Arts and Roses
Evelyn Waugh called life a “hamper of perishable goods”. Suppers literally are but this one’s for the memory bank. A triple starred Michelin chef cooking specially for Lavender’s Blue. It may be a long way from his eponymous restaurant near Valencia but, spoiler alert, Quique Dacosta is looking to open in London before too long. “The first thing is I love London.” Recognised as Spain’s leading chef heading up one of the world’s best restaurants, Quique digresses, “I wanted to be a DJ when I was young, not a cook. I’m too old for that now!” Music’s loss; cuisine’s gain.
“Don’t try this at home unless you have a Porcelanosa kitchen!” quips Quique. He has partnered with the luxury Spanish owned company to create a new kitchen design called Emotions. “My restaurant and Porcelanosa are neighbours. We share the same good quality and innovation so it was a natural experience.” Oak panels slide back to reveal everything and the kitchen sink: an element of surprise that is also a trademark of his cooking.
“Please don’t eat the daisies,” sang Doris Day but she didn’t say anything about roses. Yup, the crimson petals are for eating. Surely the pebbles in the ceramic bowl aren’t? “Some are stuffed with Manchego and truffle,” Quique explains. “Others are actual pebbles. Choose carefully – we guarantee we don’t have dental security!” A wooden plate holds equally enigmatic objects, this time a cluster of brown, orange and green crispy leaves. They turn out to be made of root mushroom, orange peel and green pickled pepper. Easy. An apple and gold powder cocktail completes this introductory culinary voyage of discovery.
He points to the yellowish fish containers for the ceviche course. “We throw a lemon in the sea and two days later it comes back as a lemon fish! Valencia has a tradition of cured rare fish. This is fillet of sole in salt and sugar. The sauce is made out of the roasted bones of the fish. The kumquats are from the terrace of my restaurant. So are the lemons – we have 330 small citrus trees along our terrace. This soup has a chili and citrus aroma. The pineapple juice foam on top is for decoration.”
A frying pan of eggs appears. We’re warned things are about to become a little more complicated. More so? Shirley Conran famously remarked “life is too short to stuff a mushroom” but we discover not an egg. Quique stuffs the egg whites full of truffle under a jelly skin and covers them with a white asparagus shell and gold leaf. “The good thing is my food is always good!” Albarino Martín Códax and Rioja Crianza are served.
“In Valencia the most emblematic dish is paella,” confirms Quique. “When you Google Spanish food tapas comes up but tapas are from northern Spain, the Basque Country. Rice is the principal ingredient of paella and it is always served as a main course in Spanish tradition. There’s no cheese in this dish. I’ve used cream which is lighter than the parmesan texture of risotto. Black grated truffle and trumpet of chestnut mushroom make it dark with a lot of different textures. The rice is from the landscape in Valencia.”
“You fancy a little sweet? Why not?” Nothing is Ronseal (”does exactly what it says on the tin”) with Quique Dacosta but the name of his pudding is a clue. Strange Flowers. “You won’t know any of these flowers though! They have lots of aromatic flavours but aren’t as heavy as the mains which were very rich. Their very light vibrancy contrasts with the fishy and acidic flavours earlier.” Mango and lychee are two of the more recognisable ingredients. If anyone needs to sample a hamper for Quique Dacosta London, we’re on standby.