The Weight of History | El Celler, Montsonís, Catalonia, Spain

By Sophie Gayot

Dining by the castle of Montsonis

Montsonis, Spain, July 2022

• GAYOT’s Rating14/20
• Cuisine: Spanish
• Open: Wed.-Sun. 1 p.m.-4 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 9 p.m.-12 a.m.
• El Cellar is part of GAYOT’s 2022 Restaurant Awards, Memorable Dinners of 2022

El Celler | GAYOT’s Rating14/20
Carrer Major, 25737 Montsonis, Spain
+34 621 21 08 72 | View El Celler Instagram Account

For those who live in big cities, the small village of Montsonís, about an hour and fifteen minutes drive northwest of Barcelona, is a great escape for peace and quiet. At the end of the road, there is a castle dating back to 1024, with, of course, additions and renovations throughout a thousand years. It is the first private castle in Spain to have opened its doors to the public for an immersion of history. It is a “real” attraction in the province of Lleida. I’ll leave it to the tour guide to take you through the long past of the fortress built to defend the border against the Muslims.

Castell de Montsonis
The castle is currently the property of the Baró de l’Albi of the Montoliu family.
Calle Major 14, 25737 Montsonís, Spain
+ 34 973 40 20 45

Catalonian cuisine with a twist

My role here is to guide you to El Celler, one of the restaurants of Montsonis; and, with no contest, the best one. In 2021, two young friend chefs took it over, boosted by their training and experiences at previous Spanish establishments. If Ignasi Bustamante and Adrián Zahino are rather shy, their cuisine is not. They have modernized Catalonian traditional dishes without going too far — they can’t push it too much considering that a few feet away there is a medieval castle. They have to remain in symbiosis with the stones — if only they could “hablar.

It is refreshing to witness young chefs wanting to make a mark to complement the Montsonís experience of the visitors to the castle. To be honest, it is the reason to head to the hamlet for travelers. But, now El Celler is a culinary appeal for locals. The pair also loves to organize wine dinners. For large parties, there is a space upstairs not as decorated as the main dining room, but it boasts a view of the Segre Valley de Artesa.

I can only encourage and support the team!