Tuesday, September 08, 2009
When we entered La Alqueria Rafael Zafra who is the head chef and one of Ferrán Adriá right hand men met us. Rafa greeted our boys who he had met the night before and promised them a great experience to rival anything they may have tasted in their short but nevertheless impressive gastronomic education.
Rafa was not wrong the food and wine combined with superb service was worthy of mention alongside my first experience of Pierre Gagnaire (in St Etienne) in the early 1990's or other unique experiences at Frédy Girardet (Crissier), Troigros and of course Ferrán Adriá.
Rafael Zafra a native of Seville is only 27 and apart from Ferrán Adriá over the last 5 years, he has also worked with Fernando Barcenas (Aldebaran) Daniel Garcia (Trabaguches), Toño Perez (Atrio), Gerard Swaiger (Tristan restaurant).
The tasting menu was really stunning and one of the most enjoyable 3 hours I have ever spent with my family. It's not always easy to choose your wine on such occasions but I decided to stick with Spanish and we drank 2005 Lusco do Mino "Pazo Pineiro de Lusco" Albariño, Rias Baixas and Vega Sicilia Unico 1990 the former was familiar to me and turned out to work well with the myriad of tapas and sea food centred part of the tasting menu whilst Pepe Garcia the Sommelier assured me that the 1990 as opposed to 1995 Vega Sicilia would be better suit with the meat centric part of the menu. 1990 is not one of the great years but nevertheless it's a remarkable wine that has never disappointed me unlike the over hyped 1995 Pingus.
The tasting menu was really a masterpiece not just on an individual per dish basis but how everything worked so well as a whole. The highlights were a mock baguette wrapped in Iberico Ham, tempura flowers, red mullet fillets with mango and lime sorbet, duck foie gras with an almost chocolate like reduction and an incredible frozen white chocolate cake. Many of the dishes are staples tried and tested at El Bulli before being replaced by the newly developed dishes. The real point of difference here is Rafael Zafra who as a native Andalucian adds his talent and creativity to the tried and tested dishes but also some of his own that are obviously inspired by the region of his birth.
In summary Hacienda Benazuza provided us with one of the best boutique hotel stays and breakfasts ever as well as a dinner I am happy to include in my top 10 to date.