Cambrils, situated at the heart of the Costa Dorada, is the gastronomic capital of Catalonia. The seaside resort owes this recognition to its agricultural hinterland but also to its port, a veritable fishpond for local restaurateurs. Two restaurants have, moreover, been presented with a star by the Michelin guide.
The fishing port
Built in 1927, this is one of the most symbolic ports of the Mediterranean. With a fleet of 43 boats, it ranked 6th – in terms of quantity of fish caught – among Catalan ports in 2006, just behind Tarragona. The sailors use three techniques and abide by the European regulations, in place since 1st January 2003, to protect and preserve fish stocks. Its 17th century watchtower and its symbolic red lighthouse – with a magnificent view of the port – make for a fine walk, especially around 4pm, to watch the boats come in and the sailors unload their precious treasure, magnificent fresh fish. It is also a chance to see women repairing the nets by hand.
Since the sailors are not allowed to sell their catch to private individuals, you have to head up to the fishermen’s quarter to do your shopping, to Pau Casals street, a stone’s throw from the port, where all the town’s fishmongers are to be found. Sardine (Sardina), sole (Llenguado), hake (Lluç), squill (Galera), langoustine (Cigala), octopus (Pops) and squid are the fish and seafood most representative of the local catch.
The trawlers practise “dragging”. Equipped with a rear door, they drag the nets in the depths of the sea in order to gather fish. This type of fishing is allowed between 6am and 4pm from Monday to Friday. Trammel fishing, considered to be the most traditional type, consists of laying a net in the depths and retrieving it 24 hours later, leaving a new net. The purse seiners, for their part, use the light technique. Between 11pm and 9am, the boats go out in twos in the moonlight. A small boat diffuses light in order to frighten the fish, while the biggest boat spreads a net to catch them. Lastly, inshore boats for small-scale fishing, notably for octopuses, which are also subject to quotas.
Thanks to this extraordinary breeding ground, there is no shortage of specialities served in the town’s restaurants. The food is of exceptional freshness, with a Mediterranean flavour. You have to try the “Fideos Rossos”, a sort of vermicelli prepared like paella and served with seafood; “Suquets”, a fricassee of fish or seafood; and, of course, the grilled dishes, perhaps the best way to enjoy the freshness of these fish. And if you had to choose just one dish, it should be the “black rice” or Paella with cuttlefish ink. Exquisite.
Must-see places in the town
The Parc del Pescador is the first park built by the town to pay homage to its fishermen. With a surface area of 5,000m², situated next to the port and facing the beach, it is one of the busiest places.
Parc Sama, 2.5 miles from the town in the direction of Montbrio, is a magnificent botanical garden that simply has to be seen. Designed by a family nostalgic for Cuba, this park with exotic overtones and orderly lines offers a multitude of paths and spaces that open onto architectural elements. Really worth a look.
The Cambrils Agricultural Museum
It was an old disciple of Gaudi, born in Reus, 7.5 miles away, who fashioned the old modernist-style cooperative cellar, which now houses the Cambrils Agricultural Museum. Built in 1921, it produced wine until 1994 before being restored to house the museum. The current exhibition traces the evolution of peasantry, with particular emphasis on the production of wine and olive oil.
A few miles away
Neighbouring Priorat is a famous wine-producing region, but also a land of olive trees. The region benefits from a protected designation of origin, the Siurana PDO, which uses three varieties of olive for its production: Arbequina, Rojal, and Morruda. The Arbequina variety is in the majority (90%) because it is very much appreciated for its low level of acidity.
Visit the “El Moli d’Oli” shop located in the heart of the village of Scala Dei. In an old mill – still equipped with its millstone and decanting tanks once used for the production of oil – you will find traditionally-made products (biscuits, jams, confits, etc), a selection of oil, of course, and the first vintage of the couple who own it. Based in Cabàcés, a village mainly devoted to oil cultivation, they have just pressed their first harvest: 3,000 bottles, of which they are proud.
The couple can introduce you to the art of tasting. Similar to wine tasting, it is done in small blue glasses that are opaque and slightly wide-mouthed. First you have to warm the oil up in the hollow of your hands, aerate it by turning it in the glass, then smell it in order to detect its various aromas. Lastly comes the time for tasting when the smooth nectar expresses itself on your taste buds before offering a spicy, piquant finish – the mark of an excellent oil.
It’s difficult to visit the Priorat region without tasting its wines. Just over a mile above the village of Scala Dei is the ultra modern cellar of BUIL&GINE. Designed to be visited, the building stands opposite the Hermitage of “Consolacion” and overlooks the valley. This cellar, which opened in 2005, vinifies the Monsant and Priorat appellations. A chance to taste these two wines and discover two neighbouring terroirs.
PLERET 2004 DOQ PRIORAT offers notes of red fruit, power and freshness on the palate; it is a wine for keeping that will express the best of its potential in 4 to 5 years’ time.
BABOIX 2004 DO MONSANT
The Monsant appellation has a more timid, still rather closed nose; as for the palate, although it is smoother, it nonetheless lacks roundness.
5 miles away, the Hotel Termes Montbrio spa resort. A superb place to enjoy the tranquillity and comfort of the hotel, which offers the opportunity to get back on form with an “aquatonic” circuit.
Carrer Nou, 38 – 43380 MONTBRIO DEL CAMP
The town has a wide range of accommodation: camp sites, inns, boarding houses, hotels. The Tourist Office will guide you in your choice.
Passeig de les Palmeres, 1 – 43850 CAMBRILS
EL RINCON DE DIEGO, one Michelin star since 2006
Carrer Drassanes, 7 - CAMBRILS
CAN BOSH, one Michelin star for 22 years – a must
Rambla Jaume 1, 19 – CAMBRILS
Joan GATELL, balanced, tasty cuisine consisting of seafood specialities.
Passeig Miramar, 26 – CAMBRILS (Port)
MOLI DE L’OLI
Plaça Priorat, 1 – SCALA DEI
Carretera de Gratallops, La Vilella Baixa, 7 miles – 43737 GRATALLOPS