The forward-thinking Basque restaurant that puts sustainability at its heart
When Azurmendi first received the Sustainable Restaurant Award in 2014, it seemed the restaurant was already doing everything possible to care for the planet and the local community. But after improving the restaurant's sustainability rating from 84% to 93% over the four-year period, chef Eneko Atxa is proving that in the search for a sustainable future, there are no limits that cannot be broken.
Located among the lush hills in the countryside near Bilbao, Spain, Azurmendi includes a vegetable garden and an extensive vineyard, where Atxa’s cousin Bertol Izagirre produces the typical Basque white wine known as txakoli. To highlight the traceability and freshness of the produce used at the restaurant, the dining experience starts in the rooftop garden, where guests inspect the home-grown ingredients before continuing via the kitchen to an indoor greenhouse for a selection of ‘snacks’.
Azurmendi’s menu has developed over the last few years to include 75% vegetables, all locally produced and fully traceable. Atxa plans his menus months in advance, with the help of his producers, based on the crops and produce that will be in season, resulting in flavoursome, original creations that reflect the Basque region and the time of the year. Dishes can be built around an ingredient as humble as the turnip, which is elevated in flavour through expert technique and combination with ingredients such as spicy lamb and local Basque cheese.
Atxa’s dedication to the Basque region’s food heritage shines through in his belief that the menu starts in the field. Through partnerships with local research centres, he has also been working to bring back vegetable varieties that are going extinct, such as the local Gernika tomato.
Azurmendi’s menu also includes lesser-used cuts of meat, such as pork tail, while the seafood is locally caught by a certified Basque fleet. Crowning Atxa’s commitment to the sea and sea life is his role as an ambassador of the Marine Stewardship Council.
Among his latest projects, the chef has been working with the municipality of Larrabetzu – where Azurmendi is located– on a project that sees families and restaurants separating their organic waste to turn it into compost for local farmers. He has also created a healthy menu for patients of the local hospital.
Atxa extends his commitment to sustainable and healthy eating to his staff, who have a specially planned diet with strict guidelines balancing vegetables, carbohydrates and protein. His social responsibility efforts don’t stop here, with the cook striving to educate the next generation of chefs with three annual scholarships for aspiring cooks held at Azurmendi, as well as a collaboration with the Basque Culinary Center to develop learning activities for the students.
Already boasting solar panels and a geothermal system that heats the restaurant in winter and keeps it cool in summer, Azurmendi has recently planted 800 trees around the restaurant and bought 100 hectares of forest nearby to compensate for its CO2 emissions. The restaurant is designed to operate with no waste – there are no walk-in coolers and food is delivered daily on the basis of the number of bookings, while any leftovers are given to staff.
Azurmendi has already proven that commitment to sustainability can only go as far as you can envision it – and as the winner of the Sustainable Restaurant Award 2018, sponsored by Dekton by Cosentino, it is well-placed to further encourage a sustainable revolution in the restaurant world.
Corredor del Txorierri Salida 25
+34 944 558 866
The Sustainable Restaurant Award is given to the restaurant with the highest environmental and social responsibility rating, as ranked by audit partner the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA). In 2017 and 2018, applications were open to all restaurants in the 50 Best and 51-100 list and restaurants must self-nominate to be eligible. Azurmendi follows in the footsteps of Septime, the 2017 winner, and Relae, which won in 2016 and 2015.