Donostia Social Club can do anything: pop-up, catering, residency, and now permanent. Chef/owner Paul Belcher tells us why it’s all about the Basque
Where did you grow up?
I was born in London but my dad was in the army so we moved around a lot, mainly London and Surrey but also Hong Kong; it was a fun upbringing if not the most stable as I went to a lot of different schools.
What’s your food background?
I left home at 15 and started washing up part-time at a golf club in Surrey as my girlfriend at the time was a waitress there on weekends as they did a lot of weddings and functions. They saw something in me and sent me to college one day a week – which was my day off! (That was 25 years ago – my relationship with the waitress didn’t last as long!)
What are your first food-loving memories?
We didn’t have a lot of money growing up and never really went out to eat, but on my mum’s birthday we always had scampi and chips as it was her favourite – and she always made my dad a curry on his birthday. These were once-a-year treats!
Street food, pop-ups, what have you got going on at the mo?
We have our lovely pintxos bar at Pop Brixton, which is open seven days a week; we have also started a two-month pop-up at the King and Co pub in Clapham Common.
What’s the thing you love about Basque food?
The style and tradition plus the mix between Spanish and French cuisine.
What’s your favourite San Sebastian venues and dishes?
(Donostia is the Basque word for San Sebastian)
The tortilla at Bar Nestor, the cheesecake at La Vina, and pretty much everything at La Cuchara de San Telmo!
What are your hopes for Donostia Social Club?
We are looking for another permanent site as well as growing our import company and focusing on our events and outside catering companies (I like to be busy).
What would you have for your last meal on earth?
A Mala Gissona pale ale; steak tartare for starter; Filetto Rossini for main; and cheese.
What’s your favourite London restaurant?
Jun Tanaka’s The Ninth on Charlotte Street: amazing food cooked by a lovely bloke!