Crackle and hiss of ancient art

31 May 2011

EVEN turn by turn, GPS struggles to navigate the unmarked country lanes leading to Etxebarri. Yet the remote location, about 45 minutes’ drive from Bilbao, hasn’t deterred chefs and food lovers from making the journey to Axpe, a farming village of 70 people. Chef and owner Victor Arguinzoniz is renowned for producing one of Spain’s most sophisticated menus, using one of the world’s oldest culinary techniques: smoking. Arguinzoniz is fuelling the shift away from gastronomy to produce-focused cuisine, insisting “everything cooked with coal enhances the flavour of the products, both the virtues and the defects, which is why the greatness or mediocrity of a product is evident when we put it on the coals”.