When you hear “pop up” or “traveling” alongside “restaurant”, a sense of panic hits you. There’s not enough time to get to know the place, try all the food, and as they don’t take reservations it soon becomes mission impossible. It’s a foodie’s worst nightmare. That is exactly what’s in the expert minds of Better along with Alejandra Ansón, a true connoisseur and expert on the best tables. The project is called The Table and it brings to the capital six different restaurants, each one for a month in the same space: Hotel Urso, the new five star boutique hotel in the centre of Madrid. To begin their journey they’ve chosen Abastos 2.0, which brings to Madrid their philosophy of a kitchen that is, in the words of Iago Pazos and Marcos Cerqueiro, “simple, natural, normal and with common sense”. Better and Alejandra approached them with their unique idea, and within two months they were building the bar.
Iago Pazos and Marcos Cerqueiro began with a stand in the Abastos de Santiago de Compostela Market, where they cooked fresh products from the earth and sea, brought daily to the market and prepared with a mix of creativity and respect. They then expanded with Galphón in the same market and now they’re an empire with O Loxe Mareiro in Carril.
The move to Madrid will last a month, with Iago at the reins and Marcos making regular visits. Their intent is to tell the story of how they understand the kitchen, Galicia and its products. “We brought the backpack with many friends, ingredients and producers. We bring our fish almost directly from Santiago’s sea. From the sea to Madrid. We have a buyer at auction, fishermen friends, people working on orchards. We feel very safe with them.” So that things would stay on track, they brought Bret Fernández, head chef at their restaurant in Carril, Maya the boss of the dining room and one of their waiters. “Through them, we explain our kitchen.”
The menu, in Galician, has two tasting menus: one short option and one long that can also be shortened, both made up of dishes that have been part of the Abastos cookbook. They didn’t translate the menu into Spanish because they wanted to acquaint their customers with Galicia and transport them to their origins. Through key words, it’s pretty easy to understand – and even if you have trouble deciphering, they take it upon themselves to guide their customers and explain everything you’re reading, seeing and tasting. “This is very ‘Abastos’, a constant one on one, a dialogue and a relationship between us and the customer. We break through haute cuisine standards. We get rid of the tablecloth and present an informal table. It’s Galicia but with extreme minimalism, that could almost seem like something Nordic. Every day things can become extraordinary.”
“There are no more than two or three ingredients in each dish. We take our time with the producers and find the best to tell our story. Take seawater and an infusion of seaweed, the air from cooking the barnacles becomes a wave from the sea that covers it. A citrus razor clam … a mussel from a particular area where the currents are different and the fishermen call them ‘black label’ quality. An avocado and seaweed mojito … ” We continue with Frinsa conserves, “because they’re friends, their cockles are awesome and because we want to represent Galicia’s long history with the conserves industry, which has fed many people, including our families.” Next comes a ceviche, a “naked fish”. In the long menu autumn is represented with onions, mushrooms and a fish of the day. To drink, everything Galician. They’re experts in Galician products and this is also seen in their wine cellar: Rías Baixas, Ribeiro, Ribeira Sacra, Monterrei, Valdeorras. And while almost no one ventures off from the recommendations, they do have some wine from other areas.
The decor, the chef and the restaurant change every month. For Iago and Marcos, they’ve “captured a mural with elements of the kitchen and daily home life and converted it into a masterpiece. That’s Abastos for Better,” explains Iago.
The Table by Better in Hotel Urso
Price: 45€ & 60€. Blend 15€
Reservations: thetableby.es. Abastos will be in The Table until November 23.
Text: Paula Móvil
Photos: Diego Díez
Translation: Annie MacDonald