Rafa's | Seafood restaurant | Roses | Spain

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Rafa's HeartHeartHeart
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Reviewed By

Sue Dyson and Roger McShane
Address: Roses
Country: Spain

Rafa's is simply one of the best seafood restaurants in the world. Some that we have visited have been more upmarket such as Le Bernardin in New York or Restaurant de Bacon near Nice or Le Petit Nice in Marseilles or GW Fins in New Orleans but this place does everything in a pared back manner that we love. There is no artifice. There is no showmanship. There is just great, fresh seafood cooked with absolute skill.

We had been to Roses in Northern Spain before on our way to the famous El Bulli restaurant which was nearby. The town seemed like the normal crowded-with-tourists seaside resort that usually offers little to those seeking interesting food experiences.

On a recent visit, however, we were staying in nearby Cadaques and had the time to drive over to Roses and visit Rafa's - a restaurant that we had heard a lot of good things about.

When we walked in promptly at noon we were the only people there. The owner looked dubious (we probably looked like tourists) and said "We only do seafood!". We assured him that was the reason we were here and he seemed to relax a little.

And, as we were to discover, they cook seafood extremely well and more importantly they clearly source the finest and freshest fish available.

We sat at an outside table in a street with lots of dubious cafes and even more dubious souvenir shops, but soon forgot all about it as a bottle of Arcan 2010, a naturally-fermented, organic Albarino from the Rias Baixas region in Western Spain arrived at the table and the first of the succession of dishes we were about to enjoy was placed before us (no menu, no discussion, just feed us).

A plate of very fresh clams which had been placed on the grill until they just opened were served simply with half a lemon. Each clam was a perfectly fresh, flavoursome example of the best that seafood can offer.

Next up we were served a plate of cured anchovies bathed in a pool of the best quality oil. We normally avoid canned products but there are always exceptions to every rule and high quality cured anchovies is one of those exceptions. These were stunning and needed no accompaniment.

They disappeared very quickly!

Once the anchovies were cleaned up some tiny, tiny grilled squid appeared on the table. These were a symphony of freshness matched with perfect grilling! Tiny squid cooked for a few seconds to retain the freshness and vibrancy and that lingering squid taste. Absolutely perfect, skilful cooking!

Next up we were served a dish of prawns, which is a great treat for people from Tasmania where we never eat prawns locally as they have been brought in from other places and have usually been frozen or, if not, have been in the supply chain for many days. They were served with no garnish, but they needed nothing, they were perfect!

Next was grilled John Dory. This didn't look elegant as you can see from the photo below. However the tight flesh, so typical of John Dory, peeled away from the bones perfectly showing that it had been cooked to within a second of perfection! The dense protein was flavoursome and succulent.

And now to the final protein dish of the local Mediterranean red mullet. This is one of the gems of this extensive sea. We can still vividly remember eating a related species at a far corner of this sea in the town of Kavala in northern Greece almost thirty years ago. It was cooked over charcoal on the local beach!

And this version was as good. It was just cooked, almost translucent and packed with the flavour you expect of a great, underrated fish such as mullet.

To finish, we enjoyed a house-made pie with pine nuts called (we think) Pastel Cabello de Angel.

Would we return to Rafa's. Absolutely! In fact it is a restaurant that we would make a journey to revisit. It ticks all the boxes. Absolutely fresh produce. Skilful cooking. Simplicity. No baggage. Caring service. What more could you ask for?


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