About a month ago, we brought you an extraordinario artículo by Tim Hayward about his visit to the Victor Montes restaurant in Bilbao which had been published in the restaurant review section of the Financial Times. In this article, titled “No one understands steak like the Basques,” he focused on exactly that, explaining how impressed he was by how the Basques prepared beef. And he did so, as we stated then, in an article that seemed more like literature than a mere restaurant review.
And now he’s once again given us another “joy” of an article also dedicated to how the Basques prepare beef. This time, it’s regarding what is sometimes called “old cow” beef, which we’ve blogged about on many occasions.
The inspiration for this article came from his visit to the Horma Ondo restaurant, located at the Legina Goika farmhouse in Larrabetzu.
The article contains a detailed explanation of the different tastes for beef and in how the use of beef from young cows, beyond the simple explanation that it’s more tender, hides a certain optimization of investment. It’s no coincidence that the instensive feeding of corn and early slaughter that produce these characteristics are also the most profitable way of raising beef on an industrial scale.
But the author explains that in the Basque Country, they like the best beef, that that beef comes from old cows. The Basques are not content with young calves: they don’t want immature cows with little flavor. Beef here doesn’t depend on corn feed, which is not the best for the animal, nor prolonged aging to develop the flavors, in a way that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. Here, what they want is brilliant cuisine over an open flame, with beef that tastes very much liike beef, meaning you need to eat far less in order to enjoy it.
Horma Ondo is a family-run grillhouse headed by Brit Jayne Hardcastle, who’s married to Mikel Bustinza, who’s spent almost his whole like, almost 50 years, in cuisine and who takes care of the restaurant. One of their children, Jon Bustina, is also in the kitchen, while daughter Olatz Bustina is the sommelier and accompanies her father when attending to the customers. To see their menu is to see what every Basque person expects to find today at a grillhouse: quality meat and fish, and some traditional starters and desserts that aren’t without a modern touch.
Tim Hayward has gifted us yet another lesson in cuisine and literature, all in an article that is amazing publicity for Basque cuisine and Basque restaurants.
We’ll finish this article off the way we did the last one, by stating that once again we’re not sure whether to thank him for such a great article or to be mad at him for “spilling the beans.” We’re sure it’s now going to be more difficult to book a table at the Horma Ondo, as well as in many other Basque restaurants.
Honestly, for us locals, it’s getting harder and harder to continue that tradition of picking out a restaurant and just showing up. All the good places now require a reservation! It’s the price to pay when the world starts finding out that Basque gastronomy is top of its class in the world.
We remind readers that in order to access this article, it is necessary to register, for free, to the Financial Times website.
(Note): In the comments to the article, there is at least one person who is either trolling or just ignorant (we’ll let the reader decide) who denies that Basque was ever persecuted by Francoism, as Tim Hayward claims. Since it has nothing to do with the magnificent article we’re discussing here, we’ll give it its own entry.
Financial Times – 20/4/2023 – Great Britain
My quest to find the oldest bit of steak in Basque Country
There’s a pretty square in the old town part of Bilbao lined with pleasant restaurants serving interesting things. The most comically old-looking one, Victor Montes, is tucked in one corner, its sign written in a Gothic script you’d expect to find on a kid’s book of spells. It serves wine and good pintxos to a well-heeled, standing crowd. Upstairs there’s a dining room.
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Last Updated on Jun 11, 2023 by About Basque Country