This is quite emphatically the year of the old cow. And no, I dont mean me
Lurra: Theres plenty to thrill, even on such a short menu.
The last time I suggested that something was the taste of 2015, I ended up in Private Eyes Pseuds Corner. (I blame The Manor in Clapham and its kombucha sours.) So thrilled was I about the accolade that Im going for it again: 2015 is, quite emphatically, the year of the old cow.
And, no, I dont mean me. I mean meat. The beef served at glamorous new Lurra isnt so much about the current cult around length of ageing as actual animal years: the Galician rubia gallega they dish up here can reach 17 years old (typically, UK cattle are slaughtered at 18 months). This veneration of age has been the hardcore carnivores niche fetish for some time (see Levanter in Ramsbottom and Brindisa, which has for a while now featured cider house beef, usually retired dairy cows ). But its current place in the sun really came about as a result of the much-hyped Kitty Fishers in Mayfair, which put chewing through a 12-year-old Galician milker top of those fetishists list of must-dos.
Marylebones Donostia also did much to popularise vaca vieja and the idea that beef needed to taste of way more than the grill. And its one of Donostias owners, Nemanja Borjanovik, whos responsible for supplying that meat and spreading its fame not only to Kitty Fishers, but also to Goodman and Pizarro, all outfits that know a good beast when they chomp it. Now Borjanovik and partner Melody Adams have launched Lurra (it means land in Basque), which puts that meat centre stage.
Presentation is utterly simple: the meat is blasted with heat (We serve it medium-rare. Is that OK?), scattered with sea salt and plonked on a fiercely hot cast-iron serving dish. This creates my only criticism: the precious meat (42 for 650g) continues to cook in the scalding dishs residual heat, so by the time were halfway through, its well done. This is fine for yer sizzling tandoori chicken, but for this quality of meat: nu-huh. Up until its frazzling, this rubia gallega (not a milker, bred only for beef) is the most ambrosial piece of meat, almost sweet, with the length of flavour of an aged Parmesan or a fine, full-bodied wine; it makes cavemen of the pair of us. Apparently some customers have been asking for the creamy fat to be trimmed off, a fact thats causing me to gnash with frustration.
Theres plenty more to thrill, even on such a short menu. (And theres nowt wrong with that: at Bar Nestor in San Sebastin, which the meat-importing arm of the company credits as an influence, the only other dishes on the menu are a tortilla, gildas, padrn peppers, Ibrico de bellota and a tomato salad. Thats it.) You can have courgette flower, its stem crisp and earthy, its blossom fried until lacy and bulging with oddly unfishy cod brandada. Or octopus: smoky, tender tentacles in piquillo pepper sauce. Or whole turbot, burnished in its fish basket over the grill and served with a dressing made from the Basque countrys beloved light txacoli wine (and a homage to legendary Basque asador Elkano). I even brave unloved-by-me kokotxas pil pil gelatinous cods throats in an emulsion of olive oil, garlic and fish stock and find myself warming to the slippery little dollops (only two of them for 7, though: yikes). Chips crisp, golden, dusted with pimentn and accessorised by an aoli dip of artery-clogging richness are as impossible to resist as bloody Doritos. The owners are also wine importers, so the ribeiro is rich and ripe and luscious. Somehow, were the last people to leave.
Its easy to linger: the restaurant itself is lovely, all pale wood and marble, a refreshing departure from todays ubiquitous bare brick and tin ceilings. Light-filled by day, elegant and otherworldly, its a haughty supermodel of restaurant design. Far more expansive than its discreet Marylebone shopfront suggests, theres a hidden interior courtyard fringed with kitchen herbs. Prop up the bar on a mint-green stool in front of the tiny, busy kitchen, a cold store brimming with the ageing meat at your back, and watch and salivate as your steak sears. To eat meat of this quality back in its homeland, youd likely be in a bare-boned, rough-edged erretagia (the Basque version of the asador). Here, though, all is sunny elegance. Lurra is, in more ways than one, an absolute beauty.