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
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
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
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,
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
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?