It all started with a trip to Shanghai, China for an immersion for the hotel group I work in. I was new with the Hotel101 Group, and my GM back then, Lei Apostol, who is now the VP for Customer Service Operations of Cebu Pacific, told me and my GM now, Gel Gomez, that we were to have a trip to China to see Jin Jiang Hotels, where we got the master franchise of Jinjiang Inn in the Philippines.
The trip went on smoothly and we instantly clicked. That trip became, I would say, the litmus test and the start of our once-a-year adventure to new places around the world.
In 2016, we went to Maldives, and the next year to Italy and Greece. In 2019, we did a road trip across Europe into Czech Republic, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and Austria. And just as everything opened up last year, our revenge travel destination was decided to be in Spain.
Spain, being one of the ultimate foodie destinations, and the birthplace of paella and jamon serrano, among others, tickled the foodie in us all. Not to mention all the other things Spain is famous for – Picasso, Gaudi and La Sagrada Familia, its Mediterranean beaches, countryside vineyards and wine, and its UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
As with any other destination we go to, we often pick a restaurant to splurge on and enjoy.
WE MAKE it a point to research about the food and the best places to eat in the destination we travel to — whether it be the oldest restaurant, or the most awarded one (anything that has been mentioned in top-list in media, or part of the World’s Best, or Michelin-starred). Spain, apparently has the 5th most Michelin Star restaurants, next to France, Japan, Italy and Germany.
Michelin stars are awarded to a restaurant which Michelin (yes, the tire company) considers the very best in a given city. It is also considered a hallmark of fine dining by many of the world’s top chefs and restaurant patrons, and recipients gain immense prestige and exposure along with this honor.
One Star means that the restaurant is considered “very good in its category” having a quality menu and prepares cuisine to a consistently high standard.
Two Stars mean the restaurant has excellent cuisine delivered in a unique way and has something exceptional to offer — it’s “worth a detour” to visit while traveling.
While, Three Stars mean the restaurant has exceptional cuisine and thus “worth a special journey” just to visit. Rather than being a stop on the way to a destination, this restaurant is the destination itself. This restaurant serves distinct dishes that are executed to perfection.
NEXT to Alain Ducasse, who holds the record with most Michelin stars as of date (20 Michelin stars across his restaurants), Martin Berasategui comes second with 12 Michelin stars, and one of the two three-Michelin-starred restaurants of his is Lasarte in Barcelona.
That was it. It was decided that we would try Lasarte! In all honesty, it was my first time in my life to dine in a three-Michelin-starred restaurant, and this was also true with all of my companions.
We have been eating our way through Spain – from the birthplace of Paella in Valencia, to the Mercados in Madrid, a wine tour in Bodegas de los Herederos del Marqués de Riscal, to the oldest restaurants – we tried them all.
Lasarte by Martin Berasategui was the cherry on top of our whole trip to Spain, aptly so during the last leg in Barcelona.
THE first thing you might wonder and ask is how much would it cost for you to be able to enjoy a meal at a Three Michelin Star restaurant.
The menu was a choice between the six-course Lunch Menu at EUR190 or a little more than Php11,000 or the 12-course Full Tasting Menu at EUR305, or roughly Php18,000.
We chose the former.
Lasarte promises that “our main purpose is to create an unforgettable gastronomic experience…comme il faut,” and this is exactly what they gave us.
The food was a given, as it left us speechless. Every dish was great – it had a variety of flavors with the freshest ingredients used, and the culinary techniques displayed on the plate. The bottled olive oil specially made for Lasarte and their homemade breads and butters were some of the piece de resistance.
But it was also beyond the food, or the carefully curated wine list.
FROM the moment you walk in the door, to the way we were assisted to our table, to how the water was poured in our glasses, to how the chef prepared the dishes, up until dessert and even as we left the restaurant, it was all carefully orchestrated and masterfully executed. “It was a wow experience every step of the way,” says my GM Ms. Gel.
The whole experience was exceptional, and something you need to experience at least once in your life.
We are all no strangers to five star hotels, as we have worked in or have experienced service in five star hotels in the Philippines or abroad, but being a awarded the Three Stars certainly puts a stamp that the restaurant goes above and beyond and gives you a whole new experience in terms of service and product quality.
Lei’s daughter Audrey, who recently just graduated from college, found the experience to be very nice. “Having the pleasure of tasting the food in this renowned restaurant was truly an experience of a lifetime, and the perfect way to conclude the trip to Spain.” And I concur.
BARCELONA, and I dare say Spain as a country, is a culinary destination with a lot of unique and beautiful experiences brought about by its rich culture and heritage, and I would say passion.
However, it doesn’t mean that you cannot discover a stellar restaurant or an out of this world degustation or a meal that will change your life in a restaurant outside of being awarded a Michelin recognition.
Because, indeed you can. And because, that was exactly what we did and experienced in the whole road trip, I mean food trip, around Spain – from Valencia, Granada, Seville, Madrid and finally Barcelona.
Food is ultimately an experience — and so whether you dine in a Michelin restaurant, or a food stall in the market, it is absolutely your personal connection, your palette, your understanding, and what you make of it that’s what’s going to set it apart from any other.
Above it all, as with any experience, it is best shared with your family, friends or loved ones.
Where to next, guys?
Brian K. Ong. CGSP is the Head of Public Relations of the Hotel101 Group.