Could you tell us how Noor began and why you made the journey back to your native city of Cordoba?
It all started when the landlord tripled our rent at the Paco Morales restaurant in Bocairente, near Valencia. We couldn’t afford that kind of increase, so we were forced to close. That’s when I decided to go back to my home city and start my own project that would reflect the importance of the al-Andalus legacy.
Noor Restaurant promotes itself as an atypical gastronomic project, where history and cooking merge together. How did the process come about of searching for and reclaiming the gastronomic past of al-Andalus?
When I returned to Cordoba I saw that the city – the capital of the Caliphate– needed a project that would reflect the flavours, smells and traditions of al-Andalus cuisine.
The team at your restaurant works with the historian Rosa Tovar – how did that partnership come about?
Rosa is an external team member whose role is to increase our historical awareness. The connection arose from our curiosity and a desire to broaden our horizon.
Over the past three years you’ve been developing menus that reflect your historical research into recipes, culinary traditions and produce from al-Andalus. Does this project transcend the boundaries of the purely gastronomic?
Absolutely. What we’re doing is recreating dishes with a modern twist. We’re reinterpreting history to the extent that we don’t use any ingredients that weren’t available on the Iberian peninsula at the time, such as cocoa, potato or tomato.
Can your culinary experience be seen as a cultural experience?
Of course, we don’t just focus on the gastronomic side of things but also on refining the service, hand-washing, eating food with one’s hands…
What would you say to a foreign diner who sits down to try one of your tasting menus for the first time?
Immerse yourself in history and enjoy the experience.
At your restaurant every season presents a culinary challenge. How is that creative process developed in order to reinterpret and create al-Andalus dishes? What stage are you currently at?
At the moment we’re finishing a season based on the Almohad and Almoravid empires, which correspond to the 12th and 13th centuries. We’re going to start preparing the next season, which focuses on the 14th century.
Many hours of work go into creating a dish. In my case, I’ve spent 25 years working in gastronomy and I normally devote myself to the subject day and night, all year round. So I’ve ended up acquiring a vast knowledge of gastronomy, which is gained not only from cooking but also travelling, eating in excellent restaurants and so on. That’s how I developed my palate. So I’m constantly thinking about how to incorporate dishes and produce into my cooking in a natural way.
Harmony and beauty are a constant feature of your creations. Does this characteristic correspond with your way of understanding the past of al-Andalus?
Before we immersed ourselves in this wonderful chapter of history, I was already creating a cuisine with a unique and beautiful aesthetic.
What’s your assessment of the time that has passed since you opened in 2016? How would you define your evolution?
Thanks to the customers who have visited us, we’ve been able to evolve naturally and very well, to be honest. I’d make a good assessment, with both challenges and good times.
What did the Michelin star mean to you and your team?
It brought us great happiness. It was confirmation that we’re working in the right direction.
What about the future – do you have any important projects on the horizon?
In 2021 we open our second business venture in Dubai, which is such an important city. It’s a very exciting project.
We’d like you to tell us about your relationship with local Andalusian produce. What importance does it have in your cooking? Could you tell us which 3 items you consider essential?
Local produce is very important for our cooking. We work with different suppliers in the region who provide us with olive oil, artisan dairy products, seasonal vegetables…
Lastly, name a must-see corner of Cordoba, one you enjoy getting lost in.
I’ve got several – the streets of la Judería, the Mosque-Cathedral, Medina Azahara