Chef’s Secret: Benito Goméz – Restaurant Bardal

Welcome to Ronda, homebase of chef Benito Gómez. This charming town in Andalucía is very popular amongst visitors. With its stunning landscapes, beautiful walking routes and monuments and top quality produce like wines, meats and olive oils, driving through the area is a real pleasure.

Spanish gastronomy, inspired by Ronda

However, today’s destination counts just as much as the journey, as we have scheduled a visit to restaurant Bardal in Ronda. The talent of the young chef Benito Gómez has not stayed unnoticed, given the fact he already received his first Michelin star just one year after the opening of his restaurant Bardal. But the chef is ambitious, passionate and down-to-earth, a combination of qualities that often leads to success.

Bardal is located in the heart of the town, next to the main tourist attractions. The interior design of the restaurant is somewhat representative of what can be found in Spanish gastronomic restaurants, as it succeeds in combining simplicity, elegance and attractiveness. Warm wood, natural materials and light colour tones create the perfect setting to be fully focused on the dining experience. And that’s not an unnecessary luxury, as the full menu of Bardal consists of no less than 19 dishes, each and all created and finished off with an extraordinary eye for detail.

Meet the chef and the team

Chef Benito Gómez was born and raised in Catalunya, Barcelona, where he also got his education at the renowned Hotel School of Sant Pol de Mar. He moved to Andalucía, where he fell in love with the beautiful produce of the region. Today his project aims to reflect the daily pulse of the producers from the region with great respect for essence and authenticity. At Bardal they work with local producers and they even have their own farm. Benito’s culinary creations excel both in simplicity – by putting the product in the spotlight – as in creativity – by using contemporary and even avant-garde techniques.

A great chef is supported by a great team, truly passionate about gastronomy and the local product. And that’s also the case at restaurant Bardal. A total of eight chefs are led by executive chef Benito Gómez and his sous chef, Juan Carlos Ochando. In the dining room host and maître Marco Trujillo welcomes and serves the guests, accompanied by the sommelier Miguel Conde. Their hospitable skills and profound knowledge of gastronomy make it possible for every guest to have an unforgettable dining experience at Bardal.

The story of Benito Goméz

Modest as he is, Benito Gómez asks us why we have chosen to create a story on restaurant Bardal. And that is exactly why his story is so interesting to us. He is the type of chef that is not keen on too much attention, he wants to focus on what’s key to him: the continuous development of flavours in order to make the local products really stand out. So we take our time for a personal chat with this passionate and talented chef.

Chef’s Secret (Hungry for More and The Best Chef): Nice to meet you Benito. Can you tell us how the story of restaurant Bardal started off here in Ronda?

Benito Gómez: After completing my culinary education at the Hotel School of Sant Pol de Mar, I worked at Jean Luc Figueras, Las Rejas, La Alquería de Hacienda Benazuza and Tragabuches to get the necessary experience to start my own project. I arrived in Ronda back in 1999. In the same place as where Bardal is located today, there was already a well-known and respected gastronomic restaurant, where I started cooking. I worked there for several months, before I left to get a job in Sevilla. In 2007 I decided to go back to Ronda, but I was actually fed up with gastronomic cooking. I wanted to work with a smaller team in a more casual setting, so that’s why I decided to open Tragatá. We serve flavourful tapas and small dishes in a relaxed, yet high quality atmosphere. Nevertheless my love for fine dining never really disappeared, so in 2016 I decided to open a gastronomic restaurant, with a larger team, more organisation and more opportunities. The restaurant in this location was vacant at that time, and for us it was simply the best place to start a haute cuisine concept in Ronda. Bardal turned out to be a success, and we were lucky enough to receive our first Michelin star already one year after we opened. Our popularity got a huge boost, so lately we welcome people from all over Spain, Europe and even the rest of the world in our restaurant.

Chef’s Secret: How would you describe your cuisine? What type of food, which cooking techniques and what influences characterize your dishes?

Benito Goméz: I present an Andalucían cuisine, influenced by my youth in Catalunya. It’s a background that gives me a lot of freedom in the creation of my dishes. Everything starts from the top quality produce we select from our local partners. As our cuisine is rooted in the region, we decided to start our own farm called Finca Rabadán, situated about 22 kilometers from here in the town of Serrato. Through this agroecological production, we intend to show the value of our territory, self-supplying of organic flowers, horticultural olive oil, livestock and hunting production.

It’s equally important to us to present the ingredients in the dishes in a recognizable way. We show the product like it is and as a reflection of the terroir of the region of Ronda. So we aim to present pure flavours in a creative, yet natural way.

Chef’s Secret: Has it been your dream to become a chef, since you were young? Or was it a calling that has developed gradually?

Benito Goméz: I’ve always known that I wanted to be a chef. I was practically raised in the kitchen, as my parents were running a restaurant in Catalunya. So it was an obvious choice to go to the famous cooking school of Sant Pol de Mar. But it was the moment that I read ‘El Bulli: the taste of the Mediterranean’ by Ferran Adrià, when I fully realised that I wanted to be a part of the contemporary Spanish gastronomy. It’s a book that has had a huge impact on the new generation of professionals in the kitchen. Nevertheless, I consider myself a chef with a certain style and vision, but not as a famous top chef. I just like to do the things I believe in.

