Glass and iron container suspended over a river showcases the best Catalan cuisine in Girona
A new and surprising temporary restaurant, named El Vol Espai Gastronòmic, has opened in Girona, in north-eastern Catalonia, to host some of the best Catalan chefs, such as Joan Roca, whose establishment was named the world's best restaurant in 2013. El Vol is partly suspended over the Onyar River and is a glass and iron structure, transparent and white, which is 20 meters long, weighs 28 tons and is situated in Girona's historic neighbourhood. After just 10 days running, and despite the fact that it only serves lunch and dinner to small groups of 18 customers, it already has 1,100 reservations and some 20 top chefs confirmed to be working there for a few days each during the next year. The new venue is expected to showcase the best of Girona's cuisine and has already sparked much international interest amongst journalists, culinary experts and tour operators from all over the world.
Girona (ACN). – A new and surprising temporary restaurant, named El Vol Espai Gastronòmic, has opened in Girona, in north-eastern Catalonia, to host some of the best Catalan chefs, such as Joan Roca, whose establishment was named the world's best restaurant in 2013. El Vol is partly suspended over the Onyar River and it is a glass and iron structure, transparent and white, which is 20 meters long, weighs 28 tons and is situated in Girona's historic neighbourhood. After just 10 days running, and despite the fact that this private initiative only serves lunch and dinner to small groups of 18 customers, it already has 1,100 reservations and some 20 top chefs confirmed to be working there for a few days each during the next year. The manager of El Vol, Enric Sucarrats, stated before the venue's official opening that the restaurant will be the "new showcase of Girona's cuisine". Indeed, it has already sparked much international interest amongst journalists, culinary experts and tour operators from China, Japan, Russia and North America. The plan is that after approximately one year the installation will travel to other European cities in order to promote Catalan cuisine.
The rectangular white and transparent structure of glass and iron was set up in late July in the heart of Girona's Barri Vell, next to a stone bridge which crosses the Onyar River. The venue has been installed partly suspended over the water, based obliquely on the walkway with its balcony stretching across the river.
Inside El Vol there is a long table with room for eighteen people to dine, as well as a space for on-site cooking. This ´Dining Space´, which opened on the 30th of August, offers lunch, dinner and cooking demonstrations to small groups of people.
The initial plans indicate that El Vol will run for one year and aims to raise awareness of contemporary Catalan cuisine, with an emphasis on the gastronomy from Girona and its surrounding areas. The manager of El Vol, Enric Sucarrats, has explained that there are already 20 confirmed chefs who will contribute their individual culinary skills to the new restaurant, working on specific days in its facilities for a select group of 18 customers. Each customer will pay a fixed rate of €65 per person for a menu that each chef has designed especially for the occasion and will cook in front of the customers.
Reactions to the restaurant
After 10 days running, El Vol has already taken 1,100 bookings and is stirring up curiosity on an international level as journalists, tour operators and culinary experts from "around the world" are making reservations to dine there, said Sucarrats. Customers from Japan, China, Russia, Germany, North America and South America, amongst other regions, will visit Girona to experience dining at the temporary restaurant.
However, reactions to the new project have not been exclusively positive. Some local opposition groups have criticised the restaurant for being too elitist as it only caters for 18 people at a time. In response to this Sucarrats has explained that, as well as the restaurant, he wants the space to be used for a range of projects related to Girona's cuisine, specifically those projects which can use food to raise money for charity. For example, one of the world's most famous chefs, Joan Roca, will work at El Vol in order to generate funds for the local food bank. Roca is the main chef of the Girona-based El Celler de Can Roca, which was awarded the world's best restaurant in 2013 by London-based magazine 'Restaurant', and came second place in 2011, 2012 and 2014.
The Mayor of Girona, Carles Puigdemont, commented that El Vol is an opportunity to further enhance the profile of the city as an important culinary destination. He expects that "the numbers" of visitors coming to Girona to dine at the restaurant will support the city's tourism industry and help to place it on the list of "fashionable" tourist destinations.
A complicated construction
Creating El Vol has not been a simple task. El Vol Espai Gastronòmic weighs 28 tons and is 20 meters long, twelve of which fix the structure to the road whilst the remaining eight are suspended above Girona's River Onyar. With this ambitious architecture it is not surprising that constructing the restaurant has been a complex operation, as every millimetre has been crucial to ensure the rectangular structure stays in place. The construction was assembled outside the city and was transported with a trailer and placed on its final spot with a crane. Two days before the restaurant's opening, "the finishing touches" were still being applied to the temporary building.
A private company from Girona, IXCE, designed the unique construction. Its rectangular shape was inspired by the city's Iron Bridge, which was designed by the same man who built Paris' Eiffel Tower, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, El Vol's walls are made entirely from glass to ensure a permanent view of the surrounding area. This is especially important for the part of the restaurant suspended over the river which overlooks the picturesque houses along the Onyar.
The construction of El Vol took place in Girona's nearby town Fornells de la Selva and involved engineers, technicians and various local companies. The restaurant was built in three months and some technical difficulties delayed the opening by a few days.
The project – which is a private initiative with an initial investment of €400,000 – is intended to be a platform for the promotion of traditional Catalan cuisine. There will not be any fixed chefs working at the restaurant, rather the most famous chefs from the region will visit El Vol to cook dishes in front of the customers which are inspired by Girona's culinary tradition and local products. The diners will share a table and participate in a phenomenon known as ´show cooking´; where the kitchen is in view of the customers, who can watch their dishes being prepared.