Viva Hispania

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 © Hispania

We may not all be off to sunny Spain, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stay in Brussels and enjoy some terrific Spanish food

The menu of Hispania declares: “Hispania is not just a Spanish restaurant, Hispania is a space created to provide our clients with the best experience of Spanish lifestyle, gastronomy and culture around the world. Hispania is Spain.”

They definitely aren’t kidding, all the dishes are in one sense very traditional, but with the nuances and flair that you would expect from a chef like Adrian Mañcheno.

“My mother used to cook at home and I always loved watching her”

Mañcheno’s passion for cooking started early: “My family influenced me a lot. My mother used to cook at home and I always loved watching her. Since I was a kid, I loved watching cooking shows and was a great fan of some of the some Spanish chefs, such as Carlos Arguiñano. Then, when I was a bit older I started buying a lot of books from the top chefs like Subijana, Arzak, Berasategui, the Adriá brothers or the Roca brothers. Those books were a source of inspiration to me.”

“My region is characterized by traditional stews, pork is a religion and we have the best pantry”

Mañcheno grew up in Oviedo, in Asturias, this had a great influence on his style: “My region is characterized by traditional stews, pork is a religion and we have the best pantry of vegetables, cheeses, seafood and fish that I have ever seen. As a chef is a real pleasure to work with products from my region.”

“I will always be thankful to all the good mentors I had during my early years in the kitchen”

He honed his craft in some of Spain’s most prestigious restaurants, working with some of Spain’s top chefs in restaurants like: El Celler de Can Roca (3 Michelin), Coque (2 Michelin), L’Alezna (1 Michelin), Casa Gerardo (1 Michelin) and Balneario de Salinas (1 Michelin).

“My time in all those restaurants was what made me the chef I am today, so I will always be thankful to all the good mentors I had during my early years in the kitchen.”

But before these he started his career with the master pastry chef Miguel Sierra, in the small Asturian town of Tapia de Casariego, he confesses that he has always had a sweet tooth. Spanish cooking isn’t famous for its desserts, but the menu at Hispania has several intriguing options like ‘chocolate coulant, citrus fruit and frozen cream’. Mañcheno offers some fascinating pairings of different sherries with the desserts and it isn’t just the sweeter Pedro Ximénez, but Oloroso and Palo Cortado – which are considered to be on the drier side of the sherry spectrum. 

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Asking Mañcheno what his favourite Spanish dish is, is a bit like asking a parent who their favourite child is, he finds it close to impossible, but he has a certain loyalty to Fabada Asturiana, which is like a Spanish cousin of cassoulet – but even better, of course! Made with the large white beans (fabes de la granja) and a selection of Spain’s outstanding pork products: lacón, tocino, morcilla (boudin noir) and chorizo. 

Finally, I am intrigued by what brought this most Spanish of Spanish chefs to the heart of Brussels and the Sablon? Chance, apparently: “I had a small business in Oviedo and one day, the owners of Hispania came to have lunch. After tasting my dishes they decided to offer me the opportunity to make the leap to a big company. 

“I have been here for seven years and met my partner Pilar who is a very important support in my life and I can say that I am in love with Brussels and the opportunities it can offer. I am the Executive Chef of the company, and even though I live in Brussels, I also run the rest of the restaurants of the company which are in London and Vietnam.”

Finally, a word about the decor. Antique dealer and interior designer Lorenzo Castillo is behind the interiors in both London and Brussels. He has a distinctive, elegant and contemporary style. In the Brussels restaurant he chose golden colours carefully mixing antiques, mirrors and vintage pieces around a beautiful central bar. Castillo plays with beautiful artisanal fabrics to create a cozy and refined atmosphere. Every detail, from the tablecloths to the plates has been carefully chosen. The tables dressed in white tablecloths stand elegantly and Lorenzo’s attention to detail is shown in the crockery chosen for this space that he picked personally.

www.hispaniabrussels.com