as it seems across the course of a four-hour meal at Disfrutar.
The genesis: Chefs Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch and Mateu Casañas launched Disfrutar with a clear identity – to create food that surprises and delights in equal measure, using modern technique and pristine ingredients that challenge traditional preconceptions of fine dining. The trio met working at Best of the Best restaurant El Bulli between 1996 and 1998 and, after the legendary restaurant shuttered in 2011, they joined forces to progress their creativity and push boundaries in food.
On the menu: The Disfrutar menu changes a couple of times a year, although with each iteration come new, innovative courses that are at the forefront of global gastronomic thinking. Proceedings may begin with the ‘Panchino’, a contender for the most decadent dish in the world, where a doughnut is filled to the gunnels with caviar and cream cheese. The surprises then come thick and fast, with a frozen gazpacho ice cream sandwich scented with vinegar followed by a modernist multispherical pesto with pistachios and eel. Savoury courses conclude with Fear: The Prawn, where a pool of dry ice is presented to the diner, who must blindly fish into the vapour with bare hands to hunt and retrieve perfectly cooked crustacea.
Gallery or dining room? The stunning whitewashed space in the Eixample district of Barcelona has double-height vaulted ceilings with full-length glass running along one side of the restaurant’s walls. It could easily masquerade as the perfect backdrop for modern art, as indeed it does for some of the world’s most modish dishes emerging from the kitchen.
Trophy cabinet: Since opening Disfrutar in 2014, Castro, Xatruch and Casañas have conducted an all-out assault on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, blasting in at No.18 in 2018 and winning the Highest New Entry Award. Since, it has been a steady climb to the summit of the list – in 2023 Disfrutar takes a record-high No.2 position and its first crown for The Best Restaurant in Europe.