TEXT: KIKI DEERE | PHOTOS © MARIA CAPARROS | DAVID FLORES
The Spanish city of Murcia may not immediately spring to mind for a foodie break, but in recent years it has established itself as one of the country’s best culinary destinations.
“Most foreigners haven’t heard of Murcia,” explains David López, owner and executive chef of Local de Ensayo, a fashionable restaurant tucked away on the outskirts of Murcia. “Yet it is home to impressive gastronomic delights.”
“We have seafood,” he continues, “outstanding fresh greens and meats like Chato Murciano, a domestic breed of pig that is prized for its succulent lean meat.”
Ingredients here are locally grown, with vegetables like wild Swiss chard, peas, artichokes, mushrooms, truffles and wild potatoes, all selected from family-run producers from the surrounding countryside.
Fish comes from nearby Mar Menor, a salty sea lagoon where ancient fishing methods dating back to the Phoenician times are still used today. By installing a barrier of reeds, fishermen trap the fish in an enclosed area, preventing them from escaping towards cooler currents, and subsequently capturing them with small nets hooked to a pole.
But although ingredients are sourced following traditional ancient methods, the cuisine at Local de Ensayo is anything but démodé. “Our experimental cuisine is lovingly developed and prepared,” López promises.
For López, the real importance and focus of the food lies not so much in the presentation, but in the array of creative cooking techniques he uses, which come to life in the flavour and texture of each dish.
With its whitewashed brick walls, hanging light bulbs and mismatched chairs, the restaurant has a stylishly convivial feel. Designed by Soraya Olivares, the lively interiors reflect the philosophy of the restaurant: to create simple yet inventive dishes made with fine seasonal ingredients in this little-known Spanish region that produces some of the country’s best fare.