Javier Olleros welcomes us in his Culler de Pau, one of the greatest Spanish restaurants, in O Grove, Galicia. Photo Tanio Liotta
There’s magic in a simple hibiscus flower which you must dip in honey vinegar. Or in the Dry meringue and sardine. There’s pureness in the Spinach with three broths: kombu, lacón and tomato. There’s talent is in the Onion from Vilanova in tempura, broth of smoked and salted fish, aromatised oil with flowers of savory. There’s skill in the Sea and earth asparagus, or in the Percebes, garlic flan, garum, portulaca, soup of pine oil. Together, they have a spectacular outcome, so much so that for us as well as for the Spanish colleagues who praise him, chef Javier Olleros has become deservedly one of the greatest chefs.
Javier Olleros and brigade in the magnificent scenery of theRias Gallegas
The dining room
A recent visit of Berasategui to Culler de Pau
The vegetable garden at Culler de Pau
The new frontier for Culler de Pau is sustainability, responsibility, respect. Ninety percent of the supplies already come from local organic producers. «It’s simple: we already have a vegetable garden, and there are many more, close by. You can find all sorts of products».
Olleros recycles 60% of the organic materials used, and has launched his own compost system. He explains: «I don’t like speaking about sustainability. I’d rather speak of responsibility. For us, this is a daily commitment, without making too much fuss, because we make small steps. We cannot, perhaps it’s impossible, change things all of a sudden. However, we are aware of the goal we want to reach, and we work hard every day to get closer and closer to that goal».
Olleros in his lab
Before going up to the dining room, on the first floor of Culler de Pau’s building, you walk past Olleros’s laboratory, crowded with drawings, diagrams, analyses: scattered on the table, hanging on the walls. «This is my place of study, a sort of "highway" that I consider vital because it allows me to clear my ideas, to have creativity, curiosity and technique meet. The more we are in the brigade [the current staff is made of 14 people in the kitchen, plus 6 in the dining room, plus a gardener and a farmer], the more one needs to give meaning to things».
Principles and values that the chef conveys in silence, with a humbleness that only at times reveals his enthusiasm. What’s important is that our lunch was marvellous. We illustrate it now, through Tanio Liotta’s photos.
Translated into English by Slawka G. Scarso
Infusion of fermented herbs from the vegetable garden
Dry meringue and sardine: a small sweet-savoury masterpiece
Crispy rice and ink squid wafer, herbs and flowers, cream of seafood and anchovy
Pickled beetroot and leaf of nasturtium; then Champignon sandwich
Wheat toast, cream of San Simón, pickled celeriac. San Simón is a delicious and multi-awarded Galician cow’s milk cheese, with a delicate smokiness
Fermented nasturtium seeds and fennel soup
Octopus cooked in its broth
Seafood with rock broth and codium. In a scallop shell, a seafood broth surrounding cockles, razor clams, sea truffles...
Percebes, garlic flan, garum, purslane, soup of pine oil. A stunning, perfect, magical dish
Another masterpiece, Sea and earth asparagus. The broth is made with plankton, there’s samphire, and an ice cream of asparagus. Extremely clean, excellent technique
Cachena Veal, mustard and spicy herbs. Cachena is the high-quality Galician breed, it’s small cattle that gives little meat. Its breeding has been almost totally replaced by more productive breeds; today it’s being recovered. The dish is simply exemplary, masterful
A simple tuille of Millo Corvo, a Galician indigenous corn variety that had almost disappeared. It’s also a Slow Food Praesidium, see here
Onion from Vilanova in tempura, smoked and salted fish broth, spicy oil with samphire flowers. Once again, spectacular standards
Burela Bonito, escabeche, carrots and sorrel. They buy the Bonito from the market in Burela, a small port in Galicia. The escabeche is the Iberian equivalent of Italian scapece
Calamari, sauce made with calamari ink, carrots from the vegetable garden and clover
Heart of lettuce, juice of salpicón vegetables and almonds. Salpicón is a sort of typical salad made with diced vegetables, with lots of variations, including some with meat
Incredible Spinach with three broths: kombu, lacón and tomato. Lacón is the typical, traditional cut of pork: it’s the lower front part of the animal
Galician scallops, broth of seeds of Pimientos del Padrón, a delicious green pepper, a typical variety of Padrón, a village in the province of A Coruña, in Galicia
Tender Galician corn, jus of hen escabeche, pancetta and oxalis. How delicious
Cod, its kokotxas, sauce meuniere, French beans and sorrel. Kokotxas is the underpart of the cod’s jaws, a mostly Basque specialty
Courgettes, elderberry flowers, powdered veal tendons, juice of callos, a tripe-based dish. Another memorable dish
The dish is served with the puffed powdered veal tendons on the side, which you can add to taste
This Trébol bravo is stunning: you must dip the flower of hibiscus in a cold cream of honey vinegar. Absolute pureness
Kefir, wild cherries, beetroot vinegar
Celery, carrot, cucumber, melon and nasturtium
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
journalist born in 1974, for many years he has covered politics, mostly, and food in his free time. Today he does exactly the opposite and this makes him very happy. As soon as he can, he dives into travels and good food. Identità Golose's editor in chief