The pulvinar, the original Tàrraco’s Circus platform where authorities would locate themselves in order to attentively watch chariot races, has been integrated, after over two thousand years, to one of Part Alta restaurant’s interior that actually adopted the name of this area of the circus. Not many people know though, while being surrounded by nibbles and wine sips, that their meal is being held in one privilege area belonging to the old Roman city, and that it is underneath their feet that Santa Tecla’s marble blocks, once extracted from Mèdol’s quarry with over one metre wide, are kept completely visible and restored.
The owners of Pulvinar pizza restaurant, aware as they are of the establishment’s singularity, tell their customers, by means of some paper tablecloths, that one of the semicircular staircases that provided access to the very same platform had also been rebuilt. From the main dining room, one can see the long Roman wall built following the opus quadratum building process, which still preserves part of the original cornice. If you ever book a table in Pulvinar, ask them to show you the transversal vault of the Circus’ structure, that remains intact and that can be accessed using the underground stairs that are connected to the lower dining room.
Outdoors, at the establishment’s terrace –full of Italian tourists today- we find yet another singularity: the wall that separates the restaurant from the exterior, which was part of the original wall erected in the 12th century in order to minimize the effects of a city that was devastated by looting and, mostly, to restrain diseases. Pulvinar offers a set menu at 12.50€, built onto the Mediterranean cuisine’s philosophy, and it is open every single day, from March until the beginning of November. From then though, the restaurant only opens on weekends until spring is back with us again.
The case of Pulvinar though is not the only one in Tarragona; not even slightly. In fact, the whole neighbourhood is built on top of three Tàrraco terraces at different levels: the Circus, the ludic area; the Provincial Forum, the administrative area; and the temple, the building of cult. Part Alta then, is full of buildings where remains of the Roman and other periods are preserved.
Underneath the Pulvinar and the Baixada de Misericòrdia, in Trinquet Vell street, we find another establishment bursting with heritage: Les Voltes restaurant. This is, unquestionably, one of the architectonic jewels of the gastronomic Tarragona. The establishment, located underneath three vaults of Tàrraco’s Circus, was first opened in the 80s and has always been run by Maria Jové and Francesc Sas.
Les Voltes restaurant offers high-quality Mediterranean food thanks to a 10€ (plus VAT) set menu, and an average à la Carte price between 20€ and 30€. In general, the establishment remains closed every Sunday night and Monday, but they will open it for groups, prior reservation.
We go out from Les Voltes and back to Baixada de Misericòrdia and Carrer Major and, if we then turn into Carrer de l’Abat towards Misser Sitges street, we find Els Arcs restaurant, which is recommended by Michelin guideline. This is a building raised during the Middle Ages that still preserves eight Gothic vaults in the interior. The building, initially used as a sort of cottage, still keeps a peculiar charming look to it, and the excellent local and seasonal cuisine served is both precise and appreciated. Carles Llobet offers an executive menu on working days at 23€, while tasting menu is around 38€.
If we walk towards Plaça de les Cols, we’ll find El Gallo Morón, of which interior keeps part of the perimeter vault of the great Forum. The restaurant has a couple of very charming areas in the interior, which add value to their cuisine, also around the Mediterranean style. From Tuesday to Saturday, El Gallo Morón offers a set menu at 12€, 13.50€ on Sundays. If what you want is having dinner, the restaurant provides you with a 14€ option.
Walking up the stairs that lead to the Cathedral and turning then right towards Les Coques street, we find AQ restaurant, one of the most sublime cuisines in the city, which is meant to enter, one of these days, the universe of restaurants awarded with a Michelin star, which already is recommending it. The establishment, located on the inside of the Provincial Forum cult enclosure, still preserve Roman remains on the back wall perfectly kept and integrated that belonged to the cult area of the old temple. Before going in though, don’t forget to take a proper look at the 20th century Sgraffitto you will find in the restaurant’s main door. Having lunch in AQ Restaurant is a unique experience for all the senses, way beyond the fact that you are provided with archaeological remains at the entrance. The restaurant offers three different menus: the Menú Gran, at 50€ plus VAT; the Menú Petit, at 40€ plus VAT; and the weekly Menu, at 18€ plus VAT.
Then, go down towards ‘Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Tarragona‘, at 22, Sant Llorenç street, and you will come across Barhaus restaurant which, by means of its decoration influenced by the art school founded in Germany in 1919 by Walter Gropius, still preserves, in one of the private dinning rooms, an ashlar wall of the Provincial Forum, dated back to the 1st century. You will find a great terrace, at street level, and another one in the first floor. Barhaus offers set menus from Tuesday to Friday at 12€, while dinner and weekend is served à la Carte, with an average price of 30€ approximately.