Chef’s Secret: Where do you find your inspiration? The large tasting menu at Bardal consists of 19 creations. Isn’t it hard to come up with new ideas every time?

Benito Goméz: We change the menu continuously by gradually introducing new dishes. To be honest, it’s not that difficult for me to get inspired here. New ideas just pop up when I look around and when I think of all the beautiful produce Ronda has to offer. I love cycling and when I’m on the road by bike I like to make a couple of stops to meet local producers or to pick flowers. I try not to get influenced too much by what other people do. My inspiration comes more from the inside out.

Chef’s Secret: Do you have a signature dish or a favourite dish?

Benito Goméz: I don’t have a signature dish yet, but that might change. Today I love to experiment with all kinds of ingredients and cooking techniques from the region. But as a chef I’m continuously developing my cooking and refining my style, so I suppose that can result in a signature dish one day.

Chef’s Secret: What’s your interpretation of fine dining and what does a gastronomic restaurant need to be?

Benito Goméz: It all starts with good food made of top quality produce, in line with an authentic philosophy. And in order to enjoy good food a restaurant should be comfortable for the guests. Fine dining should feel natural and relaxed. It’s about the people around the table and the food on the plates, nothing more.

Chef’s Secret: What are you ambitions, goals and dreams now?

Benito Goméz: We just keep on working really hard day after day, and then we’ll see what happens. Our efforts need to come from within, not from an external motivation like awards or rankings in culinary lists. Of course we’re very happy when we get good reviews, but it’s essential for us that we keep on following our own path. Hard work is the first condition, and then the results will follow automatically we believe.

Bardal Tasting Menu

We had the opportunity to sample the large tasting menu, consisting of no less than 19 dishes, accompanied by an impressive wine tasting. The menu is much more than a sum of dishes, as it builds up to an experience involving all the senses. We’re glad to take you on this culinary journey.

Onion soup is first on the menu. We start with a cold broth, with a quail egg and tapioca, followed by a traditional bread cracker with curd made of goat milk, red onion and basil.

A little treasure box contains the next two appetizers: smoked eel fried dough and ‘Pringá’ meat stew, the local ‘payoyo’ cheese and a quinoa taco.

A wooden board full of herbs contains a typical Moorish cornet filled with pumpkin, trout roes and goat cream. And on the other side we find chicken in ‘pepitoria’, a kind of chicken paté with crispy chicken skin, a layer of egg yolk and saffron and some green chili to refresh the palate.

Off to the first dish of the menu then, which is cured mackerel with tastes of seaweed, herbs and fresh cheese, combined with a cold green tomato soup, spiced up with some green harissa and topped off with a vanilla oil and a herbal oil.

Next there’s a very interesting dish. One we consider to have the potential to maybe become a signature dish one day. It’s an oyster confit in ‘manteca colorá’, a traditional sauce that is usually combined with meat or fish, but that hardly anyone would dare to combine with oysters. However there’s a very interesting balance between the oyster, garlic flowers, crispy pork and the authentic sauce.

A cold soup of razor clams is presented with green asparagus, coriander and caviar from a local farm.

Then there’s sourdough and rye bread, served with goat milk butter and olive oil from the area.

Grilled leek is cooked on the charcoal barbecue and combined with partridge rillettes, egg yolk and young leeks with its ash.

White asparagus from the region comes with goat butter.

Green beans with pig’s snout and ear are combined with baby carrot, mint, lemon peel and a kind of meunière sauce.

A powerful dish revolves around wheat, mushrooms, sheep milk and truffle.

Snail, rabit and Iberian pork lard taste very well with a black pudding sauce.

Simplicity and a powerful taste, that’s how you could describe the red snapper ‘a la roteña’. The traditional sauce made of onion, tomato and paprika goes very well with the BBQ grilled fish.

We continue the list of dishes with powerful tastes, sampling a duck civet meatball, in perfect harmony with a jelly of consommé and tarragon.

The last savoury dish honours a fantastic piece of Iberico pork, together with cauliflower and almond milk.

There’s still room for dessert, especially for the traditional Algarrobo cake, made with olive oil and anise. The cake is combined with orange, orange blossom and white chocolate.

Pear grilled on the BBQ comes with lemon and rosemary.

And last but not least the chef combines the taste of lightly spiced and crispy chocolate with corn ice cream.

We end the meal with lots of happy feelings, with tea and coffee and some traditional sweets from Ronda.

In short

When visiting Andalucía a stop in Ronda is simply mandatory, given it’s beautiful nature, vibrant city centre and nearby wineries. Your best pick for fine dining in Ronda will definitely be restaurant Bardal. Chef Benito Goméz spoils his guests with a creative, yet pure presentation of the authentic tastes of Ronda, prepared with top quality produce from the region.

Practical information

Restaurante Bardal, 1, Calle José Aparicio, 29400 Ronda, Málaga, Spain | +34 951 48 98 28 | info@restaurantebardal.com | restaurantebardal.com | instagram.com/restaurante_bardal | facebook.com/restbardal

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