With the UK preparing to welcome back international travellers and restaurants ready to open at full capacity, Spanish cook Nieves Barragán Mohacho – chef-owner at tapas and asado specialist Sabor in London – recommends her favourite London spots, as well as her dream overseas destinations
Basque chef Nieves Barragán Mohacho landed in London aged 23 without a word of English. Just over a decade later, she has built one of the finest temples to classical Spanish gastronomy at Sabor, a two-storey restaurant in the heart of Mayfair with relaxed counter-top tapas downstairs and a more elaborate, asado-led menu up above.
A light chorizo and artichoke tapas plate from downstairs at Sabor
As her adopted hometown of London looks to reopen later in July, Barragán Mohacho shares her essential recommendations for breakfast, lunch and dinner, adding where she’ll be booking flights to as soon as she can travel freely again.
85 Piccadilly, Mayfair, W1J 7NB
The sweeping staircase at Hide
Chef Ollie Dabbous’ towering all-day venue with one of most-tagged Insta-backdrops in London – a Gaudi-inspired meandering three-tier staircase – was London’s hottest launch when it opened in 2018 and it maintains its relevance three years on. “For breakfast, I love to pop into Hide as it’s nice and close to Sabor,” says Barragán Mohacho. “It’s a gorgeous space flooded with natural light and has everything you’d ever want from a breakfast menu. I go for a mix of ultra-fresh fruits and yoghurt and always order some of the incredible pastries to bring to Sabor to share with the team.”
9 Seymour St, W1H 7BA
Inside Kol and a selection of its Mexican plates
After returning home to Mexico to run Noma’s Tulum pop-up with great success, chef Santiago Lastra’s name is now indelibly plotted on the global gastronomic map. He was lured to the UK to set up Mexican restaurant Kol, which majors in applying South American techniques to British produce. “I adore Mexico and with Kol you always get always amazing authentic flavours from the region,” says Barragán Mohacho. “Go for lunch with a bunch of people and order as many dishes as you can to share – always with a cold beer.”
Downstairs, ex-American Bar head bartender Maxim Schulte runs agave specialist Kol Mezcaleria – the perfect spot for post-prandial mezcal highballs as day turns into night.
Kol Mezcaleria, specialising in agave spirit cocktails
4 Redchurch Street, Shoreditch, E1 6JL
A busy Brat (image taken pre-covid) and Tomos Parry
Borrowing its name from a moniker for turbot, which forms the centrepiece of the restaurant’s signature dish – simple open-fire grilled fish dashed with citrus – it’s perhaps no surprise Tomos Parry’s Basque-inspired restaurant appeals to Barragán Mohacho. “I love what they do here in terms of cooking over fire and it’s an authentic reflection of what we do back home,” she says. “The menu is so creative without trying too hard and the atmosphere is always fantastic.”
5 S Embankment, Dartmouth TQ6 9BH
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Down on the British Riviera in the southwest of England, Barragán Mohacho will venture out of town for Mitch Tonks’ hyper-fresh fish for an early evening reservation. “Going to Mitch’s restaurant is like coming home for me – they’re so welcoming and I just love visiting,” she says. “The room is beautiful, the fish is incredible – you can literally watch the fishermen bringing their catch to the restaurant door – and the wine list is one of my favourites in the whole of the UK.”
FOR BRITISH PUBS
The French House, 49 Dean St, London W1D 5BG
The Guinea, 30 Bruton Pl, London W1J 6NL
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If there’s one thing that London does well, it’s traditional pubs serving food that serves as hearty, salty ballast to pair with beer. Within a few hundred yards of Sabor, Barragán Mohacho has plenty of options, though she selects two of London’s most traditional drinking dens to take her team to for celebrations. “We are very lucky to have so many good options for pubs near the restaurant,” she says. “My top picks are always The French House or The Guinea Grill – both so good. I particularly love what Neil [Borthwick] does at The French House, he grills these amazing sweetbreads that are brilliant with beer.”
THE FIRST TRIPS SHE’S BOOKING...
Barrio Legina s/n, Bizkaia, Larrabetzu, 48195
Azurmendi in the Basque Country
A high flier on The World’s 50 Best Restaurants – ranking No.14 in 2019 – is close to Barragán Mohacho’s heart it many ways, located a short distance from where she grew up. “This is one of the best restaurants in the world to me and it really speaks to where I’m from,” she says. “Eneko’s [Atxa] ingredients are fantastic and the restaurant has an amazing view – one of the finest spots for lunch there is, anywhere in the world.”
Tennyson 113, Polanco, Mexico City, 11550
Mexico City's Pujol restaurant
Enrique Olvera brought Mexican cuisine to a new level with the ground-breaking Pujol. A restaurant that blends future-thinking sustainability with high flavour, it’s top of Barragán Mohacho’s booking list for her next visit to Mexico City. “The cooking here is just incredible and the way Enrique extracts flavour from ingredients is just second to none,” she says. “It blows me away. I learn something new about Mexico produce every time I eat here.”
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