How did we get here?
Quique Dacosta is breaking out of Spain.
The Valencian chef’s flagship venture, Quique Dacosta Restaurante in Alicante has held three Michelin stars since 2013. He’s also the head honcho of El Poblet (one Michelin star), Mercatbar, Vuelve Carolina and, most recently, the more casual Llisa Negra.
Now, Dacosta is heading to London to launch his first international outpost. In June, he’ll debut Arros QD in Fitzrovia, ending a three-year ordeal to open in the UK capital. (Arros means rice in English and is also the Valencian name for paella.)
What’s different about it?
Rice doesn’t currently have much presence in high-end gastronomy, according to Dacosta, but he wants to change that. The grain is something of a passion for the Spaniard, who published a 300-page book about it, Arroces Contemporáneos, in 2005.
Arros QD’s menu will include both meat and vegetarian paellas, and all the rice options will be designed to share, evoking a sense of familial ritual, comfort and tradition, which Dacosta credits to rice dishes from around the world.
“I am excited to bring part of our tradition and gastronomy to one of the most important capitals of the world,” he said. “Paella is one of the best-known dishes around yet also one of the most mistreated. With this project, I am materialising a passion I have been nurturing for decades: to reinstate the rice culture from the eastern coast of Spain to its rightful home.
“I don’t think it will take a lot of education for people to understand how great paella is as a dish that can be eaten all the time,” he added in an interview with Big Hospitality, a sister site of Food Spark. “Many people have tried it when they visit Spain or have been exposed to it, they already know about the dish. We are here to give our grain of rice to London and to show people how great it can be.”
A dozen different types of rice have been selected for the various dishes: bomba rice will feature in the caldoso (a soupy dish), while the meloso, which is stickier and risotto-like, will be made from a rice that loses its starch.
Most of the paella-style dishes are designed for two, but for those wanting their own plate, there are chapas. These smaller rectangular serves of rice will come with options like duck breast, wild mushroom and porcini aioli, dashi, and mackerel and black garlic aioli.
The rest of the menu will feature a selection of meat, vegetable and fish mains, including larger pieces cooked over fire or charcoal, with grill dishes like Cornwall tomahawk steak, aged rib-eye with chimichurri, whole brill and glazed pork ribs.
Quique’s signature back in Spain is smaller plates called para picar, and these also appear on the Arros QD menu in dishes like manchego stone made with parmesan, manchego cream and cocoa butter; truffle bomb of liquid potato souffle and truffle spaghetti; and deep-fried cassava with a ‘pericana’ emulsion of red peppers, cod, garlic and olive oil.
Larger dishes will include pulled pork sliders with kimchi, stone bass ceviche, soft shell crab with spicy mayo, beef cheeks in a red curry stew, and smoked oysters with shiso leaves and coconut dressing. Desserts feature the likes of a giant cookie with macadamia nut and araguani chocolate, and cheesecake with almond paper, forest fruit syrup and biscuit ice cream.
Arros QD will include an open kitchen where diners can see the eight-metre flame grill where their rice is being cooked. Set across two floors and capable of turning over 140 covers, the restaurant will contain four distinct areas, including a lounge with bar seating, a more immersive chef’s paella counter and a chef’s table.
You’ve got to try…
Paella Valenciana, a traditional take on the dish that includes rabbit chop, chicken and butter beans, all cooked over a wood fire and using a variety of timbers to complement each dish.
Sparkie also likes…
The caldoso-style octopus and lobster rice hotpot for £110 – as long as you have some friends to split it with.
You want to see rice reawakened.