Christina Olaechea has an interesting family history, which is reflected in the interesting family restaurant that she runs with her husband just between the cathedral and La Lonja, two of Valencia’s most emblematic monuments.
Her mother is Swiss and her father’s family is of Basque origin, although she was born in Ica, Peru and grew up there.
From a very early age, eight in fact, she knew that she wanted to work in the hostelry trade, and when other children ran home from school to play, Christina ran to Las Dunas Hotel in Ica, in which her family had shares.
There she would help out and find out how the service industry works, learning skills that have proved invaluable in the popular restaurant that she now runs with her Valencian husband and cook, Bernardo Fenollosa.
As if that wasn’t complicated enough, Christina’s mother is Swiss, and she in fact finished her secondary education in Lausanne, Switzerland.
In 1990 her family moved to Valencia to pursue her father’s dream of producing ecological wine, near Fontanares, one of the emerging areas of the Valencian wine Rennaisance.
This meant that Christina was briefly at the IES Onteniente school before moving to Valencia in 1996, where she studied Public Relations for three years. This undoubtedly helped her to help her father, who was by then exporting his wines to northern Europe; even France, a profession he carries on to this day, although he sold most of his vineyards.
While studying and helping her father at wine fairs, she also worked as a waitress at nights, learning the industry from the bottom up, but always harbouring the dream of one day having her own restaurant.
From the start Christina an Bernardo, who met through their common interest in Backgammon, were clear about the kind of restaurant they wanted; one that used the freshest raw materials possible, so that the greatest of all pleasures: eating and drinking also became a quest to find the best, which they achieve by for example buying their fish from a friend, underwater fishing champion Andres, of growing their own oranges in their orchards in Pobla de Farnals, or buying their Iberian ham from the best provider they have found, in Ciudad Real.
They use no frozen products, so if a vegetable is not in season, you won’t find it on the menu.
This may explain why the walls of the restaurant; two small, separated indoor dining rooms and a terrace shaded by trees in between, are covered in photos of the famous who have eaten there.
Some like internationally famous architect Valencian Santiago Calatrava have even left their mark with a drawing.
Paco de Lucia is also there, as are Angel Nieto, Valencian tennis star David Ferrer and Spanish rock stars Bunbury and Loquillo.
Bernardo’s family has been in the food business for many years, running some of the best known and loved restaurants in the Pobla de Farnals, and Bernardo also brings meat to the table by hunting boar and deer in the mountains of Enguera; his roast boar is apparently a Rall classic.
El Rall is a traditional Valencian fishing net, which forms part of the restaurant’s decoration, and the couple also own a bar in Calle del Mar called Cau (a kind of foxhole) del Rall, for which they make the tapas everyday, which may explains why it is noticeably packed every time I go past.
Although most of Christina’s maternal family lives in Switzerland, her daughter has no problems communicating with them, attending the Valencia Liceo Francés and speaking to her mother in French.
Although very Valencian, there is in fact little touch of Peru on the menu; Ceviche, a raw fish cooked in lemon juice with corn and other ingredients and served cold, and which is apparently a good remedy for hangover, for those unusual people who have that problem.
El Rall is located in Tundidores, 2.