London, England. The Donostia restaurant, located in the Westminster neighborhood of London, is expanding soon with another locale called Lurra that will be opened just in front. The huge demand on the Donostia, led by Chef Tomasz Baranski, has taken its owners, Nemanja Berjanovic from Servia and Melody Adams from England, to take this ambitious step. The owners, who were wine importers, who fell in love with Basque cuisine after a trip to the Basque Country. Here is what they had to say in an interview with EusalKultura.com.
What is your relationship with Basque gastronomy and why did you decide to open Donostia?
We aren’t Basque but fell in love with the region and in particular with Getaria and San Sebastian during a wine sourcing trip six years ago.
How long ago did you open? Was it well received?
We opened Donostia in May 2012 to great acclaim. It has been received so well we decided to expand and open Lurra on the same street as Donostia three years later.
Why are you opening Lurra now?
There is much more to Basque Cuisine that we wanted to bring to London – which was not in the pintxo/tapas format. Also Donostia has been open for three years and is a small Basque tapas restaurant that has become so popular that we were having to turn away people. It seemed like the natural thing to do.
What are the style and specialties in each restaurant?
Lurra will take its influence from the traditional charcoal and wood grills “Erretegias” found all over the Basque Country. This is a great culinary tradition that enhances flavors and aromas and respects the virtues of the product. On the menu you can expect to see a selection of whole fish grilled in fish baskets and kokotxas (cod tongues) cooked three ways. As many regulars of Donostia know, we have had Basque Vaca Vieja and Galician Rubia Gallega rib eye steaks on the Specials board for some time. This unique beef will permanently feature on the menu at Lurra. We will also have plenty of vegetable dishes such as Ceps with egg yolk and red peppers chargrilled over hot coals. On Saturdays and Sundays we will serve brunch. Lurra means “land” in Basque. We have chosen this name as it reflects our guiding principles of serving authentic, natural and well sourced produce. We aim to source as much produce ourselves as possible, ensuring both quality and value are offered to our guests. Our Basque and Galician Beef will come from our beef import business Txuleta.co.uk, credited for introducing this unique beef to the London food scene. Our own artisan wine importer Mountain Valley Wines will supply Spanish as well as other European wines. There will be a wine tasting cellar in the basement of the restaurant. The interior draws on the same principles, using natural materials such as wood, marble and stone
Are you in touch with the Basque community in London?
Yes, occasionally. We have attended their events in the park and always happy to see them visit the restaurant. We have had several Basque people working for us in the restaurant too, chefs and front of house staff, which has always been a pleasure.
Do the British know/appreciate Basque gastronomy?
There is a big Spanish scene in London but we try to stay away from paella and sangria which is the mainstream perception of Iberian cuisine. There is huge appreciation for simple well sourced and expertly cooked food. The overall dining scene is moving away from molecular, fancy dishes, tasting menus, smoke and foam and going back to basics… fish and meat cooked over fire – which is perfect for Lurra as we seek to do just that. San Sebastián and Bilbao are popular destinations for tourism so for those who have visited the region, Donostia is a familiar name that gets people very excited when they discover us!
Lurra is hiring kitchen and front of house staff. Details for those are available at the links below: