Header image: roasted Iberico Presa, wheat in chickpea sauce and garlic cream
Eneko at One Aldwych, the long-awaited informal Basque restaurant from 50 Best chef Eneko Atxa, opens tomorrow, September 1st, at London's One Aldwych hotel.
We caught up with chef Eneko at Azurmendi, No.16 in The World's 50 Best Restaurants, to hear about his first venture in the UK capital.
Eneko at Azurmendi
What’s Azurmendi all about? In Basque homes, it’s really important that the kitchen is always at the heart. We wanted Azurmendi to be like our home so we put the kitchen right in the middle of the restaurant and we walk guests through it as part of the experience. I like to be present and in constant contact with customers.
What about the vegetable garden? For us, cooking doesn’t start in the kitchen – it starts with the producers, so the dream would be to show the whole process to our diners. Since that’s not possible, we created small allotments where people can learn what our producers do for us. We don’t want to be self-sufficient from it though, because that would mean we’d stop buying from local producers.
Azurmendi's research centre
And the research centre? Together with Neiker [the Basque Institute for Agricultural Research and Development] we’re recovering plants that would otherwise have been extinct – we’ve recovered 36 species so far, including peppers, golden onions and tomatoes from the Basque Country. Our guests eat their snacks in the greenhouse and we even give them a pack of seeds to take home with them.
How is the experience at Eneko at One Aldwych different? Azurmendi is a very high-end concept but we know we can have other concepts too – ones that are more informal and wider reaching. In London we have taken the essence of Basque cooking that we have at Azurmendi but in a much more relaxed, informal, light-hearted and almost rebellious setting. People can enjoy themselves in a simpler way and in a shorter space of time, but it’s still Basque gastronomy with its own peculiarities and potent and personal flavours.
Txerri Boda Pork Festival at Eneko at One Aldwych
What's on the menu: Starters feature the Txerri Boda Pork Festival – a trio of Iberico ham and mushroom duxelle in milk bread, suckling pig brioche and pigs trotter bocata. Main courses include Basque-style hake tempura, red pepper sauce and parsley emulsion and vegetarian dishes such as dressed beetroot tartare as well as bomba rice risotto with Idiazabal pesto. On the dessert list are signature rice pudding lollipops with crisp white and dark chocolate hazelnut coating.
And the space? Besides it being extraordinary because of where it’s located, the family and the people behind One Aldwych are very similar to us in terms of philosophy and ways of working. We’re on the same page in that we’re both looking for excellence.
How would you sum it up? Fun yet serious at the same time.
Why London? It’s a really important city, one of the most interesting in the world and people visit from all over. We feel comfortable here and we’ve always been treated well here, but it’s also a really interesting mirror in which to reflect our cooking.
Anchovy tempura at Eneko at One Aldwych
Why do you think Spanish food is so popular right now? There’s an evolving ideology in terms of the search for pleasure. In Spain, we’re very privileged, geographically – I live close to both the sea and the mountains. There’s a real culture of products and producers, there’s also great knowledge and our ancestors really left us a great culinary inheritance. All this means that when we want to evolve and continue growing, we have the right circumstances to cook in a kitchen that respects its roots and at the same time has been able to evolve and adapt to new times.
Eneko at One Aldwych
London WC2B 4BZ