Jan 11 2018

Spanish Chef Pepe Solla conquers Lisbon with his Atlantic cuisine

The most earthly and simple cuisine of the great Spanish chef Pepe Solla (one Michelin star for Casa Solla, Galicia), featuring the authenticity of Galician flavors, can be enjoyed at Casa Atlántico and Atlántico Casa de Petiscos, the chef's Galician embassies in the center of Madrid. Now the chef has opened another branch in Lisbon, proving that Pepe Solla is an unstoppable force.

Text: Rodrigo García Fernández / ©ICEX

Spanish Chef Pepe Solla: Celeiro hake with nuts olive oil

I have an appointment with Spanish Chef Pepe Solla at his Galician tapas (petiscos) bar next to Madrid's Parque del Retiro. While I wait for him to arrive, I begin to carefully study his menu. As I start to read it (Galician beef tartare with ewe's cheese, bay scallops in pimentón sauce, spider crab croquettes), I immediately feel myself transported through my gustative memories to the damp and fertile land – so accustomed to the influences of the Atlantic Ocean – that is Galicia. “That is exactly what I want to convey with my Atlántico Casa de Comidas and Atlántico Casa de Petiscos projects,” explains Pepe in an utterly convincing tone.

Spanish Chef Pepe Solla: Grilled octopus with green curry

His excitement about his first business adventure abroad is palpable: the opening of Casa Atlántico in the new Gourmet Experience space in El Corte Inglés department store in Lisbon, with the support of Compañía del Trópico (his partners for the Madrid establishments). Why Lisbon? “One of the premises of Casa Atlántico is that we go as far as our products can travel, which is to say, our selection of raw materials is so exhaustive and delicate that we wouldn't be able to replicate this model in Berlin or New York. However, Lisbon is close enough to make the logistics possible.”

Spanish Chef Pepe Solla: Galician Cheese Board

“There, the tapa doesn't work as well as the ración (slightly larger) format, referring to raciones meant to be shared in the center of the table between various diners. That is why we've adapted the proposal slightly, preserving the same essence of Galicia found in our Madrid and Valencia restaurants, while also taking into account the dining habits of Lisbonites.”

Customers who visit Casa Atlántico in Lisbon will have the opportunity to sample Galician cuisine that goes beyond the region's uber-famous seafood. Some of the most popular dishes at the Madrid establishments that will also be present in some format in Lisbon include the empanadas, the aguachiles and the tartares (shrimp or scallop, with dizzyingly fresh seasonings), as well as the creations featuring spare ribs, or hake – one of the most emblematic fish in Spanish gastronomy. Attention should also be paid to the excellent selection of traditional Galician cheeses (Tetilla, San Simón, Cebreiro, Arzúa-Ulloa), and the charcuterie made with the native Celta breed of pork (chorizo, fuet, cured breast, etc.).

Spanish Chef Pepe Solla: Prawn tartar

Pepe Solla is a staunch defender of the seafood from the Rías Gallegas, as well as a champion of other treasures from the region: “The selection of shellfish is so good that it doubtlessly eclipses some of the region's other culinary marvels, like its wonderful vegetable gardens filled with top-notch fresh produce, sublime beef, poultry meat from native breeds that are making a comeback, and a singular pork culture that is very different from that of the Iberian pig that is found in other Spanish regions, and which is rooted in the practice of salt curing. The reason for this was very simple: the pig was butchered and many of its products were cured using salt and spices like pimentón in order to preserve them for the entire year to come. This practice led to the emergence of truly flavorful recipes with pork,” explains Pepe.

And what better way to accompany this culinary journey through Galicia than with the selection of Galician wines available to Atlántico’s Portuguese customers in Lisbon. Wine aficionados will already be familiar with the quality of the white wines of Rías Baixas and Ribeiro – sure bets on any wine list – but Pepe Solla also encourages his customers to try the red wines from Galicia, “very fresh, light, less meaty, but with a deep Atlantic character that always make me think that Galicia is the Burgundy of Spain.”

Translation: Adrienne Smith/©ICEX

Customers who visit Casa Atlántico in Lisbon will have the opportunity to sample Galician cuisine that goes beyond the region's uber-famous seafood. Rodrigo García Fernández/©ICEX.