The lantern leading the way to Catalonia


Apart from its unusual location – atop a rocky stretch of the Northern Catalan coast in France – Restaurant Le Fanal may at first glance appear similar to many other high-end gastronomic ventures.

Set near the sea, in the village of Banyuls-sur-Mer – just over 40 minutes’ drive north of Perpignan, and barely 25 minutes from the Spanish border – it takes inspiration from its surroundings, unsurprisingly focusing on fish and vegetables from its abundant terroir; while also prioritising simplicity, quality, and taste.

Indeed, Le Fanal is unmistakably high-end – it won a Michelin star as far back as 2001 – and its chef, Perpignan-born Pascal Borrell, trained in some of the most impressive restaurants in France, including the three Michelin-starred Paris stalwarts Ledoyen, and Arpège.

And yet, while the term ‘gastronomic restaurant’ might bring to mind images of formal dining rooms and occasionally tired techniques, it is the passion of the chef that really sets Le Fanal apart; infusing light, colour, and a sense of heritage throughout.

“My cooking is like travelling through time,” explains Borrell. “It’s about discovering the rich products of our terroirs, between the mountains and the sea.” A joint project between Borrell and his wife Marie-France, the restaurant has a colourful, stylish-yet-comfortable, 40-seat dining room, looking out over an expansive, 50-seat terrace.

Bright, fresh and creative dishes buck what one might think of as the usual gastronomic trend, and Borrell’s love of bold Catalan flavours shines through on every dish: indeed, the food was described by the 2017 Michelin Guide as “creative, refined and characterful”.

Recipes are home-grown, too; as Borrell says: “It’s about revisiting family recipes, with the best, seasonal products.” The chef approaches his food like a conductor approaches music: taking a wide range of local ingredients, and adding personal, imaginative touches in pitch-perfect notes.

Specialising in the freshest-possible fish and seafood, signature plates might include ceviche of langoustine, slow-cooked longline hake, or a classic local Bouillabaisse. There is also the ever-changing ‘back from the market menu’ – a daily surprise for just 35 euros – depending on the selection that day.

Plates leave the kitchen with flair: the presentation style is bright, clean, and above all, colourful – cooking that tells its own story with ease. “My aim is to stir up culinary emotions,” concludes Borrell.

‘Le Fanal’ translates to ‘the lantern’ in English – and this place truly lives up to its name as a haven of Catalan colour, creativity, and light.


Chef Pascal Borrell.

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