Inventive Basque Cuisine Created Outside the Mould

Mugaritz Restaurant

muga2For celebrated Basque chef Andoni Luis Aduriz, the Costa del Sol became something of a second home in 2014. In April he took on the culinary consultancy at the Healthouse Las Dunas five-star hotel on Estepona’s “New Golden Mile” – creating “a concept combining limitless creative cooking with all the nutritious requirements of the Naturhouse diet”.

Four months later, he and his team headed down the highway to Marbella, to take charge of the menu served at the annual Starlite charity gala.

Back home in Guipúzkoa, in July he was named as one of the best cooks in the Atlantic region, receiving a “Flavours of the Atlantic Arch” (“Sabores del Arco Atlántico”) award during a special presentation in Gijón, where the judges praised him as “one of the most creative and sensitive cooks, with a long trajectory behind him during which research for the product and his knowledge of technique have been the key”.

And in April his establishment Mugaritz maintained its coveted place in the Restaurant Magazine’s “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants” ranking for a ninth year, in 2014 sixth behind (in order): Noma, Copenhagen; El Celler de Can Roca, Girona; Osteria Francescana, Modena; Eleven Madison Park, New York City; and Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London.

Opened in March 1998, Mugaritz is located in a verdant natural setting in the countryside inland from San Sebastian, surrounded by fields and forests. Its name is derived from a 200-year-old oak tree (one of the few remaining trees from a previously sprawling forest next to the restaurant), which rises up a few metres from the kitchen. This oak tree (“haritza” – or oak in Basque) is strategically situated beside the line dividing Errenteria and Astigarraga, and therefore delimitates the “muga” (frontier) between both towns: “Muga eta haritza”… Mugaritz.

The style of food at Mugaritz “is described as “techno-emotional Spanish”. As Aduriz himself says, “We strive to transcend the customs that curtail our freedom.” His objective is to shock and surprise as well as delight, with what he refers to as “trompes l’oeils” – culinary tricks of the eye. “Some creations play with aroma, texture and flavour while others are designed to be provocative, tell a story or evoke an emotion.”

Diners are not given access to a menu before booking: instead they savour a personalised series of 24 dishes, including a starter of “edible stones”, which are in reality potatoes. The “standout” dish (according to “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants”) is “ice shreds, scarlet shrimp perfume”.

Mugaritz Restaurant, Guipúzkoa, Basque Country: www.mugaritz.com

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