Bastard talent

In Santander in Cantabria, discovering one of the most sparkling promises in Spanish cuisine

Withered tomato with rock anemone and juniper arom

Withered tomato with rock anemone and juniper aromatised oil: «as if it had been forgotten on the plant, it concentrated its aromas», explains author Sergio Bastard, chef at La Casona del Judío in Calle Repuente 20 in Santander (Cantabria, Spain), tel. +34.670.953327. According to Iberian critics, Bastard is one of the most interesting promises in the country

A failed lawyer Sergio Bastard – he studied in Valladolid, but is originally Catalan, from Barcelona – he is considered one of the promises in the cocina española, an unlimited horn of plenty talents. All the critics agree: Capel includes him among the chefs a los que no perder de vista, the young men worth keeping an eye on; Pepe Barrena ventures with famous comparisons («His cuisine can be linked, as for its philosophy, to those of Andoni Aduriz or Paco Morales». But he also reminds one a little of Alija.

Sergio Bastard, 34 years old

Sergio Bastard, 34 years old

Meanwhile, this chef – young though not extremely so, as he’s 34 – collects participations in Iberian congresses such as Madrid Fusión or the Galician-Catalan Forum Gastronomico, the other day, where he had to speak about “The importance of coastal herbs in high cuisine”. This is his field of research: Bastard is the forerunner of a naturaleza vegetal in which sea vegetables, kitchen garden vegetables, roots, leaves, flowers, the above mentioned herbs from the Cantabrian coast all meet. At least, this is so after he left the elegant hotel in which he used to work in Navarra, to move to Santander. For now, this is the final stage of a journey that largely took place in the Pais Vasco: above all, the star of his experience at Arzak shines.

In the Cantabrian capital he occupies a 19th century building that looks as a location for one of Hopper’s paintings; it used to belong to a salesperson famous for his thriftiness, hence the nickname people gave him, which remained in the building and was inherited by the restaurant: Casona del Judío. The chef here leads a quiet bistronomist provincial life, all based on Bacalao al pil-pil and Croquetas de jamónibérico, tradition with a few 2014 touches for the regular clients. Therefore, you need to go down into the cellar, in the gastronomic sancta sanctorum, in order to discover the other side of Bastard, the one that inspires the pens of the Iberian Anton Egos: here one table only is prepared, for a special service with the overdressed chef who finishes the preparation and dishes out the dish on the spot, explaining each single step.

Casona del Judío outdoor

Casona del Judío outdoor

There’s only the degustación menu, with 13 courses. You first take a leap high with the Smoked sardine, PX and marinated beet leaf, an explosion of taste (the sardine, smoked with cumin, is warmed up in a teapot in which there is an infusion of herbs in a Pedro Ximénes stock). The notes of smoke will return, in the Pine-smoked berberechos, with sea fennel, pine nuts, blackberries and pepper (replacing the classic lemon-pepper mix used to season the mussels in traditional comidas) or in a masterpiece, the Smoked scampi, again with cumin, fig leaf infusion, amaranth with butter noisette and spinach. And then there’s the "supernatural" (quoting Lo Mejor de la Gastronomia) Raviolo with carabinero prawn and crab, with the carpaccio made with the former, wrapping the meat of the second, on a jugo rojo made with the prawn itself and nasturtium leaves and flowers.

However, Bastard perhaps obtains the purest results when he keeps to his green universe: in the Withered tomato («As if it were forgotten on the plant, it has concentrated its aromas»), rock anemone and juniper aromatised oil. Or the Beetroot, marine sorrel, liquorish, Iberian pork fat, awarded as “Best vegetal dish in 2013” during Fruit Fusión, the green fair within Madrid Fusión: the root of the plant is cooked at low temperature for 55 minutes, and thus obtains the perfect balance between sweetness and bitterness and a crispy texture («This preparation tries to break the rules of the establishment», the chef explains).

Beetroot, marine sorrel, liquorish, Iberian pork fat

Beetroot, marine sorrel, liquorish, Iberian pork fat

It is brushed with jamón fat to add greasiness, the marine sorrel gives some acid notes while the liquorish some balsamic ones, with the final touch of the beetroot leaf itself which seems toasted and bestows a slightly bitter tone: «Many nuances, textures and sensations». A splendid complexity that already defines a chef with an enormous potential.

Casona del Judío
Calle Repuente, 20
Santander (Cantabria)
Closing day: Sunday night and the entire day on Monday
Tasting menu only, 85 euros


Carlo Mangio

An outdoor trip or a journey to the other side of the planet?
One thing is for sure: the destination is delicious, by Carlo Passera