Oh Spain, I do love you. Me and my partner spend a couple of weeks in Spain every year and in one place in particular – Jerez. It’s not Basque Country in any sense, but there are some similarities and that is its Spanish roots. From the heavenly selections of meat and fish, vast array of unique wines and during the Summer whole (almost) of Spain is completely sun-drenched. The real difference between Basque and Andalusian cuisine is more about the mixtures of ingredients, family traditions, different cuts of meats and seasonal differences in seafood and vegetables. In the north you can expect lots of snacks on sticks (pintxos) and in the south they’re always served on plates (tapas). I admittedly don’t spend enough time in Basque Country – but I do plan to change of all that in the future.
One place to kick off that change is a little slice of San Sebastien right here in London’s Marylebone. Lurra is a high-end Spanish restaurant focusing on Basque cuisine (especially cooked over a grill), all housed in a rather lovely looking restaurant. It’s looked after Melody and Nemanja who are also the restaurateurs behind Donostia, which is also located in Marylebone and focuses more on those small pintxo bites. Both are now regarded as some of the best Spanish restaurants in London. We kicked off proceedings with two of my favourite tapas and one of the (many) bottles we brought with us. Though not very Spanish, but it paired beautifully. Scorched pardon peppers and a very delicious serving of 3-year-old jamon Iberico.
Another bottle of wine later and we tucked into one of my favourites snacks which came straight off the specials board. Some beautiful anchovies which were smothered in olive oil and with some kind of creamy sauce – all served on a slice of toasted bread. It was absolutely beautiful and again paired so well with our second wine, a fresh and mineral driven Meursault from Arnaud Ente.
There were so many fantastic dishes here at Lurra, and this piece of grilled octopus with piquillo sauce was absolutely stunning. A large chunk of octopus from the tapas menu with enough for all seven of us to get a taste. Cooked over the charcoal grill which gave a nice bit of smokiness and describing just how tender it was will never be possible – you simply need to go and try it for yourself. Another bottle down, this time a red to pair with the richness and fragrance of that sauce. A smooth Vosne-Romanee from none only than producer, Domaine Liger-Belair.
Star of the show was this whole grilled turbot with Txakoli sauce. Size wise you’ll have to ask for the days catch and find out what mammoth beast is left in the kitchen. I’m not quite sure the weight of ours, but it was the perfect size for our table and gosh was it cooked perfectly. So meaty, flaky, a little caramelised and drizzled in a good helping of olive oil. Probably one of the best turbots I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. Continuing with the red we popped open a Sadie Family Columella 2012 from South Africa. Loads of power and flavours of leather, tobacco and sweet cranberry.
Some fries with smoked paprika and aioli later, we delved into another of the large sharing plates. 14 year Rubia Gallega Galician Blond beef which had been dry-aged on the bone. I enjoyed the flavour of this meat very much, but for me and for the price I just felt like it could have been a bit more balanced in terms of tenderness. Perhaps I should have ordered it a little less cooked than my medium-rare specification.
A little Grappa later (not quite sure why) and we were on our way, into the night after consuming far too much delicious wine. I really loved Lurra and thought it offered a real sense of Basque Country cooking, right here in the UK. The seafood is fresh, the ingredients in each dish shine and the space is gorgeous. Simply put, go now!