Covid-19 has made it easier to enjoy the Michelin-starred Ca l’Enric restaurant in the Vall de Bianya. During the first lockdown, the Juncà brothers, who are in charge of the venue, converted one of the wedding rooms into a new restaurant, offering traditional dishes that there was no space for on their tasting menus. “With the pandemic, most of our weddings were cancelled; we had sixty of them scheduled, and did only three. We lost a large part of our turnover, which is why we started this new restaurant line “, explains Jordi Juncà, one of the chefs.
“It’s funny because it was an idea that the three of us had had for years, but that we hadn’t told each other about, due to a lack of time and the daily work. And with the lockdown we held a proper meeting and the proposal came up. One of the banquet halls is the Hostal, which offers traditional cuisine at half price: we do a daily set menu for 18 euros. This solution has given us a lot of oxygen to cope with the loss of wedding banquets. At first it was supposed to be temporary but, in view of how well it has been received, it’s now here to stay. Despite his enthusiasm for the new project, Jordi has lived with anguish and the uncertainty caused by the pandemic, with the the hospitality sector one of the most affected, according to him: “We have felt completely helpless and abandoned, and we’re one of the sectors that sustains the country’s economy. The worst part is this uncertainty. You don’t know how you will be able to open, if customers will have the confidence to come back, if they will close us down again, actually I am convinced that they will do it again in January... And if this leisure network is closed, that of hostelry, then mentally the population will also be affected“. The reopening confirms this as, since they have come back, they have been very much welcomed: “people have a great desire to go out and enjoy themselves and dine out, because in the end we’re a society with a great gastronomic culture“.
He also does not understand why they had to be closed down: “The way the new closure has been implemented has been very drastic. We did everything we were asked to do, reforms, security measures, we reinvented ourselves and in the end they closed us down anyway. They didn’t pay any attention to the effort some of us made. If the rules are respected, restaurants are safe. There was also a lack of inspections. Lots of difficult rules to interpret and no control whatsoever enforcing them. If someone does things wrong, then fine them or lock them up, but let the rest of us work... there’s no need to criminalise the whole sector.”
He also complains about the little help they have received: “It’s insignificant and I don’t know if it will even reach us anyway. The official loans (ICOs), which put people in debt, and the suspension of contracts (ERTOs) haven’t helped. If we were in Switzerland or Germany, which are strong, powerful countries, they would give us 70% of last year’s turnover. And here, almost nothing. We will all move forward, but our industry has suffered greatly. Restaurants with a history that have been around for many years will be able to make it this time, but many restaurants that are just starting out or have made big investments will have to close. It’s a brutal blow and in the end it takes away your enthusiasm, which is the worst thing they can do to you.”
The perimeter lockdown has also been a problem for the restaurant, which is located in the Vall de Bianya: “We have a population of 1,200 inhabitants and we couldn’t make takeaway meals, we were lucky with the Hostal“. Despite everything, Juncà is optimistic: “We hope that next year we can do the planned and cancelled weddings, and now is the high season for gastronomic restaurants. Autumn and winter are the great times for restaurant dishes, when the forest is in full splendor. “ When asked about the day-to-day lockdown, he replies, “I personally had a great time because I was able to enjoy the family like never before. Also, on April 10, I became a father for the second time and was able to fully enjoy the experience. We also thought up some new dishes, we did research on the menus, we started an organic garden project with local products from around here... “