We're firmly of the opinion that there can never be too many great tapas restaurants in London, so we're looking forward to the opening of a new Basque restaurant Donostia in Marylebone in June.
What makes Donostia's opening particularly interesting is that the man in the kitchen is Tomasz Baranski, the former head chef at Barrafina. Baranski may have spent years working on Spanish fare at Barrafina, but just to make sure his Basque offering is up to scratch, he's currently spending time in two restaurants over there to perfect various techniques.
He'll be serving up Basque-style tapas and pintxos such as Pil-Pil cod and stuffed squid in ink, as well as more mainsteam Spanish dishes like croquetas and tortilla. As for the wine, the list will include various Basque specialities such as txakoli a slightly sparkling, dry, low-alcohol white wine.
We caught up with owners Nemanja Borjanovic and Melody Adams to find out more.
Why did your chef, Tomas, decide to leave Barrafina and join you?
Having attracted queues of people to Barrafina for many years he decided it was time for a new challange, which he found in the form of Donostia. With a wealth of experience in traditional Spanish cooking he found it intriguing to explore the gastronomy of one of the most revered regions and cuisines - the Basque Country.
What Basque restaurants has Tomas worked in what did he learn?
Tomas worked in Urepel in San Sebastian, a well-established family run restaurant, now in its 3rd generation. He learnt about many of the traditional Basque dishes there, finished to a high level. He also worked in A Fuego Negro in San Sebastian’s old town, famous for its quirky pintxos and innovative cuisine, particularly the famous mini-Kobe beef burger, which will be available in Donostia.
What food can we expect on the menu at Donostia?
An open kitchen will let diners see the food being prepared as soon as it’s ordered. The menu will feature Basque regional highlights; a selection of Pintxo appetisers will include crispy prawns with ham, pequillo peppers stuffed with brandada. The tapas menu includes fresh fish and seafood (cod cheeks cooked in the legendary Basque Pil-Pil sauce, Cantabrian sea anchovies in Basque marinade), meat (“txuletillas” - lamb chops a la plancha, crispy Tolosa-style beef tongue and succulent milk lamb), market fresh vegetables with a variety of tortillas made to order.
Charcuterie plates offer Bayonne ham, saucisson & chorizo from the native Basque pig – Kintoa. On weekends we will be serving brunch with items such as poached egg with chorizo dip.
To match the authentic Basque menu we've made use of our wine import business to offer a unique drinks list at surprising value. Here, a selection of wines from all over Spain and France, with a strong emphasis on some of the mighty Basque wine regions such as Rioja Alavesa and Getaria (Txakoli). Wine will be available by the glass, carafe and bottle. These will sit alongside other regional drinks specialities such as the renowned Basque cider which thanks to its unique pouring method, advisable from height, will provide a touch of genuinely unique gastronomy to the Donostia experience.
And how will the restaurant be laid out?
The open stainless steel kitchen is surrounded by a marble dining counter where individual high stools provide some of the best seats in the house. The dining bar (10 places) will not be available for reservations. Reservations are welcome for the tables (30 places) which stretch to the end of the restaurant where the seating is more intimate.
We'll be on site all the time. Melody will handle the front of house while Nemanja will use his experience in the wine trade behind the bar.
The Basque region is well represented in the World's 50 Best list - do you think that'll have an impact on the popularity of Donostia?
Our aim is to provide a slice of the Basque cuisine to our guests. We wish to emulate the everyday quality, well sourced ingredients and fuss free cooking found around the Basque Region and in particular in San Sebastian.
Donostia will be open Mon-Sun for lunch and dinner with brunch being served up at weekends. It'll be at 10 Seymour Place, London W1 from June 6 with a 50% off food soft launch offer a few days before that.