Modern Mediterranean Dishes in a Secret Garden Setting
Average bill p.p: €45 - €55 (inc. drinks)
Nearest metro: Sarría / Les Tres Torres
Carrer del Milanesat, 19
00 34 932 03 06 58
Go for: The stunning garden terrace | Pear tortellini | Rack of lamb with honeyed, confit garlic | Passion fruit chocolate mousse cup
Good for: Something special | Romantic dates | Friday nights with friends | Leisurely lunches | Take the Parents
Need to know: Day | Night | Drinks | Terrace | Takes Reservations | Special Diets Friendly | Menu del Dia | Fixed Price Thursday & Friday night menu
A Contraluz smells of summer holidays. A wafting mix of honeysuckle and pine. Mmmm.
Possibly for this reason, I feel myself relax from the moment I walk in, breezing up the lantern-lined walkway to the secret garden restaurant within.
The setting is utterly magical. Sunlight glints through the tangled branches and swathes of bougainvillea that cover an array of low slung benches and patio chairs, cushions strewn around luxuriously. There’s the bohemian feel of Southern France, with beautiful crockery displayed in rustic open shelving, cool, mismatched artwork and a colourful fabric ceiling (hand painted by the owner herself). A solitary spider even dangles amid the diners from above.
It’s the kind of place that screams Proposal. I’m shocked that people around us are able to restrain themselves from involuntarily dropping to one knee. (If my lunch-date Jessie wasn’t already a married woman, who knows how things could have turned out…
The menu sits just on the right side of trendy – a quinoa risotto here, a citric emulsion there, but nothing too faddy or intimidating enough to scare away any non-foodies. There’s something for everyone, made clear through our diverse mix of fellow diners: a young couple munching on burgers, pairs of wildly gesticulating women in wrap dresses, plus a few bulging bellies on a jovial business lunch.
(Different in circumstance maybe, but all sharing the commonality of being good looking and well dressed. But then again, this is Sarría.)
I know we’re in for a winner when our waiter arrives to pour and pre-salt our olive oil, in expectation of some serious bread dippage.
It’s this kind of attention to detail that makes this place stand out.
Especially as we all know that the complimentary bread is the best part of any meal…
And then it’s time for the feast, and oh my, if I’d eaten like this on my summer holidays I may never have returned home. Choosing highlights feels a bit like choosing a favourite child. Argh!
Top marks go to the veggie antipasti for its’ slippery bed of smokey babaganoush and sprinkling of REAL basil (the gorgeous, pungent kind, the tang of which stays with you rather than instantly fading) and the monkfish for it's crunchy cornflake coating.
The ceviche’s worth mentioning for its’ colour palette alone, while the rack of lamb’s accompanying honeyed, confit garlic is the sweet, oozy stuff of a garlic-lover’s dream.
But it’s the pear tortellini that we both get emotional over – both for its’ textural titillation of giant, crunchy sage leaves and crumbly wedges of parmesan and for the fact that it doesn’t look super refined - more like Mama just rolled it.
As for the puddings…the passion fruit chocolate mousse cup is the perfect summer night round off. The kind of dish where your spoon goes into autopilot and suddenly you find yourself wiping the plate clean. Whoops.
Acontraluz is the least intimidating ‘nice’ restaurant I’ve ever eaten at. From the laid back and lovely staff to the décor and of course the dishes, nothing is overbearing, nothing is pretentious. The food is classic yet current, without feeling the need to prove too much and gives you the sensation of eating something indulgent, but without the resulting heaviness.
Just make sure someone’s already put a ring on it before you eat here, otherwise you may leave with more than you bargained for. END
Photography by Jessie Ann James www.jessieannjames.com
The garden is covered and heated in the winter, designed to function year round
There is also the option of indoor seating within a capacious, converted barn like space. There are huge, lovely round tables and high ceilings - modern elegance personified.
Weekdays there is a €25 menu del dia (3 courses)
Thursdays and Friday evenings there's live music and a choice of an €18 (2 courses) or €22 (3 courses) menu