surinenglish

Conquerors or conquered?

Leafing through the Spanish pages of Wikipedia, it is interesting to see the lists of writers, musicians, bullfighters and conquistadores featured. However, only two chefs are mentioned, José Andrés and Ferran Adriá, but since we are on the cusp of seeing, hopefully, a conquest that is newsworthy, that of Quique Dacosta, perhaps he will also earn a Wikipedia place.

By the time you read this, Quique's restaurant, known as Arros QD, with 140 covers and a thousand square metres, will have been inaugurated in Britain's capital. The theme is paella, and all the rice dishes will be cooked over open fires using different woods to influence and enhance the taste. We wish him well of course, but there is a long history of Spanish chefs who have tried to emulate their national triumphs in other countries - with a spectacular failure rate. David Muñoz, whose Madrid DiverXO restaurant has three Michelin stars, appears to have had problems with his London StreetyXO. He recently bought out the 38 investors who had financed the project, at a cost of three and a half million euros.

Nevertheless there has always been a mistaken belief that if a restaurant works in, say, Madrid, Marbella or Valencia, it must therefore be capable of taking London by storm. On the other hand, experience shows that this risky formula is not backed up by historical facts.

Even Marbella's indomitable and highly capable Dani García will never forget the day he turned up for work as usual at his New York restaurant. He found it closed by order of his financial partners - who had taken the decision without even telling Dani.

London, with Brexit pending and an unprecedented exodus of foreign workers, hardly seems the best location to open a new paella place. Even the UK's favourite chef, TV personality and cookbook writer, Jamie Oliver, has had to close six of his ten London restaurants recently, with ten million euros of losses, although he still has 89 restaurants in 24 countries.