Quique Dacosta, one of the main Avant –Garde representative of the Spanish cuisine (ranked #40 in the World’s 50 Best Restaurant 2012), launched last October 3rdthe gastronomic restaurant “El Poblet” in the historic center of Valencia. When you take the stairs that leads to the first floor, you will find a place with soft light, with leathered padded walls, Missoni fabric and “Lola” lamps in a pastel tone. A girly place, like a doll house.
Dacosta receives us with a smile, he’s happy. Very excited he says: -“Have you seen the letters on the stairs?”.
- Yeah, I kind of seen that…
- Actually, they are the letters of the old El Poblet, the restaurant where I’ve started my career more than 25 years ago and which I’ve named “Quique Dacosta Restaurant”. - So they are collector items… Oh, yeah. The typography is very characteristic; it was specially designed for us. And when I changed the restaurant name, I took it off and kept it with me.
- The old El Poblet was an haute-cuisine restaurant…
Yes, that’s the spirit of the new El Poblet. - That is something very risky in a moment when prestigious restaurant are shutting down… For sure! It’s dramatic situation. But with the opening of this restaurant I wanted, above all, to some pleasure to the guests and then spread a message of hope: -“Yes, we can open a haute-cuisine restaurant in Valencia”. At the moment, the trend among cooks is opening gastro-bars. I’m convinced that the fine dining is a promising thing. It’s possible to work with signature and avant-garde cuisine without a Pritzker like restaurant.
- What will be the average price for a meal?
I wanted to make the haute-cuisine more democratic. I’ve chosen a place that is not pure luxury, in which 60 people could be served daily. The average meal will cost around 60 Euros, with three or four snacks, seven or eight main dishes, two deserts and petits fours.
- How could come up with a gastronomic menu with this price?
As you’ve seen when you arrived, my gastro-bar “Vuelve Carolina” is located in the ground floor. That means that we share all the equipment necessary to run a restaurant, even the cellar and the procurement. Besides, the meals served in “El Poblet” are those from past seasons of “Quique Dacosta Restaurante”. Because of that, I have no need to add the R&D costs.
- That’s why you’re using this name? Because you’ll serve vintage meals?
It was clear to me that it should be the name… and, actually, we’ll serve the classic dishes of the old “El Poblet”. - Then if someone could not make it to the 2012 season of Quique Dacosta Restaurante (the season was over November 4th), they can enjoy it in “El Poblet”. That was the original idea. It has been a month since we first opened the restaurant and with Manuela Romeralo as maître, and with Carolina Lourenço and Germán Carrizo in the kitchen it won’t happen. They brainstorm new dishes even during their spare times! I think that as time goes by we’ll have 80% of old dishes and 20% developed in the “El Poblet” of Valencia. Guggenheim Oyster, The magic forest (“a dish that you can’t describe, you have to taste it”, according to Dacosta), The gold eggs hen, Foie gras’ Cuba Libre, Tomato tripes, The fog. All signatures dishes of Dacosta. And also the famous “ashes rice”, an authentic tribute to Valencia’s autumn landscape.
Inspired in the ricefield burned after the harvest in order to prepare the field for the following year, we find, hidden under the ashes, a creamy rice, that comes back to life. Just like “El Poblet”.
Posted by Maria Canabal, a food, travel and lifestyle journalist who lives in Paris, Madrid and Copenhagen. Columnist at Monocle and contributor to Apicius, Gourmet and Gastronomad, she lived and worked in Europe, America, Asia and Africa. Since 2010, Maria Canabal is member of the jury for the tittle of BEST SOMMELIER of SPAIN and earned the Literature Award “St. John” in 2011.
Follow her on twitter
Maria Canabal is a food, travel and lifestyle journalist living in Copenhagen, Paris and Madrid. She contributes to Monocle, Apicius, Gourmet and Le Monde Blogs.
Maria is the president of Parabere Forum, the first forum in the world for women in gastronomy, an annual event that gathers thought leaders in the field of food. In 2015, she was recognised as the "Most Influential Woman in Food" by the International Foundation "Women's Week".
You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram @canabalmaria