Photography by Chris Osburn
Originally from the Basque Country as Head Chef at Camino, Nacho del Campo now has the duty of heralding and preparing dishes from throughout Spain. With a new site opening in Canary Wharf and Camino's sherry bar, Pepito, receiving accolades in the press, we suspect he's doing a bueno job as a London ambassador of Spanish yumminess. But enough with our suspicions! Here are a few thoughts from the man himself.
Have you been with Camino since it’s opening?
I started working at Camino in February in 2008 a few months after it opened. Before this I had spent four years studying back in Spain, came to the UK in 2007 and worked for a few months at Bibendum before hearing about this position.
How closely do you work with owner Richard Bigg?
We work very closely and see each other every day. He is a friendly and open person and it has been easy to establish a relationship with him. We work together with the menu testing and matching the wines to the dishes. He is always involved and we both appreciate the feedback.
Camino's just opened a second location, this one in Canary Wharf. Will it be exactly like the original at King's Cross?
No, it is slightly smaller but with a bigger outside space. King’s Cross is very urban and Canary Wharf venue has an amazing view of the river and a tree covered terrace. So it is very open and full of fresh air.
The food and suppliers will be the same - there are some differences in the drinks; we have an extra wine list called the 'Los Cañónes Grandes' list (The Big Guns) with some really amazing wines on it. There are also some non-Spanish Champagnes and a really interesting beer that Ferran Adria developed to be matched with food.
Is opening a second restaurant essentially like doubling your workload?
At the moment yes. We have mixed the staff so some are new and some are from the King’s Cross venue. So someone always knows what to do, but I need to be there and oversee them. In the future it will be much easier and the idea is to split my time equally in each location.
Londonist had a very good time indeed at the opening of Bar Pepito.
Thank you. We are very happy to hear this. It is small; so tables are precious, but people often share and make friends like in the Spanish way. There are lots of choices on the menu or you can try a sherry flight to try different sherries and with matching food you are safe for several hours! I hope you have time to come back again soon and try what you did not have time to on your visit. Sherry is very surprising.
How's London's first sherry bar doing these days and how involved are you with it?
We are very proud of Pepito. It has recently won the amazing title of Best Bar in London from Time Out. It was also awarded a ‘gong’ from Olive Magazine and included in Fluid’s top ten secret bars.
As with the menus in Camino we came up with something simple and high quality - you can try all wines by the glass in Camino you can try all sherries by the glass in Pepito. We only serve cold food and have dishes unique to Pepito such as carpaccio del ciervo with Jerusalem artichoke confit (venison carpaccio) or the duck liver pate with del Duque amontillado jelly - best served with a glass of the del Duque of course!
Where are you from in Spain?
I am from Vitoria, the capital of the Basque Country.
How does your heritage inform your cooking?
I am from an area where everything is related to food. Food is a lifestyle. There are foods typical of almost every area and when I was growing up I was always going out and socialising for dinner with my parents. It is a very social thing. At midnight everyone goes out for beers and food with friends - it is part of our lifestyle.
I have always liked to cook, when I was eight or nine my brother and I would make tortilla together.
Any favourite regional cuisines or recipes from Spain that you particularly fancy?
This is a funny question because in the north you do not need anything from the south and in the Basque region we have good fish but my favourite food is Jamón Ibérico from Jabugo from the south! I love it!
“Authentic” is a word that gets thrown around a lot in the restaurant world. Do you consider Camino to be an authentic Spanish restaurant?
Yes, I feel that Camino is definitely an authentic Spanish restaurant. As in Spanish cooking we keep it simple, not overcomplicated, we use high quality ingredients and we keep the flavours. We use olive oil for everything except deep frying and it is the same oils we use in Spain. So customers taste the same taste they experience in Spain.
Spain is a very complex country with many ways of cooking depending on region. Camino shows the whole of the country as there are foods taken from different parts. Also the staff are Spanish or with Mediterranean influences so this is a nice addition.
How do the British compare to the Spanish when it comes to dining expectations?
Sharing is the difference. The British like to choose and have their own dishes. In Spain everyone shares and I like this because it develops closer relationships, it is always good to share for this reason and also so you can try everything. It is nice to see the British share. There is always a great buzz in the dining room, it would never be quiet and I like this, it is like this in Spain. People passing plates and telling each other to try things they like.
Where do you go to shop for Spanish food items in London?
We have regular suppliers for the restaurant such as Brindisa, Foods From Spain and the direct suppliers such as the independent supplier of our meats but for myself I either put a jamon in my suitcase when I am home or my mum sends me my favourite products like Cola Cao and lomo!
Got any tips on how to make tasty tapas at home for our readers?
Like in Camino just pick good ingredients, keep it simple and not complicated - for example fry a free-range egg in olive oil rather than a standard egg in vegetable oil. Don’t be afraid to mix ingredients - if you don’t like it you don’t have to make it again.
This is a quick and tasty dish - Heat some olive oil, when hot add chopped garlic then chopped chilli and then some prawns, splash over some Tio Pepe - this fino goes perfectly with the dish - serve with some good quality bread and to drink - the remaining Tio Pepe of course!
Visit www.camino.uk.com for more about Nacho and his restaurants and bars.