Traditional Catalan Cuisine: Pont Vell Restaurant in Besalu, Spain
If your travels take you to the Catalonia (Cataluyna) region of Spain, consider a stop in the charming village of Besalu. Here you will find an interesting array of history, including a Jewish Quarter and a 12th Century Romanesque Bridge.
Situated right at the base of the bridge, you will find Pont Vell Restaurant. You’ll be hard pressed to find a better view and the food is traditional Catalan cuisine.
Pont Vell opened in 1981 in an 18th century building next to the bridge that crosses the river Fluvia. Owners Artur and Nuria have perfected dishes that are certainly on par with the superb location.
We were invited guests to Pont Vell, along with a private group of other bloggers. Two other bloggers, Kate (Adventurous Kate) and Michael (Go, See, Write) had eaten there previously and absolutely raved about the food. Pont Vell rolled out the culinary red carpet for us. We ended up sampling a host of their specialties, and the owners were more than gracious with us as cameras flew around the tables documenting every plate that came out.
The evening kicked off with a host of starters including Escalibada, which was eggplant, onion, and red peppers all roasted on a grill. We also had fresh onions and tomatoes from their own garden.
Other appetizers included my personal favorite – the homemade pate — and we had a plate of beautifully prepared green asparagus with a Romesco sauce.
The evening’s star of the show was definitely the fideua. It’s very much like a paella, but made with noodles. We always called them fideo noodles growing up in Southern California. They are often used in a Mexican soup I ate a lot as a child “sopa de fideo”, basically a tomato noodle soup.
We had the clam fideua, which could’ve probably fed the entire village of Besalu. The presentation was impressive and the taste was even better. Fideua is available on the regular menu for two or more people. They also have a black one, assuming made with squid ink that would be interesting to try.
If the fideua was not enough, they served two additional main courses – leg of lamb and sweet and sour rabbit. I’ve read numerous mentions of the sweet and sour rabbit as a Pont Vell house specialty.
One note about Pont Vell and cuisine from this region – you are likely to find a lot of game meat and fowl. Guinea hens, pigeons, rabbit, and other hearty meats are used in a number of dishes. Don’t be dissuaded if you are not a fan of the stronger flavor meats. Personally, I do not typically order deer, rabbit, or pigeon, but I’ve found the sauces and accompaniments often tone down the “gamey” flavor, creating an enjoyable dish.
Surprisingly, we managed to find a little room left and sampled some dessert – the brownie with strawberries, raspberries, and kumquat.
C/Pont Vell 24
17850 Besalu (Girona)
Phone: (+34) 972 59 10 27
Hours: Lunch 1pm – 3:30pm, Dinner: 8:30 p.m. – 10:30 p.m.
Closed Sunday and Monday nights, and all day Tuesday. Also closed from 20th of December to 20th of January and the first week in July. However, after that, they are open Sunday nights in the summer months of July and August.