Jamon y Salud, one of Spain’s foremost producers of jamón ibérico, has opened Llerena — the brand’s first ever restaurant — on Islington’s Upper Street. How such a storied jamón estate came to decide that not only should its sole brick-and-mortar venue be in London, but specifically Islington’s Upper Street of all places, is unclear, but Londoners should know well enough not to look a gift horse in the mouth.
Since 1939, generations of the de Torres family have been tending to their now 2.5 million hectare dehesa in Extremadura in Spain’s south west. A rolling landscape of holm and cork oaks over pasture and wild herbaceous shrubs, the estate’s climate and biodiversity underpins the award-winning jamon for which the family’s company is known. Its prized Denominación de Origen Bellota pigs are certified 75-100% ibérico in origin, and are bred on the dehesa; raised on a diet of pasture, aromatic herbs, and — most importantly — the acorns that give them their name.
All of this is significant because, while there are innumerable restaurants and bars in London that can wax lyrical on the provenance of produce and the stories of the farmers behind it, there are extremely few who can attest to doing it themselves. But Llerena is one of those places.
Designed by Binom Architects, the venue aims to re-contextualise elements of the Extremadura landscape into its design; an intricate chandelier of traditional ceramic flasks dominates the space, while other features — including a livestock-fence wall covering — pay homage to the company’s agricultural roots.
The menu at Llerena is traditional tapas, featuring classics like tortilla de patatas, bacalao, and boquerones, alongside a selection of estofados (stews) such as morros, a stew of Ibérico pork cheeks in mushroom sauce, and cocido extremeño, a traditional chickpea-based stew with Ibérico chorizo and black pudding, bacon, and vegetables. Naturally, Jamon y Salud’s own meats feature heavily, and its prized jamón ibérico de bellota is central to the charcuterie menu, as is torta del casar de cáseres — an iconic Extremaduran ewe’s cheese considered one of the world’s best. One London restaurant-goer and Spanish food enthusiast (who spotted this opening) has been, and approves.
It must be said that London is not short on Spanish food, and nor is it short on tapas and tapas-inspired venues, but Llerena promises to add true value to the landscape — the sort of value that comes with a level of vertical integration few others can match.