Every good cook has his or her book apparently, a kind of culinary autobiography in which their personal history of dishes and ideas is written down.
Alfonso J Lanzas not only has a book, but he also runs The Book, an exciting new restaurant with a definitely international flavour in an area that is undergoing a flourishing of new, interesting restaurants.
The international flavour is partly due to the fact that Alfonso has practised his profession all over the world, and partly because his partner and fellow cook Kevin is German.
Like many cooks, cooking for Alfonso started as a hobby and led to a one year course in 2001, after which he worked in a series of restaurants such as the Michelin star Majorcan restaurant of Koldo Royo or a Russian hotel on the Baltic coast at Kaliningrad. He also served time on transatlantic cruise ships such as the Silver Sea until deciding on returning to his native Valencia and looking for his own place, something simple and cosy where he could bring all his experience together and work for himself.
It was in Kaliningrad that he ran into Kevin, who hails from Halle Saale, 50 kilometres from Berlin. Kevin grew into cooking, helping out his grandfather who was both a cook and baker, tending the garden where the raw ingredients grew before graduating to the kitchen.
Kevin too served his time in far-flung foreign kitchens, in Switzerland and Basingstoke, Hampshire, where he picked up a Spanish wife from Villar de Arzobispo, before meeting his destiny in Russia.
The pieces fell together well, two cooks from different backgrounds, who at first struggled to communicate, but who discovered that they understood each other well in the kitchen, and now make up the team at The Book.
That teamwork is important and there is an unbroken line between kitchen and dining room, where your meal is served and explained by the cook himself, and not by a waiter who hasn’t really participated in the creative process.
The restaurant is small and simple but with a lot of daylight and a homely decoration in browns and whites with minimal ornamentation but with messages.
Despite his international experience, and the international touches on the menu such as Thai Chicken or Moroccan ratatouille, Alfonso claims to be very Valencian in his culinary taste and would happily eat rice every day, with a preference for ‘arroz meloso’, which translates terribly as ‘soggy rice’ as the stock hasn’t been heated out as it is in paella.
Educated at the Jordi San Jordi school and at the Centro de Turismo de Valencia, Alfonso’s The Book, opened on September 8th 2014, offers 22 basic dishes with different priced menus between 11,90€ and 20€ for different times of the day and week, with a select and varied wine list and a story behind each dish, which Kevin and he will be delighted to tell you as they hover at your table, in English, German or Spanish.
Speaking to him I discovered the origin of Russian Salad, but if you want to know, you’ll have to drop by The Book, which you’ll find in Calle Antonio Suárez 29.