There’s no place like home; or like Plaça del Rei, to be precise. In the 80s and 90s, Ramon Martí trained himself with some of the best French and German Michelin-Star-awarded chefs. In the late 90s, he came back to his birth city, Barcelona, and is nowadays making use of all this experience with his partner, Astrid, in his own establishment located in Tarragona’s Part Alta neighbourhood. The taverna El Llagut, which is part of the Slow Food – Km 0 movement, has become one of the best well-known places in the city for a proper rice dish, and delights customers with traditional food jewels using daily-caught fish. This is one of the restaurants that has made it possible for local gastronomy to go one step further in the last years.
“Tarragona is ready for a Michelin star. There are a lot of great people in the right direction, who really makes an effort everyday in order to improve, and an award such as this one would make it better for everyone. This city needs to be finally seen as a gastronomy destination”, says Ramon who, after being trained as a tourist and restaurant industry expert in the 80s, worked for some years with Jean Louis Neichel (2 Michelin stars) in Barcelona, and Jean Claude Bourgueil (3 Michelin stars) in Düsseldorf. Being involved in cuisine projects such asTarraco a Taula, or the activities organised by Tarragona Gastronòmica, Ramon is convinced that one gets high-quality abilities when working with excellence.
This added value can be found by means of innovation, as carried out by an increasing number of restaurants in the city or, as it is with El Llagut and other fish expert establishments, especially in El Serrallo neighbourhood, by taking typical fishermen dishes such as the “masquetes”, “sarsueles” and “romescos” to the cuisine’s zenith. “One can always learn. We’ve learnt many dishes from our suppliers, the people who brings us the fish, and as for the rice dishes, we should thank those living in El Serrallo”, says Ramon.
El Llagut’s cookbook is made of memories and grows thanks to experience. El Llagut has embraced traditional cuisine providing it with a homemade trademark that allows it to shine even more clearly. “When we started, we wanted to make simple well-made things. With time though, we created a team, we evolved and became more ambitious. We found a meaning to what we do. Cooking is about taking care of every detail, and despite some dishes looking easy, it takes a great lot of effort to make a good octopus with potatoes, for example”, he says.
Ten tables and seven professionals at your disposal, a menu that includes rice and fish dishes, and 60 wine references, all within DO Tarragona; these are the ingredients Ramon and his team use to produce their top-notch gastronomy creations. “When we sit at a table, we try to convey values and emotions, to start new projects… Meeting up everyday with the family or holding a celebration with your friends is a very important event, and food should match this. My only will is for people to experience pleasure when eating in our place”, says.
Trying to adapt to the Slow Food – Km 0 sort of rules, that is, using only eco-friendly high-quality local products, implied a radical change in the way the establishment works. There are only two restaurants in Tarragona that are part of this movement –Lola Tapes is the other one–, which gives us an idea of how complex it is to take on such a challenge. For the last four years, El Llagut’s menu has evolved every season, and more and more fresh products are used in the kitchen, especially those grown in kitchen gardens, so customers can rely on the fact that all the ingredients are natural, way healthier.
“Slow Food has helped us to go one step further on both a professional and personal way. Behind every product I use in my kitchen, there’s someone I actually know, the person that supplies it to me. In the Tarragona area we grow stunningly delicious food, with a taste and properties you would never find in high-scale supermarkets but that, in order to be loved, they need to be recognised first. As a chef, I make my contribution for a better world”, says Ramon.
Twelve years after opening the restaurant, Ramon would not change a thing. El Llagut is steaming ahead towards a pre-ordered destination. “I am lucky. I’m doing what I want, which is what I like; I’ve got a family I love, and I work for the people’s enjoyment. Happiness is made of only good ingredients”, he ends.