Who will stop Paulo Airaudo?

One star in San Sebastian and one in London. Next opening in Apulia and in Hong Kong. The ascent of the Italian-Argentinian chef from Amelia

20-11-2019
Paulo Airaudo, Italian-Argentinian, 34. He’s che

Paulo Airaudo, Italian-Argentinian, 34. He’s chef at Amelia in San Sebastian in the Basque Country and at Da Torre in London, both with one Michelin star (photo Instagram/restaurantamelia)

For some time now the name of Paulo Airaudo is happily gravitating in our orbits. Since last year, to be precise, when Paolo Marchi first told us about this brilliant Italian-Argentinian chef, born in 1985, who after only 8 months got a Michelin star for his Amelia in San Sebastian, in the Basque Country (a couple of years earlier he had earned one in Geneva, in the late La Bottega).

Only 12 months later, we must update our records once again, as Airaudo has just received a second star for restaurant Da Terra in London, opened only 4 months ago in Bethnal Green. And there’s a whole series of projects coming up that might enrichen this bundle: in February 2020 Amelia will move, always in San Sebastian, to the more ambitious Hotel Londres y de Inglaterra, in front of the scenic ConchabeachThe current location in Prim Kalea will change name to Da Filippo, an Italian restaurant serving more traditional food, while on the same road the chef is expected to open a third place in San Sebastian, Cantina Argentina, specialised in meat “asada”.

In San Sebastian, Amelia received a Michelin star only 8 months after it opened 

In San Sebastian, Amelia received a Michelin star only 8 months after it opened 

Many Italians in the team: left to right, maître and sommelier Marco Adreani, barman Marco Ferreri and pastry chef Andrea De Lillo

Many Italians in the team: left to right, maître and sommelier Marco Adreani, barman Marco Ferreri and pastry chef Andrea De Lillo

There’s more, because details are being fine-tuned for the first establishment in Asia: the name will be Amelia Hong Kong and it will be open in December 2019. Most of all, everything’s read for the long awaited debut in Italy: Settecento di Paulo Airaudo will be the restaurant of boutique hotel Paragon 700 in Ostuni, open early in 2020, at the top of the village near Brindisi.

All this does not distract our collector from a concept he holds particularly dear: sustainability. «I hate it», he explains with his passionate attitude, «that people always speak of how carrots or artichokes are sustainable, while restaurateurs should speak of sustainability with regards to the people working for us. This is why I decided not to have interns, and not to pay anyone under the table. In San Sebastian and in London everyone works the right amount, 9 hours, and if I were to open at lunchtime too, I’d hire two whole teams of cooks and waiters. Cooking must not require superhuman, exaggerated efforts. Times are changing, it’s time that we all realise this».

That this attention is reflected on the tranquillity of the staff is clear as soon as you set foot at Amelia. Three waiters rush to welcome you at the door, all smiling, and they first walk you to the kitchen: «Making you understand what’s going on behind the scenes, that’s our welcome», tells us maître Marco Adreani. While he introduces the guests to the brigade, he presents the room where the ducks are hanging and right after that he pushes away the smoke from the gigantic grill that will serve for many dishes.

Gamba blanca: small prawns, mackerel sashimi, tomato in gel and confit, sauce of oil with wild fennel and creme fraiche

Gamba blanca: small prawns, mackerel sashimi, tomato in gel and confit, sauce of oil with wild fennel and creme fraiche

Lobster with corn air, sour petals of begonia and a light spicy note 

Lobster with corn air, sour petals of begonia and a light spicy note 

Marco is Italian, like many of the people at work in the restaurant. And like most of the wines in the cellar (many of which are available by the glass too, thanks to Coravin). To be clear, there’s Italy in the kitchen too, «Because I was born in Argentina», says the patron chef, followed by one of his typical enlightening sentences, «but what is Argentinian cuisine if not a derivative of the Italian traditions of our ancestors?».

To be precise, Amelia is a restaurant focused on products, not ‘experience’ unlike many others these days: «Ingredients are more important than the techniques you apply to them. Without product, people would not come back. After all, who would dress Armani if his clothes were not designed in an impeccable way?». Watertight thought. This results in the dishes in the only tasting menu served each night in San Sebastian for 139 euro, a whirl that every week reveals some small surprises, which only careful attention to micro-seasons and to the supply can offer.

Gamba blancabogavante, venison, monkfish: the noble origins of the raw materials is obvious. As well as the desire to add unusual spiciness (Lobster with corn air), to serve bread as a main course (with grilled bone marrow on the side), to give dignity to an aubergine as the main ingredient of a dish, to mix China and Piedmont without fear (A magnificent Monkfish served with XO sauce and bagna cauda) or to serve ice cream at the end (banana, but with caviar, trufa mielata and mole eh).

Venison with purée of nettles and oil with parsley 

Venison with purée of nettles and oil with parsley 

Goat cheese flan with caramel of sweet potato: fantastic (photo Instagram/restaurantamelia)

Goat cheese flan with caramel of sweet potato: fantastic (photo Instagram/restaurantamelia)

Rape: Monkfish, XO sauce and bagna cauda

Rape: Monkfish, XO sauce and bagna cauda

All this while in the background plays at a significant volume “Are you experienced?” by Jimi Hendrix (blasphemy!) and here and there Darth Vader masks and other motifs play it down. As contemporary as it gets.


Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso


Amelia Restaurant
Calle Prim, 34
Donostia-San Sebastian
Basque Country, Spain
+34943845647
Only tasting menu for 139 euros (plus 73 or 118 for the wine pairing)
Closed on Sunday and Monday. Open at lunchtime only on Saturday 


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Gabriele Zanatta’s opinion: on establishments, chefs and trends in Italy and the world