Sustainability is the guiding idea behind the new Refectory menu, presented just a few weeks ago. It draws on local produce from farmers with whom chef Marc Segarra and his team have a close relationship.
For this new season, diners who experience the cuisine at Refectorio in the coming weeks will quickly perceive Marc Segarra’s commitment to capturing in his new menu the distinctive landscapes surrounding Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine.
The very first question for the chef has to do with sustainability and what it means to him. «It means caring for the environment, of course, but sustainability is also culture and is part of our history here at the restaurant. This concept has always been central at Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine. A couple of examples are the solar panels that supply us with 60% of our electricity needs or the pine trees replanted on the property. And at the restaurant we try to make everything more local, simply because guests come here to try locally sourced products. It doesn’t make much sense to bring me a Galician scallop if I’m dining in Paris. Local produce is always fresher and we also avoid the pollution caused by transport.”
The entire kitchen team has been working flat out during the pandemic to make this great leap forward. «We have made the most of the time to reinvent ourselves and create a totally new menu focused on sustainability and local produce,» explains Segarra.
Marc has spent the last few months visiting local producers to strengthen his locally sourced cuisine even more. «We are now going to further enhance this idea, which has always been present in the restaurant, with a long menu called ‘Villages’, in which the dishes will be named after their provenance. We have managed to source 50% of our ingredients from within a radius of just over 100 kilometres of the abbey,” he says enthusiastically.
Each of the dishes on the new menu features one ingredient in particular that is brought to Refectorio by a local supplier. And the sum of all of these products represents a fascinating journey into the villages of Castilla y León and their culinary culture and traditions.
Among the produce that will be listed with the names of the producers at various times of the year, Marc Segarra mentions the vegetables from nearby villages along the course of the Duero river, such as endives from Peñafiel or asparagus from Tudela; also organic snails from Valladolid; king prawns farmed in ponds in Medina del Campo (Valladolid) which are excellent for tartare («they are sweet and their texture reminds me of shrimps»); foie gras from La Llueza, a farm in Espinosa de los Monteros (Burgos); pickled partridges from Finca Santa Rosalía in the village of Vizmalo in the same province; beef from the Terrabuey farm in Cuéllar (Segovia) or pigeons from Castroverde (Zamora).
The list will also include the estate’s own products, mainly pine nuts and honey, and the «bespoke» vegetables and greens that are biodynamically farmed in the monks’ recovered vegetable garden. «We cannot be totally self-sufficient, but it helps us to grow produce that I can’t get anywhere else, such as artichokes with the exact size I want».
Ultimately, Segarra adds, this initiative aims to serve as catalyst and transmission belt for the region’s ancestral gastronomy.
An additional goal is to showcase all things around the purely edible elements, capturing the monks’ legacy. A key element in the decoration of Refectorio are the bargueños, the antique desks or cabinets with countless drawers and even secret compartments. Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine now plans to create one to replicate the natural habitat of a bee hive. The cabinetmaker who is helping in this effort is also making some very special wooden plates. In addition, local artisans such as potters and glassblowers are working with the estate to convey the feeling of proximity to as many elements in the restaurant as possible.
Recycling and waste control constitute the finishing pillar of sustainability for Segarra. And what happens with the leftover food?, we ask him. His answer is categorical: «If you are a good cook, there is never any leftover food; a good cook doesn’t waste or throw anything away; moreover, we place daily orders so that there is no leftovers. In this respect, organisation is essential».
Despite the pandemic, chef Marc Segarra can look forward to his most successful season thanks to the revalidation of the Michelin Star that endorses the quality of his cuisine and the new Green Star that recognises him as one of the most sustainable restaurants on the Iberian Peninsula. This distinction has only been awarded to 21 restaurants in Spain and Portugal that follow environmentally responsible practices.
This environmentally friendly ethos that defines Abadía Retuerta LeDomaine’s culinary offering is part of its ambitious Social Responsibility Plan, encompassing a diverse set of areas. Some of the most important chapters include access to affordable, safe, sustainable and modern energy; sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth; and sustainable consumption and production practices.