The memory that his father keeps of the oxen of his childhood -that his family had in the Lugo village where he was born- marks something more than the gastronomic offer of this Lugo business. The business model 'of' Spain adds restaurant in the city of Lugo and own farm in Recelle -about 30 kilometers-, where they raise their own livestock that, later, works as a pantry of part of their menu.

In reality, Finca Recelle is equivalent to 23 oxen that are raised in this beautiful area of Galicia, where they feed on their pastures and live in freedom, giving rise to high quality meats. Why do some hoteliers decide to get into the mess of raising animals? "Twelve years ago, we started the oxen project linked to the restaurant, but it came from behind. My father was born in a village house in 1770, where he remembers that there were always two pairs of oxen: one couple with the two largest specimens were those that carried merchandise to Portomarín and Lugo, while the other pair of small oxen were those who worked the land. The neighbors used these oxen both to work and to carry goods, "says Héctor López, who with his brother Francisco, runs in the second generation the restaurant España, where the roles of kitchen and room are distributed -respectively- . "My father always talks about the oxen in his house and remembers them very fondly, because he got used to growing up with them. And that was one of the reasons, the main one, to start raising ours," adds the chef.

Finca as a pantry

Finca Recelle is located very close to Portomarín, a town located on the French Camino de Santiago. "On our farm, we raise the oxen; there they receive the best care to be able to put on the tablecloth the exquisite quality of their meat, "they defend from 'the' Spain. Raised "based on a balanced diet and one hundred percent natural and following all the advice of tradition", the slaughter of the animals "is done in the early hours of the morning to avoid stress and the meat spends a long period of time in the chamber to obtain steaks and sirloins of high quality".

The aspect as oxen breeders came, in any case, in the second generation of the business. Francisco López 'father' opened the restaurant España in 1983, in a place that had been dedicated to hospitality since 1907. Over the years, his children joined the business. Héctor López (trained with Pedro Subijana and Toño Pérez) captains the kitchen, where Galicia marks pantry and style, without sticking exclusively to the carnivorous world. Francisco López is in charge of the room, in addition to the winery, with a strong role of Galician wines. The space has two Suns by Guía Repsol, among other recognitions.

The generational change in management meant taking some steps of modernity in the offer, the style of hospitality and interior design -which added another reform just four years ago-. But, luckily, the López brothers did not fall into the current that was unifying the kitchens of many Galician chefs in the last 10-15 years, nor were they limited to a single aspect of the pantry of their region. To the meat supplied by the oxen of Finca Recelle, they add products and recipes that range from rural cuisine to the Galician coast.

Contest Winner

But it is the carnivorous side of its gastronomic proposal that has allowed Spain to win this week the contest of the best 'steak tartare' held within the Fòrum Gastronòmic Girona. In this two-day event held in Girona -which added fair and presentations in several auditoriums, with the brothers Joan, Josep and Jordi Roca, owners of El Celler de Can Roca as the main protagonists-, the competition around the recipe of meat cut with a knife and seasoned with various dressings was based on the selection by the organization of five restaurants in different parts of Spain , turned into contestants -that is, it was not derived from the launch of a call that allowed chefs and hoteliers to apply-. Thus, Casa Belarmino (Manzaneda, Asturias), My Fucking (Barcelona), Berlanga (Madrid) and Nexe Restaurant (Gerona) competed, in addition to the Lugo space.

Like their rivals, Héctor and Francisco López had to prepare the 'steak tartare' to serve it at the moment to the jury, which also took into account their presentation: on a bone marrow, which when served hot -passes through the grill-, helps to bring a certain temperature to raw beef that has a lot of infiltrated fat. It is a recipe "that we have been making for more than ten years. It has long become one of our dishes that most identifies us, "says Héctor López, who with his brother Francisco had to wait a few hours for Fòrum Gastronòmic Girona to announce the winner last Monday afternoon, with the Roca as spectators, since the prize was announced just before his presentation -by the way, A few years ago, Josep Roca coincided with the López family on a trip to Argentina and, on his return, to visit them in Lugo to learn about their project.

The room of the restaurant España.

This is the recipe for the best 'steak tartare'

How is the recipe worthy of this award? As for the cuts of meat used, "we never do it with sirloin and loin", as is usual and, for example, in the contest they resorted to beef picaña from Finca Recelle. "But we don't always use the picaña for the steak; Yes, we use alternative parts, such as the picaña, but also the hip, the corner of the hip and even the babilla, which are pieces that have in our point of view even more flavor than the sirloin and a texture that we like more for this recipe. We believe that to value the ox, we must take advantage of all the pieces, "argues Héctor López.

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And, apart from egg yolk, "we always do it with the marrow that we cook on the grill; We always put a crunchy touch, or toast bread, or crispy potatoes with mustard sprouts. In addition to pickled red onion, we provide a fresh touch with sprouts that depend on the season and that can be radish or curly mustard, "says the Galician chef. In the menu of his restaurant, the 'steak tartare' of Galician beef with grilled marrow has a price of 24 euros.

The brothers Hector and Francisco Lopez.

And, in the 'era' in which beef is called beef for free, the restaurant España guarantees that its cuts come from its oxen of Finca Recelle, which, for the most part, are certified by the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) Vaca Galega e Boi Galego. "All the beef dishes that we serve in the restaurant are made with beef from oxen raised on our farm a few kilometers from Lugo, in Recelle", clarify the López brothers, in charge of an essential destination to eat meat in Galicia.

Other dishes on the menu

The 'steak tartare' is one of the dishes with Finca Recelle product that are dispatched in the menu of the Lugo restaurant, where the meats undergo different maturation and are presented in different cuts and recipes. For example, served on the grill with grilled buds, in sirloin with roasted potatoes, in ravioli with potato foam and truffle, apart from tasty creamy croquettes of beef osobuco with green applesauce or an exotic tataki of this meat with dried tomato vinaigrette and spiced bread. Even the meat from Finca Recelle can be tasted as a sausage; This is the case of cecina or spicy grilled beef chorizo with potatoes, peppers and egg.

Oxen from Finca Recelle.

For those who visit the Spain, you should know that there are more options than carnivorous dishes. A "restrained combination" -describe the López brothers- between traditional root and good pantry, with some exotic touch in some dish, gives rise to a menu, in which you can try options such as monkfish salpicón, prawns and crayfish; fried lobster, egg, potato and truffle; cockles from the estuary with lime emulsion; red mullet with honeyed shrimp rice; grilled squid or cachucha taco with turnip greens and hummus; In addition to rice, such as beef ribeye or black squid and cockles. For dessert, Mos egg flan or praline millefeuille. The average price for lunch or dinner can be between 45 and 60 euros.

On its ground floor, the space that for years functioned as a cafeteria is a 'gastrobar', with a more 'casual' and affordable menu, which also includes recipes with the product of Finca Recelle, such as the 220-gram hamburger with kimchi, San Simón cheese, caramelized onions and pickles, which adds a version as a 'mini burger'. At the same time, in this area, there is a menu with a price of 20 euros, available at noon from Monday to Friday, with starter, main course and dessert, with several options to choose from, among which just this week there is an ox cachopo with jerky and cheese.

Address: Teatro, 10. Lugo. Tel. 982 24 27 17.

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