Story and photos by Manos Angelakis
Els Tallers: A Culinary Hidden Gem in Catalonia
Spain’s Catalonia has a very high concentration of Michelin-starred restaurants. However, even small, local restaurants, tascas and rural retreats create delicious food that do not need Michelin stars to be mouthwatering.
Tiny, isolated on top of Triassic limestone cliffs that fall straight down to the river below, the picturesque medieval mountain town of Siurana has now only 32 permanent residents and La Siuranella, an eight-room boutique hotel with a spectacular restaurant and pool. To those staying in the hotel it includes breakfast in the room rate. The restaurant, El Tallers, is reasonably priced, offering an exceptional sampling of the cuisine of Tarragon with a contemporary twist and is well worth a visit.
The kingdom of Siurana and its impenetrable fortress was the legendary residence of the last Moorish King of Spain and the last Moorish stronghold in Catalonia. The view from the terrace on top of the cliff is spectacularly stunning!
Per the ViaMichelin guide, this restaurant is worth the drive if you are anywhere in Priorat and I concur. I would personally say it is worth the drive if you are anywhere in Catalonia.
Depending on the season and local produce availability, menus change practically daily. It does not mean that some more exotic creations using ingredients non-native to Catalonia are not available.
According to the owners, “No one, however much of a regular they may be, will have eaten the same dish twice, unless that particular dish is specifically requested.”
During one of my Catalan trips we dined there one evening trying the Creative menu with paired wines and, I will admit, I was smitten!
The amuse-bouche was cold steamed octopus with a garlic-citrus aioli. Octopus is a favorite of mine and I enjoy this seafood, whenever it is served.
Then came green olives stuffed with aspic, a rather unusual preparation for something as mundane as pickled green olives.
The next dish was also very creative and rather unusual; flan of foie gras topped by sautéed slivers of pineapple and glazed almond slices in a curry and citrus sauce.
I love fish and seafood, so anytime a fish dish shows up as a course, such as Els Taller’s version of a ceviche, with salmon and king prawn slices with cucumber and yogurt, topped with salmon roe and cilantro, bathed in an olive oil and lemon sauce, I’m very happy.
An alternate offering was a tuna tartare over a base of avocado paste. Scrumptious.
I was even happier when the next course, monkfish in a cauliflower creamy sauce and black olives, was presented.
But then came the picture perfect pièce de résistance. After clearing the dishes, the waitress appeared with a large piece of white plastic that was laid on the table. The pâtissier came and using the plastic as a canvas, created a beautifully abstract edible creation in front of our very eyes.
Have you ever seen an inspired painter work? I have, and the work of the pâtissier was indeed as beautiful as any abstract painting I have seen created live. Let’s not forget that Joan Miró and Salvador Dali were both celebrated Catalan surrealists.
Most of the restaurant’s wines are sourced from the regional denominations of Montsant and Priorat. Our Mas Collet Blanc was a blend of Garnacha Blanca and Macabeo from Monsant. It paired beautifully with the fish and seafood, as it is lightly aromatic with medium/high acidity. The red, a well aged Lluna Vella, a world-class wine from the Priorat D.O was 100 percent Garnacha Tinta. Both are available in the United States, and are well-priced, the red averaging under $25 retail and the white under $20.
Els Tallers Restaurant
C. Rentadors, s/n Siurena
Comudella de Montsant (Tarragona)
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