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sponsored by Pago Los Balancines

Sustainable Restaurant Award

sponsored by Pago Los Balancines

Azurmendi

Larrabetzu, Bizkaia, Spain

Self-sufficient eco-restaurant that champions local produce

The stunning glass and wooden structure that is Azurmendi - chef Eneko Atxa’s restaurant artistically perched on a hillside just outside Bilbao - looks more like a Bond villain’s hideout than an eco-friendly eatery. But looks can be deceptive. The restaurant, which opened in 2005, was in fact built using the guiding principles of sustainability. It is not only made from environmentally-friendly materials but makes use of renewable energy, recycles its own waste, harvests rainfall, and heats and cools itself using geothermal energy. Even Bond super villain Blofeld himself would be impressed.

Once inside, however, there is more of an earthly feel to the place, thanks to Azurmendi’s wood-clad walls and the abundance of wild plants and even trees that it houses. These form part of the restaurant’s own internal greenhouse, where dozens of native vegetables are also grown. Indeed, the 36-year-old Basque chef is a champion of local suppliers and producers, thereby keeping food miles to a minimum. He and his team co-operate with a Spanish research centre involved in recovering historical varieties of local vegetables and ensuring others are not lost - the project has so far managed to preserve 36 varieties that were set to become extinct - and helping farmers find ecological solutions to dealing with pests.

His cooking is often cutting-edge: Atxa uses ultrasound to alter the texture of food and has devised a unique system for capturing flavour in ‘three-dimensional’ essences and aromas. But this rising-star chef is also at pains to understand the local environment and how it can be incorporated into his highly imaginative menus.

Audit partner: Sustainable Restaurant Association