Monday, 6 February 2017

6.2.17 Universo Santi to Open Soon

An outstanding new restaurant will open its doors in Jerez very soon. Its name is Universo Santi and it is located in El Altillo, a late XIX century house built by Manuel María González Ángel, in a beautiful finca in what is now fairly central Jerez. The restaurant is dedicated to the philosophy of the famous treble Michelin starred Catalán chef Santi Santamaría (1957-2011) who owned the restaurant Can Fabes at Sant Celoni (Barcelona). He wrote many best-selling books on cuisine and was a great supporter of charities. Without its driving force the restaurant closed in 2013. This commendable new project in Jerez combines not only the philosophy of Santi Santamaría but also some of his dishes and even much of his kitchen equipment.

Santi Santamaria
All 45 members of staff are disabled in some way, and it is hoped to help them towards better social and work integration. Their 3 year contract allows 6 hours work and 2 hours study each working day. The restaurant has a school of haute cuisine and an organic kitchen garden. The head chef is double Michelin starred Óscar Velasco and the sous chef is Semi García while the sommelier is José Antonio Barragán, president of the newly formed Association of Sommeliers of Cádiz which will be based at El Altillo. Naturally Sherry and local wines will be a major feature on the wine list. In an old estate worker’s house by a lake there will be a more casual dining space and in an old chapel they plan to hold celebrations and a Cuban cigar club.

The extensive family of Manuel Maria (centre with stick) at El Altillo

El Altillo was built by the founder of González Byass in a finca of 150,000 square metres surrounded by vines and orange trees, arboretums with a huge variety of trees, and gardens. It even had a small lake with an island. Over the years many family members lived here and as they married they moved on. The last of the family to occupy the house were the seven highly cultured Quintana González Gordon sisters known as the “niñas del Altillo” and devoted to animals and nature. Royalty and aristocracy were entertained here, yet they also had philanthropic leanings, and there was a bench in the garden where the needy could sit and wait to ask for help.

The only sister to wed was Casilda who married the bodeguero Enrique O’Neale Orbaneja, upon whose early death she took control of the bodega before selling it. Jerez city council, under the now jailed mayor Pedro Pacheco, managed to expropriate the property to sell most of it off for building as the sisters’ legal representation was very poor, but they at least managed to get permission to live there till they died. According to the González tradition of longevity the sisters all lived well into their nineties, and when Blanca, the last survivor, died in 2012 the property reverted to the council. Inside nothing had changed since it was built over a century before, and it looked as if time had stood still, but the finca is now considerably smaller. It is not open just yet, but is situated on Avenida de Andalucía, half way between Parque González Hontoria and the Corte Inglés.

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