Bigg Daddy: The man who brought tapas to a million Londoners

Richard Bigg, founder of some of London’s best-known Spanish eateries including tapas restaurant Camino, is a man who knows his amontillado from his oloroso.  This is the man who has brought sherry to the mean streets of the city, without putting a foot wrong: the Camino restaurant empire (widely praised as one of the best places for tapas in London) now extends from Kings Cross to Blackfriars and draws influence from all over the Iberian peninsula (with a dash of Latin American flavour).  Gusto Guides caught up with Richard to talk Spanish grannies, travel and jamón.

Richard Bigg Camino London tapas restaurant

How did you get interested in Spain and,  more specifically, in Spanish food?

I went there for the first time on a trip with a girlfriend in 1982 and fell in love with the country, the extremes of the climate (mid-summer, driving North to South), the landscape, the food and the lifestyle.

You run Pepito, the UK’s first dedicated sherry bar.  How did you decide on sherry as a focus?  We are sherry fans, but find it quite funny that, while increasingly cool in the UK, jerez is seen as a bit of a grannies’ drink in Spain.  Any thoughts?

Yes, fashions change in Spain as well as here.  I had been a sherry addict for some time, and after a while it dawned on me that the professional wine people I met at tastings and so on all adored sherry, and for many it was a desert island wine choice.  In Britain we were becoming increasingly aware of wine styles and many were becoming more adventurous. Couple that with the fact (imho!) that sherry is indisputably the best food-matching wine there is, and that at our restaurant Camino we were specialists in all things best about Spain in food and drinks terms, then I thought, let’s give it a go and dedicate a bar to it. Not a granny in site at Bar Pepito!

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 What do you drink when you go to Pepito?  And Copa de Cava?

I love to immerse myself in the region, and we have food menus to match each. I have been on countless trips to both Jerez and Seville, and Barcelona and Cava Country just ½ an hour down the road, and going to either place immediately conjures up images and recollections of each place. Good times!

Have you thought about opening a vermouth bar?  It seems to be boom time in the vermouth industry, especially in Barcelona.

Ha ha, not yet.  That really would be very specialist.  We do have some excellent Vermut on the list though, and encourage people to have some as an aperitivo before a meal. (Gin-vermut Whitley Neill gin, Vermut Negro, orange bitters)

Tapas at Camino London

Is there anything you would like to add to your tapas menu that isn’t there yet?  What is your all-time favourite tapa?

At the risk of being predicatable, one of the greatest dishes in the world has to be freshly carved ibérico jamón bellota – acorn-fed, free-range, with a minimum of 36 months curing, just as we have at Bar Pepito and Camino. If the weather here was better, I would add tortillitas de camarones – the prawns you get crisp-fried in a thin batter in Sanlúcar de Barrameda in the sherry triangle. Best eaten immediately with an ice-cold glass of manzanilla.

Do you have any idea how many people Camino et al have fed over the years?  And how many hangovers you have indirectly been responsible for?

God knows, but a very quick calculation suggests that across the several Caminos in both the bars and restaurants we are now well over a million. Hangovers – a fair few I have no doubt!

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Any favourite Spanish travel memories?

Countless… I take staff on trips each year, to immerse them in the food and drink culture of the country, take them to bodegas, see amazing cities; all very educational and heaps of fun too. We’ve been to loads of places like Bilbao, San Sebastian, Toledo, Madrid, Granada, Jerez, Seville, Barcelona, Galicia, Rioja, etc. Next trip is next month to Bierzo – a first for me. We will be trying some fantastic Mencias amongst other wines.

And any favourite places or bars in Spain that aren’t in the guidebooks?

 I used to have a gorgeous townhouse in Alhama de Granada, a small, simple but beautiful little town in Andalusia on the edge of a cliff with natural hot springs. I strongly recommend staying at La Seguiriya run by ex-flamenco singer and wonderful character Paco and his wife Lola. The views across the gorge and down the valley are stunning.

Thanks Richard, ¡Salud!

Contact:

Camino Blackfriars (restaurant/bar)

33 Blackfriars Lane, London, EC4V 6EP

Tel: 020 7125 0930

Camino King’s Cross (restaurant/bar)

3 Varnisher’s Yard, The Regent’s Quarter, Kings Cross, London, N1 9FD

Tel: 020 7841 7331

Camino Monument (restaurant/bar)

15 Mincing Lane, London, EC3R 7BD

Tel: 020 7841 7335

Pepito (sherry bar)

3 Varnisher’s Yard, The Regent’s Quarter, Kings Cross, London, N1 9FD

Tel: 020 7841 7331

NB evenings only

Copa de Cava (cava bar)

33 Blackfriars Lane, London, EC4V 6EP

Tel: 020 7125 0930

NB evenings only

2 comments

  1. Pingback: Camino, Bar Pepito y Copa de Cava – Marketing y Servicios

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