“Luxury means quality. It means glamour. It means cool. With luxury dining, it needs to make you go “wow”. It doesn’t necessarily need to be super dressed up; it just has to be clean, colourful and high quality – and taste as good as it looks.” Nieves Barragán
There are only three Michelin Starred Spanish restaurants in the UK. Two of these are in London, and both of those received their accolades whilst overseen by Nieves Barragán – now one of the most respected chefs in the world. Not only is she an incredible and passionate chef, but Nieves is a keen cyclist, a member of the RCC and a regular visitor to the Rapha store in London close to her restaurant. A match made in heaven for a LeBlanq trip!
Nieves was raised in Bilbao in the Basque region of Spain and spent most of her childhood shadowing her mother in the kitchen at home, as she created the family's meals. She still rates her mother as her biggest inspiration, someone who would achieve great flavours and filling foods from everyday ingredients using every cut of an animal. This passion for high quality, simple and tasty food is the at the core of another of her Nieves' culinary heroes, Angela Hartnett (who wowed LeBlanq guests in the Isle of Wight).
Arriving in London in her 20s, Nieves landed a job at a restaurant called Simply Nico. She was the only woman in the kitchen and didn’t speak either English or French – the languages that were spoken there but fell in love with the capital city and its gastronomical possibilities. It was her mother who she called to say that she wouldn't be coming home (as well as a few white lies about how long the days were and that she was perfectly safe getting home after her shift – taking two buses across London in the early hours of the morning). Her choice worked out well, and she went on to become a sous chef at Fino, the Harts brothers' first restaurant, working her way up to head chef after four years.
When Sam and Eddie Hart opened Barrafina, a fast turnaround no reservation tapas restaurant on Soho's Dean Street, it was only natural that they would take the chef who knew everything about Spanish cooking with them. Nieves was now executive head chef at both restaurants.
Barrafina went on to open four more venues in London and the original Dean Street restaurant was awarded a coveted Michelin star in 2013, pretty unusually for such an informal dining experience. In 2017, Nieves took the plunge and left the Hart Brothers to spread her wings and live the dream of opening her own restaurant.
Sabor opened on Heddon Street (yards away from where the cover of David Bowie's 'Ziggy Stardust and the Spider's From Mars' album cover was shot) in 2018 and was awarded its own Michelin star only eight months later. Sabor is split into three distinct areas: the Bar, the Counter, and El Asador. At the Bar, you’ll find tapas dishes, sherries, sangrias, and more, whilst at the Counter, it’s the seafood of Catalonia and the Basque Country which is highlighted. Upstairs, guests travel to central Spain, Madrid, Galicia, and Castile, with family sharing dishes like whole suckling pigs and octopus. It's food with theatre and flavour, and Nieves can't imagine doing anything else.
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