Preston gets a taste of northern Spain as Basque-themed restaurant is opened by the 'Banksy of the food world'
Preston is about to get a taste of the culinary capital of the world, San Sebastian, and it's all thanks to the food Banksy of Lancashire.
Basque-style bar-restaurant Pintxos (pronounced Pinchos) will open its doors to the public this Friday.
It is the dream of city entrepreneur Anthony Smith, the man behind the exclusive, charity, secret supper club Six Seats, and founder and former owner of £12m a year electrical engineering and testing firm Lantei.
Anthony, who has always been a keen chef and originally trained in catering at Runshaw College, is aiming to bring the informal, classy, yet affordable atmosphere and food of the Basque country with its tapas-style dishes served at the bar, to Preston' s Flag Market.
Pintxos translates as skewer, and the bite-sized pieces of food art, are typically served in northern Spain pinned to a piece of bread with a wooden skewer to eat while standing and socialising.
Dishes include grilled fig and goats cheese, manchego cheese and serrano hams, stuffed mushrooms with brandy, garlic prawns all freshly made and served with Spanish beers and Basque wines such as the light, sparkling Txakoli and Cava wines from Raventós Codorníu, the oldest wine-grower in Spain.
Anthony, 46, said the idea was to create the typically informal ambience of a San Sebastian pintxos bar downstairs, along with a restaurant El Burro, upstairs, to create inventive, high quality food at reasonable prices.
Inside it has the dark wood and tiles of one of the cozy bars of San Sebastian, with paintings by a Spanish artist and the high, wall tables designed for standing against to enjoy a drink and snack.
He said: "San Sebastian has more top Michelin starred restaurants than anywhere else. The food from the region is the best and I wanted to bring a taste of that, and its characteristic atmosphere to the people of Preston.
"People can come in at lunchtime and order a drink, along with a pintxos for £2.50, or they can get a couple, and they pay for the number of skewers left on their plate at the end like they do in Spain.
"The pintxos are meant to be a fusion of tastes - inventive, exciting. I am using authentic continental produce but will also be championing the best local produce too."
The former Leyland St Mary's student has already recruited many Spanish staff for his restaurant and is also aiming to offer the venue for Spanish classes and business networking.
"I had sold Lantei and we went into lockdown. I was home-schooling after the kids and so had time to bring this together. I have always loved cooking and I had a successful, secret pop-up restaurants called Six Seats - take six strangers from a social media platform, get them together and give them a six course taster menu.
"The only rule was they couldn't tell anyone who I was and so BBC Radio Lancashire started calling me the Banksy of the food world. It created a wonderful air of mystery and if it had not been for lockdown, I would have carried on with that.
"Because I have done bars and restaurants up over the years, I have always wanted a place of my own in the centre of Preston, to be in my chef whites in the kitchen. So I want to create a concept in Preston that has longevity, that is quintessentially Spanish in its flavour profile and service delivery.
"It has to be right, somewhere that Spanish people can come and enjoy the food, not just tapas for the English. We have 50 per cent English and 50 per cent Spanish staff at the moment.
"I want that authentic feel. Marco Pierre White said that a successful restaurant was not just about the food its an experiential journey. The food has to be good, but it is about the experience, the service and the atmosphere.
"Preston, when its busy, its a vibrant place and when the 50,000 students arrive, that will be another huge market for the informality of the dining experience at Pintxos."
He said the Flag Market are was an ideal venue with some beautiful buildings, such as the former bank now betting shop on the corner of Fishergate and the former Post Office being converted into a hotel, buildings with the potential to become the centre of a restaurant quarter.
"We are hoping to get some chairs on the Flag Market, as there is a pitch for rent. This could be a great piazza at night. Many Prestonians don't like going away from the beaten track, away from the town centre, so this is ideal."
The new restaurant will employ around 20 and Anthony already has plans for improvements to the building he bought in lockdown, such as bi-folding doors on the ground floor next year and soon a special air-conditioning system which cleans microbes out of the atmosphere four times an hour.
It will have a soft opening this weekend. Then it will open again on Wednesday when finishing touches are completed and Pintxos will be fully open to the public, 10am to 11.30pm Sunday to Wednesday and for Thursday to Saturday 10am to 1am. The bar will have a range of DJs at the weekends playing music with a Latin feel.