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Spain’s most exciting chef comes to Raffles Istanbul

Opened in September, Raffles Istanbul is the perfect embodiment of the ‘new’ face of Istanbul:  cutting-edge, eclectic and energetic. The hotel - a beacon above the Bosphorus and an oasis of calm and cool – is at the heart of the new and cutting-edge Zorlu Center, a modern-day bazaar where fashion, fine food and the arts converge on the European shore in Beşiktaş.

Nowhere more so will this be reflected than in the hotel’s new signature restaurant, Arola - by the Michelin-starred Spanish Chef Sergi Arola – described as “a rebellious, anti-establishment, culinary trend setter. A proponent of authentic Catalan cuisine and, consequently, Mediterranean cuisine.  He is a cook with character who has found the best way of satisfying his constant need to create and innovate.”  (Food from Spain)  

About opening at Raffles Istanbul, Sergi Arola says: “I have visited Raffles Singapore many times and had the pleasure of cooking there for the World Gourmet Summit.  It is actually my favourite hotel in the world, so to open an Arola restaurant in a Raffles hotel, in such a dynamic, hip and lively part of one of the most exciting cities in the world, a real intersection of civilisations, whose heritage meets the contemporary on many levels – is a true celebration for me!  Turkey and Spain share a common approach to the concept of ‘the table’ and eating in terms of not only sharing food, but also sharing quality time with loved ones around the table. This friendly, comfortable and easy way of dining is exactly how we want to make it. So to have an Arola restaurant at Raffles Istanbul is nothing but a joy to me.”  

Sergi Arola’s cuisine has a marked Catalonian and Mediterranean feel, stemming from the time he spent as a small boy cooking with his grandfather.  His food takes inspiration from traditional Catalonian recipes – such as mary montana (surf and turf) – and specialities such as Baccalà or salt cod, one of Sergi’s favourite dishes; and Pan con Tomate Frescoy Sardinas (sardines with bread rubbed with tomato) - plain, humble and delicious.       

Sergi Arola was born Barcelona and lived in Catalonia in Roses; the home of El Bulli, the restaurant where his mentor Ferrán Adrià started his career. As an adolescent he left home to become a rock musician (he still loves R.E.M, Foo Fighters and The Pixies) - and to sign up at the Hospitality and Catering School in Barcelona.  In 1995, he joined the kitchen of El Taller in Barcelona, Adrià’s culinary research centre, learning and experimenting under his expert guidance.  He was then handpicked by Ferrán to work at el Bulli as chef de partie and assisting him in his studio.  He left to work for Pierre Gagnaire in Paris.  

In 1997 Arola opened his first restaurant in Madrid, a city that welcomed his inspirational style.  Within a year, his small restaurant, La Broche, was awarded its first Michelin star.  It soon garnered 2 Michelin stars and the National Gastronomy Prize. In 1999, the international gastronomical society awarded Arola the Prix de L’art de la Cuisine aux Chefs de l’Avenir – for chefs of the future – a title with which only the two greats of Spanish cooking, Martin Berasategui and Elena Arzak have been honoured.  

His second venture, the eponymous Arola, opened in 2004 in Barcelona’s fashionable Hotel Arts, offers a contrast to the elaborate, high-concept cuisine of La Broche.  Here small plates of tapas and classic Mediterranean cooking are the order of the day – as they will be in Istanbul.   

Colours, textures and flavours that come from the best ingredients and innovative culinary techniques; Sergi Arola has bought a breath of fresh air to food in Spain, sparking a change – one that has led Madrid to be considered as one of the world’s most attractive gastronomic capitals.   

In February 2008 he opened Sergi Arola Gastro, with his partner Sara Fort, a small restaurant, in the exclusive Chamberí area of Madrid, with room for just 38 guests and four set menus, including the Gastro Menu and the cheese menu.  Just a few months later, their hard work paid off and the restaurant was awarded two Michelin stars.  

The restaurant has recently been refurbished while the original menu remains. In addition SOT, La Vermutería de Sergi Arola (opened July 2014), is set on the ground floor and offers light bites and a wide selection of vermouths.  

Since 1997 Arola has established signature kitchens in Lisbon and Penha Longa in Portugal, Sao Paolo, Santiago, Mumbai, Ibiza, Barcelona and Madrid.

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