Welcome to One Year In, a feature in which Eater talks with the chefs and owners of restaurants celebrating their one year anniversary.
When Ferran Adrià announced the temporary closure of elBulli last year, his three longtime sous chefs — Oriol Castro, Eduard Xatruch, and Mateu Casañas — took advantage of their extra free time to open Compartir, a more casual restaurant in the coastal town of Cadaqués, 40 minutes away from Barcelona. The trio, collectively considered Adrià's right-hand men, currently split their time between ongoing employment at the elBulli Foundation and the informal Compartir, which weathered the winter and celebrated its first anniversary earlier this month. Eater recently chatted with Xatruch about splitting time between elBulli and Compartir, renovating a 300-year-old house in Costa Brava, and (on occasion) welcoming Adrià for dinner.
How did the idea for Compartir come about?
Mateo, Oriol, and me, we worked for more than 15 years together at elBulli — and nowadays, we're working for elBulli, too — but we have always had the illusion to make our own restaurant. And because we are working for elBulli, we need to make a restaurant that can go with our whole team but that doesn't [interfere]... we cannot stay every day here in the restaurant. For example, we are three, Mateo, Oriol, and me, and every day one of us is in the restaurant and the other two work for elBulli. Here in Compartir we [wanted to] make a restaurant that is for everybody. We make cuisine with creativity, but it's not haute cuisine. It's more informal, it's an informal ambiance, the waiters are very friendly.
And people are very relaxed, and they can enjoy Cadaqués and of course, the meal. But we try to make? dishes nice and with new techniques, but our [goal] is not to make new techniques here in Compartir. Our [goal] is for the price that the people pay, now 50 Euros, we think that for 50 Euros you have very good experience for the price. And people that come to Compartir are very happy for that. Because when they pay, they say, "For 50 Euros, I eat very well," and they enjoy the time they spend with us.
Why did you want to emphasize a menu where everything is shared?
Here in Spain, it's very typical, in Catalonia, to share a few dishes at home. But for us, the Compartir menu is not a tasting menu. When the customer arrives, we talk with him, and we say, Okay, we propose that if you share the dishes, you can make — for example, each person gets three dishes, and the table has four people, they can taste 12 different dishes on the tasting menu. But it's different; the "tasting menu" is [especially] made for the people that come.
How did you find the location?
It's an old house with 300 years of history in Cadaqués. And the owner was a customer of elBulli. Every year he would tell us, "You have to make a restaurant at my house." And years go by, we said, "No, we don't have time." But now, with the changing elBulli Foundation, we have half a year, we're more relaxed, and could do it. And we rent all the house, we have the restaurant on the first floor. On the second floor there's an art gallery, and on the third floor we have apartments that are like Compartir — they're not a luxury place, but they're apartments with essence.
Did you have any problems building the restaurant?
The normal ones when you make a renovation. But we preserved all the walls, the walls are from stone, and we preserved all the basic structure of the house. So we made the restaurant while respecting all the building. It was not very difficult. We opened on time, because we [thought it out a lot]. When we rented the house, we worked very hard, and within three months, we could open. We opened in three months because we had all the ideas very clear, because we worked [together] before.
How has the menu changed since you opened?
We started with a menu that was quite interesting, but with the team, little by little, day by day, we try to be better. So, now if you look at the menu we have today [versus] the menu we had last year, you can see that [it takes extra steps]. We prefer to go step by step and don't want to run a lot. The menu we have now is first courses, second courses, and desserts, so it's like a normal menu of most restaurant, with no tasting menu.
And like I said before, it's to share, and the guests make their own "tasting menu." For example, on first courses, we had a salad of beetroot with a glass of almonds; now, we make a salad with beetroot, strawberries, pineapples, but we make a differentiation with this glass of almonds, garlic, and balsamic. Another example is a salad we make with endives, raw endives and cooked endives. Cold and hot endives with gorgonzola foam, crispy crostini of passionfruit, and walnuts. So, the flavors are all traditional, but in the presentation, the texture, and temperature is different. That's why the customers like our dishes; because the taste you recognize, but in texture and in presentation it's different.
It was a big deal when you guys decided to stay open all year. How did the winter months go?
Yes, we opened all year. [...] Winter is difficult because here in Cadaqués the weather is not very good, but we work well because in the restaurant, we have two spaces. There is the inside of the restaurant in the house, and we have a very nice terrace. The terrace, now with the good weather, is very attractive for the customer — but in winter, the capacity in winter is the house, because we don't have the terrace. In winter, we work less than in summer, but for the capacity we have in the restaurant, we're happy. But we can work more than we did [last year]. So it's not fully booked all year. Here at Compartir, you can come here [with a one-week advance reservation].
Are most of your customers familiar with elBulli, or some here knowing that you're all alumni?
Yes, there are customers that know us from elBulli, and there are customers that come here on their first time and they know nothing about elBulli. But they like the restaurant, and after repeat visits, they're customers of ours — for Compartir — not for elBulli, or what we made before.
Do you have a strong following among locals?
We have customers from Cadaqués, from Roses, from Costa Brava. We have a lot of customers from France, because we are very close to France, we're 20 kilometers from France. And also from Barcelona, Madrid; from the United States, there are a lot of people who come to Barcelona on holiday, come to the Portilligat House in Cadaqués, and after, come to Compartir.
Lots of chefs?
Yes. Yes. You know chefs; we like to go to eat and discover new restaurants. And it's normal that a lot of chefs of Europe comes here to Compartir, and we're very happy that they come.
Has Ferran come and eaten here?
Yes, but not very much. Ferran came two or three times. But we work all day with him, so [Laughs] we sit together all day. So it's normal that he comes not a lot of times.
Does it feel like it's been a year?
Yes. We're happy about this year, very happy. Because in one year we can construct very good things; and now, in the kitchen and in service we have a fantastic team that started with us on the first day. [...] For us, it's very important that the person that works in a restaurant that serves and cooks the dishes, they have to love the work. For us, we enjoy a lot, being at Compartir. For example, today, Mateo and I are here, it's Saturday — we could be staying at home with the family — but here we have a good time working. Because you see the customers, they are happy; and for us, that's very important.
· Compartir [Official site]
· All Compartir Coverage on Eater [-E-]
· All Previous One Year In Coverage [Eater PDX]