Pedrito Sánchez, in Andalusia there’s a chef who’s a gem

His Bagà in Jaén is not-to-be-missed, «one of the best restaurants in Spain at the moment». Our tasting confirms this

07-10-2019
Pedrito Sánchez, to the right, with his sous chef

Pedrito Sánchez, to the right, with his sous chef David Gallego. They are the protagonists of a gem in the Spanish restaurant scene: Bagà in Jaén, Andalusia

Everybody told us – great Spanish chefs and gastronomic critics of the same latitude  - that it would be a pity not to include Bagá in our foodie tour of Andalusia; so we did include Bagá. It’s not a banal choice: it’s in Jaén, a town with 120K inhabitants, a little out of the way and not on the usual itineraries, little over an hour’s drive both from Granada and Cordoba, north of the former, and east of the latter. But it’s worth the trip because patron-chef Pedrito Sánchez, quiet, humble and a little solitary, repays any effort.

«With only two or three ingredients, Sánchez produces thrilling dishes. Subtle harmonies, without any superfluous frills, clean, with no flowers, herbs or other garnishing. In his offer there’s throbbing sensitivity and knowledge. (...) For sure, he’s one of the best chefs in Spain at the moment. (...) A minimalist style, difficult to copy despite its seeming simplicity, full of essential flavours, light textures and indefinable sensations»: these are the recent words of the most important Iberian wine and food expert, José Carlos Capel, in an article titled "Pedrito Sánchez, cocinar con el alma", cooking with the soul.

This is what we experienced ourselves, when we sat in his miniscule place in the heart of the town: four stools by the counter, facing the kitchen, and three more tables, nothing else. That’s it, «I want to cook very close to clients and, most of all, I want to research on local products», he explains. Minimum space, «we work in 3 square metres, with a home-oven, a thermomix and induction stove». This is enough for him to marvellously reveal the essence of flavour.

He was born in 1977 and, before opening in his hometown Jaén, he worked for 16 years – his solo career indeed started with Bagà, in September 2017 – at Casa Antonio, a famous restaurant offering a "new take" on tradition, also in town, after other significant experience: Château de Bagnols in France, part of the Relais & Châteaux, as well as with Martín Berasategui in Lasarte and Dani García when he was still in Ronda, and Tragabuches.

He acquired something from each one of them, you can’t tell one in particular. His style is personal, the result of individual ideas: focused on ingredients, on expressing the deep nature of (and in) taste. His cuisine is not conceptual – in fact his dishes are merry, lively, straightforward, explicit – but it’s thought-over, adding great concepts.

The team at Bagá: left to right Francisco Fernandez who looks after the dining room, Carlos Garcia Perez, chef Pedrito Sánchez, Lorena Navarro and his sous David Gallego

The team at Bagá: left to right Francisco Fernandez who looks after the dining room, Carlos Garcia Perez, chef Pedrito Sánchez, Lorena Navarro and his sous David Gallego

His connection with the region is not banal, but an input for his research: «Jaén is different from coastal Andalusia, where you have vegetables all year round. Instead, seasonality plays a big role». And then: «Our province is the largest producer of olive oil in the world», and he enhances this peculiarity in his dishes, also using olive oil he produces himself.

The view from the counter 

The view from the counter 

His Quisquillas with spices and partridge scapece are spectacular, with a lovely prawn from Andalusia – sweet and fat – which meets the sourness of the partridge scapece, in a sort of Andalusian ceviche, in the words of Sánchez himself; the Angulas with water from black olives and eel are memorable (sometimes precious products like angulas, are used with conceit, as if they were enough by themselves, and there was nothing more to add. In his case, instead, he highlights an unspoken potential); the Ajoblanco with coconut and almonds, granita of pine cone and extra virgin olive oil has such extrovert complexity that it’s surprising; the Fennel and salted cod pil pil shows how a masterpiece can be born from a simple intuition; the Presa iberica de bellota, "milk" of ham and trout roeis simply marvellous... And so on. Bravo.

Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso

Dehydrated orange with avgotaraho, the Greek bottarga 

Dehydrated orange with avgotaraho, the Greek bottarga 

Gnocchetti, morcilla de caldera and spices 

Gnocchetti, morcilla de caldera and spices 

Quisquillas with spices and partridge scapece. Quisquillas are delicate and precious prawns typical of Motril, a village on the Andalusian coast, not far from Malaga

Quisquillas with spices and partridge scapece. Quisquillas are delicate and precious prawns typical of Motril, a village on the Andalusian coast, not far from Malaga

White asparagus with oyster mayonnaise 

White asparagus with oyster mayonnaise 

Oxidised cauliflower, mousse of smoked eel skin

Oxidised cauliflower, mousse of smoked eel skin

Angulas with water of black olives and eel.Angulas, very precious, delicious and extremely pricey, are baby eels. This dish is marvellous: rich, enjoyable, elegant 

Angulas with water of black olives and eel.Angulas, very precious, delicious and extremely pricey, are baby eels. This dish is marvellous: rich, enjoyable, elegant 

Ajoblanco with coconut and almonds, granita of pinecone, extra virgin olive oil. This dish is a beautiful play on flavours, textures and temperatures. The oil adds a fat component, the granita adds freshness, the coconut a sweet note... Ajoblanco is a very famous Andalusian cold soup. Traditionally, it’s made with bread, crushed almonds, garlic, olive oil and water 

Ajoblanco with coconut and almonds, granita of pinecone, extra virgin olive oil. This dish is a beautiful play on flavours, textures and temperatures. The oil adds a fat component, the granita adds freshness, the coconut a sweet note... Ajoblanco is a very famous Andalusian cold soup. Traditionally, it’s made with bread, crushed almonds, garlic, olive oil and water 

Fennel and salted cod pil pil. In our notebook we wrote: «Pure pleasure». A very elegant balance 

Fennel and salted cod pil pil. In our notebook we wrote: «Pure pleasure». A very elegant balance 

Baked sea anemone, gazpachuelo (gazpachuelo is an Andalusian soup and it’s a typical fishermen’s meal, made with fish stock, a type of mayonnaise, garlic, egg yolk and olive oil). «This dish is a very well-deserved homage to Cadiz and our colleagues at restaurant Cataria, because they taught us how to prepare anemones in a way we had never tried; we pair it with gazpachuelo full of the flavour of the sea»

Baked sea anemone, gazpachuelo (gazpachuelo is an Andalusian soup and it’s a typical fishermen’s meal, made with fish stock, a type of mayonnaise, garlic, egg yolk and olive oil). «This dish is a very well-deserved homage to Cadiz and our colleagues at restaurant Cataria, because they taught us how to prepare anemones in a way we had never tried; we pair it with gazpachuelo full of the flavour of the sea»

Cockles, seaweed and green tomato gazpacho, cucumber with horseradish, oyster leaf 

Cockles, seaweed and green tomato gazpacho, cucumber with horseradish, oyster leaf 

Celeriac, celeriac juice, fresh summer truffle 

Celeriac, celeriac juice, fresh summer truffle 

Peas, broth of legumes and corn, hazelnut butter 

Peas, broth of legumes and corn, hazelnut butter 

Presa iberica de bellota, 

Presa iberica de bellota, "milk" of ham and trout roe. The Presa iberica de bellota (the neck of a pig fed with acorns) is first preserved in salt, then in brine, and finally cooked at low temperature. The result is simply delicious: a minimalistic dish, clean, with the meat that looks almost raw, with strong notes of fat and iodine, and the almost rancid aroma typical of a great Spanish jamón

Cow, tuna sauce and caviar 

Cow, tuna sauce and caviar 

Salted cod tripe, mousse of potatoes and roasted garlic 

Salted cod tripe, mousse of potatoes and roasted garlic 

Bresse pigeon, sauce made with its carcass, liver pâté. The pigeon matures for 60 days 

Bresse pigeon, sauce made with its carcass, liver pâté. The pigeon matures for 60 days 

Panna cotta with almonds, tartare of strawberries marinated in Jerez vinegar, almond crumble, vinegar meringue, strawberry ice cream 

Panna cotta with almonds, tartare of strawberries marinated in Jerez vinegar, almond crumble, vinegar meringue, strawberry ice cream 

Olive oil, honey, orange and chocolate. It’s a bread made with oil and chocolate, served with a cream of bitter oranges, oil and salt ice cream 

Olive oil, honey, orange and chocolate. It’s a bread made with oil and chocolate, served with a cream of bitter oranges, oil and salt ice cream 

Bagà
calle Reja de la Capilla 3, Jaén, Andalusia
tel. +34 953 047450
bagagastronomico.com
closed on Monday. On Sunday, open only at lunchtime 
tasting menu 65 euros


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