View down table of all gold, main dining room, Les Cols, Catalonia

Les Cols Restaurant in Olot: paradise in Girona

Where do I start with Les Cols? First, the name of this two Michelin-starred restaurant in the foothills of the Girona Pyrenees translates from Catalan as the ‘cabbage heads’.

For me, Les Cols is paradise. It blends the natural world of trees and birds, with open skies, award-winning design, aesthetic beauty and, of course, a world-level gastronomic experience.

Housed in a 15th-century family masia, or country house, on the edge of the town of Olot, Les Cols is in the Garrotxa Volcanic Nature Park, en route to the ski slopes of the Catalan Pyrenees.

The masia has been renovated and extended, and the grounds are full of apple orchards and protected by mature oaks and acacia trees.

The produce comes from the restaurant’s own vegetable garden in the nearby Vall de Bianya, a remote, wooded valley set among the hills.

4 things about Fina Puigdevall

Les Cols is where Fina Puigdevall, the owner and chef at Les Cols was born. I took her picture in the Envelat, an outside marquee, a space bathed in light and designed to be like a wood with “trunks, branches, leaves and clearings”, writes RCR Arquitectes, whose founders went to school with Fina.

FIna Puigdevall, Chef & Owner, Les Cols, Catalonia
Fina in the Envelat, the marque, designed as a “filter to capture nature”

  • Puigdevall translates from Catalan as ‘hill of the valley‘; exceedingly appropriate given that Fina, when not in the family masia, lives in Casa Horitzó, a striking, modern house in the Vall de Bianya, overlooking the restaurant’s vegetable garden and R&D centre.
  • She speaks to apples. Not any old apple… apples whose varieties are (almost) as old and as local as the hills of the Garrotxa. I found this out from watching the beautiful short film on Les Cols by Spanish film director Isabel Coixet, a friend of Fina’s.
  • Her grandmother went to school with Salvador Dalí, who was born in nearby Figueres (see my visit in 2015), home to the Dalí Theatre & Museum.
  • My favourite quote from Fina is “I try to establish the relationship between each moment and the beauty, and to live intensely every minute”.

4 things about Les Cols

  • Les Cols is a pleasant 45-minute drive from the city of Girona and its international airport.
  • You can stay in one of the five pavilions at Les Cols Pavellons, each with a heated onsen, private bathroom and a comfortable futon, and all-glass walls that no one can see through. No TV.  Pure contemplation, watching the sunlight – or the stars – shine through the trees.
  • The symbol of Les Cols is buckwheat – the Garrotxa is the only place in Catalonia where buckwheat grows. In September, a carpet of white buckwheat flowers – humming with insects – spread across the field behind Fina’s house in the Vall de Bianya.
  • The book Anima by Les Cols Restaurant is the best ‘food’ book I’ve ever held in my hands. The text is in Catalan, Spanish and English.

4 things about the menu

  • The cuisine favours the “rural landscape and the seasonality“. I opted for the ‘Summer & NatureTasting Menu. There’s also the vegetarian ‘Garden & Henhouse’ Tasting Menu.
  • The menu itself is pure poetry, while the experience is accompanied to music selected by a local music teacher and friend of Fina’s – I picked out the dulcet tones of the mediaeval music for which Catalonia is so famous.
  • The dining room overlooks the orchard, where hens scratch, peck and strut – as calming as watching flowing water.

Les Cols in pictures

Apricot & radish canapé, aperitif, Les Cols, Catalonia
Apricot & Radish Canapé. My first bite of food from the Summer & Nature Tasting Menu, served on the terrace of the masia with a glass of  house cava… Cava Natura Les Cols Mont-Ferrant, made by Catalonia’s oldest producer of cava, founded by Agustí Vilaret, who made his money in South America. 
Aperitif, Les Cols, Catalonia
Then came the above… served on a locally made plate, resembling the volcanic nature of the Garrotxa region.
The terrace for the aperitif, Les Cols, Catalonia
The terrace, with garden designed by Fina’s father.
Carbon bean tempura served with romesco sauce, Les Cols, Catalonia
Carbon Bean Tempura served with Romesco (a sauce of red pepper, garlic & almonds) in the kitchen with a glass of local Poch’s beer.
Black and white view of the kitchen, Les Cols, Catalonia
The kitchen at Les Cols.
Buckwheat spaghetti into a smoked broth, Les Cols, Catalonia
Buckwheat Spaghetti into a Smoked Broth. Buckwheat, or fajol in Catalan, is a symbol of Les Cols and of the Garrotxa region – a staple for many centuries, which has largely been forgotten.
Menu, Les Cols, Catalonia
The Summer & Nature (Estiu i Natura) Tasting Menu, with words that create a story for each dish.
Leaves, herbs & flowers, Les Cols, Catalonia
Leaves, Herbs & Flowers – from the vegetable garden in the valley.
Dishes of olive oil, salt & bread, Les Cols, Catalonia
Olive oil, bread, salt – the basics of life.
Tin of the Garrotxa caviar, white beans from Santa Pau, Les Cols, Catalonia
Garrotxa caviar – white beans from Santa Pau, a few minutes’ drive southeast of Olot, and a speciality of the region.
Frozen Cottage Cheese (made with sheep’s milk), Anchovy & Basil… from the Ripollès sheep next to the vegetable garden.

