The food at Michelin-starred chef Gonzalo Luzarraga's new fine-dining restaurant chronicles his life, says Katie Pathiaki
Italian chef Gonzalo Luzarraga's career has spanned from the three-Michelin-starred Le Louis XV in Monaco to the two-Michelin-starred Walter Eynard in Italy.
He earned his first star at Le Clivie Ristorante in Piobesi D'Alba, Italy. After operating restaurants in Italy, Austria and Russia, the chef and restaurateur met Francesco Ferretti through a mutual friend.
Ferretti wanted to team up with a chef to open a restaurant and, after debating between Paris, Singapore and London, they became business partners and settled upon a site on the New Kings' Road in Fulham in London.
The concept of Rigo' is summed up by the translation of its name: ‘a journey of rigorous research'. This is exactly what Luzarraga has been, and still is, on. He has spent his whole career researching cuisines from around the world and taking inspiration from every country he visits.
Using seasonal ingredients, Luzarraga has created a chronicle of his experiences and memories in the form of a fine-dining menu.
Each of the six courses in the tasting menu (£78) has a story attached to it. The second course, sea urchin bagna caôda with quail egg and fermented milk, reminds him of his father.
Luzarraga receives deliveries of live sea urchins from Iceland, Italy and Japan, depending on the season. He breaks them open and mixes the roe into a sauce made with anchovies, garlic and cream. A soft-boiled quail's egg is then put in the sauce alongside a blob of fermented milk.
"We use a process called alcohol fermentation, so the milk is a bit sourer than yogurt," says Luzarraga. "But it balances the dish because you need to have something sour with the fatty urchin and the creamy egg yolk. However, it's a fine line between just right and overwhelming the taste of the urchin."
The spaghettoni dei fiori with colatura di alici from Cetara and natural yeast is a favourite of not only Luzarraga, but also of his diners.
"The spaghetti is a simple recipe," he says. It's combined with extract of anchovies - an Italian process during which the juice is pressed from the anchovy - to give an umami flavour. It's served with natural yeast that is activated in the oven. "The taste of beer from the yeast and anchovies go well together, like bread, anchovies and butter," says Luzarraga. "It reminds me of holidays to Spain, as when you have a beer, you are offered anchovies, too."
ently, to appeal to new customers, Rigo' has started offering a prix fixe of three (£43) or four (£56) courses plus snacks. "It's more like a normal meal - starter, main, dessert and cheese if you want to have it. For us, it's more profitable as new guests might only want to have a taste before committing to the full tasting menu."
However, just four months after opening, Luzarraga has seen an increase in
people travelling across the city to try his food. "About 10% of people are coming from the centre, but every week, we see more," he says. A fig leaf ice-cream, available only on the prix fixe, is made with the milk from 10kgs of crushed fig leaves. "I created this dessert because I had a big fig tree in my garden in Italy, and when I was a child, I would drink the milk from the leaves," says Luzarraga.
"I don't add any extra milk to the mixture. I like it because it tastes and smells like you are very near a fig tree."
Rigo' sources its ingredients from around the world. Luzarraga reckons 40% come from France, but he has suppliers in Japan, Italy, Spain and even Scotland.
"I have a forager in Scotland who sources things like seaweed and fig leaves," says Luzarraga. "He also shoots venison and grouse. Everything is very wild and tastes very fresh. I have a special supplier for many things. I have one for pluma \pork\], in Italy, for example. I know the quality is good and have used them for years." Luzarraga enjoys helping people to explore flavours they've not tried before. "I always ask my team to try different ingredients and dishes. They will tell me if the English palate will like it or if the taste is too strong," he laughs. From the menu Sample tasting menu, £78 per person; matching wines, £58 •Snacks: crab, mortadella, tripe •Sea urchin bagna caôda, quail's egg, fermented milk •Tomato tart, heart of camone, stracciatella barese, verbena extract •Oscietra caviar, bone marrow, porcini and bonito dashi (£15 supplement) •Spaghettoni dei fiori colatura di alici from Cetara, natural yeast •Pluma of Cinta sense, oyster, scallop coral, pastinaca •Porcini brÁ»lés with chestnut cream, caramelised popcorn, black sesame •Selection of five cheeses from Franco Parola, Cuneo, with wild honey from Styria, onion jam and crackers (£15 supplement) 277 New King's Road, London SW6 4RD [www.rigolondon.com
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