- The Gist: Antipodean-meets-South American coffee house and kitchen
- The Chefs: Lynette and Cloe de la Vega
- Location: 26 Southampton Street, London WC2E 7RS
- Food in 5 words: Fresh and creative fusion dishes
- See more: www.abuelocafe.co.uk
How did we get here?
Lynette de la Vega has owned and operated restaurants in Sydney with her Argentinian husband, pioneering concepts in Australia back in the 1980s and '90s, like the all-day-breakfast menu and the inclusion of delicatessens within restaurants.
Cloe ran a food business selling Argentinian food, such as empanadas, at artisan markets across Sydney.
Together, the family have launched Abuelo, a restaurant in Covent Garden, offering a fusion of Antipodean and South American food.
“We look at something traditional and then we just approach it from a different way, whether it’s visually or the flavour,” Lynette de la Vega tells Food Spark. “We don’t go conventionally with anything we have seen, but it’s all about ingredients and how to bring the two cultures together. The South American brings spice and the Australian brings freshness and the plant-based part.”
It’s good timing for this fusion as the two cuisines are taking off. Selfridges has declared all things Oz trendy, dedicating two months to Australian cuisine in its food hall, while Food Spark has been writing about the popularity of South American food for months – from Venezuelan street food, through to chain eats at Las Iguanas and new openings like Paladar.
What’s different about it?
Abuelo’s breakfast seriously challenges the London brunch scene, so forget about eggs benedict and smashed avo on toast.
“I’ve noticed that Australians don’t tend to think so much about breakfast food in the old way of having a porridge or granola or a plate of fruit or yoghurt. We think ‘you are starting the day and you need to be nourished’,” says Lynette.
“So at Abuelo we basically start the day with barbecued croque monsieur, pulled pork and caramelised balsamic onions, and a bit of micro greens on the side. Or carbe provoleta, which is melted cheese cooked with organic beef brisket in chimichurri salsa and fresh herbs and leaves, which is very South American. I find people are looking for more of a substantial meal rather than a granola or muffin, which you can get anywhere.”
With a small kitchen that has no storage, everything is prepared fresh on the day, while there is also a focus on showcasing the ingredients rather than chopping, pulverising and hiding them in sauces, says Lynette.
She is also a fan of experimenting with different flavour combinations and pushing the boundaries of food. “In a lot of cases, restaurants are sitting on their laurels and relying on tradition and where they have come from in a region, but the thing is they can push that regional cooking to another level, and add global influences and take it into something else,” she says
You’ve got to try…
The dish that turns the empanada inside out.
Called the Sloppy Jose, it’s the traditional Argentinian spiced beef empanada filling on brioche with melted mature cheddar that’s topped with a quail’s egg.
Sparkie also likes…
Huevos divorciados de Turco: labneh poached eggs separated by salsa roja (spicy red sauce) and chimichurri, served with avocado cream and smoked paprika on toast.
You aren't afraid of a big, meat-forward brekkie.