23/1/14 - Updated with a preview of the menu.
Australian chef Ash Mair, winner of 2011's MasterChef - the Professionals, has confirmed that he's opening an outpost of Spain's Bilbao Berria in London in 2014. It'll be a Basque-type restaurant in Lower Regent Street on two floors, with an open kitchen on each floor. First there's a casual pintxos and tapas area with an open grill area and a range of Spanish wines by the glass. The second area will be a more formal dining area offering a range of classic and modern Basque and Spanish dishes.
We caught up with Ash to find out more...
Can you tell us about the Bilbao Berria restaurants?
There are five restaurants in Spain, two in Bilbao, two in Barcelona and one in Ibiza. We are bringing the concept similar to the Barcelona restaurants to London.
Why did you decide to make this your next project?
I’ve had an interest in Basque cuisine for many years now so it’s an obvious next step in my career to bring Basque food to the public. Also, before I entered MasterChef I was working in catering. My time on the series really made me want to get back into a restaurant kitchen so it seemed like the perfect chance.
You said that you'll be tweaking the menu for British tastes - can you tell us more?
Yes, some products we serve in Spain I personally don’t feel will be popular here. Our food is very traditional and for the English market we will be modernizing it but keeping within the boundaries of the traditional Basque/Spanish cuisine.
Food in Spain can be quite heavy too, so without sacrificing flavour, we will be lightening it up a bit. We will also have more of a seasonal menu here. English produce such as asparagus, berries, Jersey Royals and other fruit and veg will all feature on the menu when in season.
How about Spanish suppliers - what sort of great produce will you be getting in?
At the heart of Spanish cuisine is its artisan produce. Cured meats like jamón, chorizo and cecina beef are an important part of the cuisine and we will definitely be serving a variety of each. We work very closely with our suppliers in Spain so we know exactly the conditions these products are produced in. Preserved vegetables such as white asparagus, Piquillo peppers and artichokes are a premium product in Spain also so we will also be including some of these on our menus too.
Update - since this original interview, we've had a preview of the pretty large menu (based on the Spanish original and that's still going through final translations) which is split into sections which includes:
Plus there are Spanish cheese and a range of meats including Ibérico selection. Chorizo Ibérico, Lomo Ibérico, Salchichón Ibérico. Just writing all that up has made us SO hungry...
Bilbao Berria opens on Lower Regent Street in May 2014