Origins, setting and tradition. These are the 3 pillars on which Pablo Chirivella's philosophy rests. 3 concepts that underpin the approach of his restaurant, Tavella, our latest Temple of Meat.
A 19th century farmstead created for and dedicated to Valencian farm produce for over a century. Embers that start smouldering everyday at 12pm. Exceptional quality raw ingredients and a pair of hands - those of Pablo Chirivella – that lovingly and aptly handle the produce. Tavella, one of our Temples of Meat, is the type of place where the food on offer is allowed to take centre stage. Here we are referring specifically to meat, although the fish served up here is just as good as the best of the steaks.
Tavella only uses meat from animals of at least 5 years old, and selects cuts with sufficient marbled fat for the grill, in particular Rubia Gallega - and always from Vacum. The restaurant serves only Spanish beef. Pablo Chirivella appreciates the flavours of matured meat, hence they opt for cuts that have be aged for around 90 days. ''We like mature meat because of the nuances it evokes: dairy, fungi, damp....'' he states. Chirivella himself has begun to mature meats in a small room at the restaurant. Whenever he has any questions, he checks with Joan Abril, owner of Ca Joan, another of our Temples of Meat. For the Valencian chef, Joan sets the benchmark to emulate.
At Tavella, you can enjoy the entire rack of beef, from ribs to loin. This is a meat which, as previously noted, features strongly marbled fat. ''That fat accounts for 50% of the meat, and without it, we couldn't grill the cuts correctly. It would just be too dry,'' he adds. Storage of the meat is another important factor in the process to ensure the produce reaches the table in optimum condition. Once Vacum has delivered the raw materials, they are stored in a cold room at 2 degrees until just a couple of hours before service commences, when it is taken out and softened before being grilled to perfection.
Pablo Chirivella doesn't use coal. This, along with the produce itself, might just be his secret. Most restaurants use coal for their grills - it's cheaper and much easier to store. But Tavella works with firewood from oak and orange trees. ''The firewood is important, as the heat we want to achieve on the grill is just not possible with coals,'' he explains. Each month they use 4000kg. They have also installed a system to filter the ashes and smoke to prevent pollution, meaning only steam is expelled outside.
What is the most important thing to ensure the meats turn out perfectly? ''There are many factors, it's a mix of things: the cut, the feeding of the animal itself, how the meat has been handled from the outset...''Chirivella notes. The meats spend around 25 minutes on the grill, depending on their thickness. The chefs play with the temperature and height of the grill until they achieve that distinctive toasted shade on the outside, pink on the inside, which leaves the customer to enjoy the qualities of the produce in its purest state. This care and attention transmits to the palette, where flavour and texture blend together, resulting in an unsurpassed meat.
Once we have learnt about Pablo Chirivella's career path, it may surprise us that he chose to return to his roots. Starting out in Valencia. He soon began to travel the world. He moved to China then onto England, continued his training in the Basque Country with Martin Berasategui, then to Tenerife and finally, for 3 years, he travelled all over Mexico, from north to south. He could have set up any type of restaurant - he has the experience and technical skills after all - but Pablo decided to go back to the beginning, to his family home, to serve a pared down selection which has no need to be dressed up. His mastery of the grill and the raw materials are all the support he requires. Nothing else is needed.