As you probably already know, our love of all things Spanish knows no bounds. This is why we’re always more than happy to go back to where our journey began all those years ago, taking regular trips to different areas of Spain to fully immerse ourselves in the heritage, culture and cuisine, always seeking new inspiration and innovative ideas to bring home. Recently, we took our senior chefs to the East coast of Spain, more specifically, Valencia and the province of Teruel. Our four-day trip in search of foodie conversations, ideas and shared knowledge took our group to unchartered territory making the experience even more rewarding. It’s safe to say we were ready for nothing less than a fun-packed & educational few days.
We started our trip in the small, picturesque town of Rubielos de Mora, Teruel with a population of just over 650 people, an hour and a half away from Valencia. In this quiet gem (one of the so-called “slow-towns” in Spain), we were met in the local roadside Venta by renowned Jamon producer Antonio Mata of Casa Mata to go in search of the finest truffles which grow in the region. With the aid of the resident truffle-hunting spaniel, our Asador 44 head chef, Ian Wood, successfully unearthed a huge Périgord Truffle which is one of the most expensive in the world (this one would have a retail price of £250!) We were all completely spoilt when Antonio took us for a six course lunch at a local restaurant, where the native truffle was included in every dish (including truffle ice cream!). A tour of the town and a few gin tonicas rounded off the day….
Day two started with a tour of the Casa Mata factory and a fascinating insight into the Jamon production process. The highlight being group photos in a cathedral of cured ham, surrounded by over 3,000 examples at different stages of curing.
We then jumped in ours cars and headed in convoy towards l’Albufera, an area of outstanding natural beauty on the outskirts of Valencia, which is famous for its delicious rice dishes and paella. Here, we ate local eels and wild duck, rabbit and snail paella which was cooked over local orange wood and enjoyed some downtime relaxing on a small boat navigating our way through the rice fields at the Palomar National Park watching flocks of migrating Ibis and Flamingo stretch across the horizon in front of a glorious pink and orange sunset.
The evening took us to the bright lights and delights of Valencia. We didn't waste any time in getting out and about in the well known Calle Ruzafa, based in the Russafa neighbourhood to sample the stunning tapas that was on offer. The chefs at this point were extremely pleased that they listened to our advice of elasticated trousers so they could savour every bite and marvel at every flavour that was put in front of them.
Day three started with a visit to the market ‘Mercat Central Valencia’ which was packed with an amazing array of fresh, locally sourced produce where we rubbed shoulders with the locals purchasing their ingredients for the their lunch and dinner – a chef’s dream!
After another food-filled morning (we know.....its tough! J), we headed for Vacum, suppliers of our showcase Rubia Gallega Chuleton. Here, we were lucky enough to take part in a masterclass, learning how to expand our beef repertoire and create more excellent dishes back home for you.
The icing on the cake was a three hour tour de force lunch based entirely around what we believe is the finest beef in the world. Everyone was served over 1.5Kg of 90 day dry aged rib each – a somewhat intimidating prospect, but one which we duly accepted…
As well as developing our knowledge, these trips are all about growing our relationships. So, on our last day, we got the chance to catch up with Rita Deltodo, an ex-Bar 44 chef and eternal friend of the Bar 44 family. It was fantastic to see her again, learning more about her life in Spain and getting some top local tips.
After saying our goodbyes, we went for a stroll around the town to see some of the sights and along the seafront where we carried on and tried out other gastro venues – well can you ever have enough? We came across the most amazing place called Poblet where we experienced the most beautiful comfort food (more paella & fideuà) with an exceptional level of customer service - something else that is very close to our hearts!
It’s safe to say we left brimming with ideas and feeling inspired by what we’d all experienced. These trips may seem like just another perk of working at the 44 Group restaurants, which of course they are, but to us they’re much more than that. Our trips provide our talented chefs and team the opportunity to spend quality time together, bouncing ideas off each other whilst sampling the finest produce that we stock as well as new, innovative ingredients. We encourage all of our staff to soak up as much knowledge as possible and appreciate all aspects of Spanish culture and cuisine – from local hospitality, the varied and vibrant atmospheres across the country and the traditional dishes as well as the more modern creations. To do this, it only seems fair that we organise our trips because through learning and experimenting in this way, it’s how we’ll continue to grow and excel at what we do.