Wine pause at Les Cols

First I had a glass of Ekam by Castell d’Encus, at 1,000 metres in the Pyrenees. The wine is a Riesling with a touch of Albariño with noble rot, the fungi beloved by winemakers looking for more intense flavour.

Glass of Ekam white wine, Les Cols, Catalonia

I then went on to a glass of SantBru 2015, from the Monsant Denominació d’Origen, just south of its more famous neighbour, Priorat. A blend of Syrah, Cariñena and Garnacha Tinta.

Label of Santbru wine, Les Cols, Catalonia

Back to the menu

Summer truffle royale and maize dish, Les Cols, Catalonia
Summer Truffle Royale (left) and Corn Royale (right).
Fresh eggs and bread dish, Les Cols, Catalonia
Fresh Egg in Different Colours (potato, green bean, carrot, red pepper) and Fresh Egg with Chanterelles & Stew Sauce
Trout, jabugo ham consommé, Les Cols, Catalonia
Trout & Jabugo ham consommé. Jabugo ham is from the Andalusian town of Jabugo.
Tomato with sheep's cheese, Les Cols, Catalonia
Tomato from Our Garden with Sheep’s Cheese – described in the menu as “best right now” and it certainly was.
White plate with salt cod, loin, brandade, cod gut, kokotxas, Les Cols, Catalonia
Salt Cod Loin (fattest part of the fillet), Brandade (a creamy mix of poached salt cod and olive oil), Cod Gut, kokotxas – from left to right. When I ate them, I did not realise that kokotxas were cod throats – they were good.
Duroc breed pork rib, peach, mint, with knife and fork, Les Cols, Catalonia
Duroc Breed Pork Rib with Peach & Mint. Sometimes things are just too good and I forget to take a photo… until after I have tucked in.
Plate of local cheeses, Les Cols, Catalonia
Catalan cheeses with jams – my favourite was the tomato jam.
Glass of ratafia with watermelon & vodka
Glass of ratafia – a local drink infused with herbs – with Watermelon & Vodka
Blackberries from the forest with ice cream, Les Cols, Catalonia
Blackberries from the Forest with Ice Cream.  This dish was introduced as ‘collected in nature’.
Hens in orchard, view from restaurant, Les Cols, Catalonia
The view from my seat in the restaurant.
Summer volcanic landscape on black plate, Les Cols, Catalonia
Summer Volcanic Landscape – ‘inspired by the nature that surrounds us’.
5 pastries along a trunk of silver birch, Les Cols, Catalonia
The pastry finale, served on a trunk of silver birch
The farmhouse, Les Cols, Catalonia
The masia or country house – with the terrace where I had my glass of cava under the arches.
The exterior of the marquee at Les Cols Restaurant, designed by RCR Arquitectes
After lunch we walked over to the Envelat (the marquee at Les Cols Restaurant), also designed by RCR Arquitectes.
Old stone wall inside the marquee at Les Cols, Catalonia
Old stone wall inside the Envelat of Les Cols

The finale at Les Cols

It was the perfect day. Life slowed down, allowing time to feel, savour, look and listen. I had wanted to travel to Girona to eat at Les Cols, and my experience outpaced my expectations.

The Tasting Menu at Les Cols is €95 including VAT and excluding wine pairings. UPDATE 2023: The Tasting Menu is now €165, but still worth every euro.

My visit was as a guest of the Tourist Board of the Costa Brava and the Girona Pyrenees. I was introduced to the tourist board by Mrs O Around The World.  Thank you to everyone.

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