Food & Drink
Meet brothers behind Michelin starred restaurant Casamia in Bristol
Behind an iron gate in the tiny village of Westbury-on-Trym, a 15-minute drive from Bristol, you will find a slightly off the beaten track Michelin starred restaurant. With an Italian sounding name Casamia, you might expect the restaurant to serve pizza and pasta carbonara, but that kind of menu is a distant memory here. Today, the restaurant serves modern British food in an elegant setting, that bears the signature of two young and acclaimed brothers, Jonray and Peter Sanchez-Iglesias.
“We kept the name because it meant something to our parents,” explains Jonray, whose father nurtured in them a passion for all Italian food despite his Spanish roots.
The two brothers set out on their culinary journey some 15 years ago. As teenagers they helped out in their parents’ trattoria and became obsessed with cooking along the way.
“One day we just ended up cooking together in the kitchen, we loved it and we never looked back,” says Jonray. “From that day on we started changing things slowly, for the better.”
Their dream was to serve one menu, with the focus on fresh local ingredients. A far cry from the canned asparagus and artichoke hearts of that era. To this end, they now spend much of their time traveling around the local area, in search of the best suppliers.
“Taste this peppery watercress – it is almost like rocket and is freshly picked in Cornwall,” says Jonray as he very meticulously rinses each individual leaf.
Having said that, Jonray acknowledges that sourcing local produce in England is not always easy, compared with Spain and France where the climate and fantastic food markets mean chefs have far more choice.
“We do have farmers’ markets, but you can’t go there and say ‘I want ten kilos of asparagus’. We have to go directly to the source, which takes longer. It is a challenge, but at the same time a good challenge.”
Today’s six-course lunch menu includes beetroot, spring salad, salt marchlamb with coastal herbs and a selection of rhubarb. In the evening, the brothers serve a twelve-course taster menu for 35 covers. According to Jonray, the Casamia concept is unique for Bristol, but he does like the extensive and wide range of restaurants in the city.
“The Bristol restaurant scene is amazing. 15 years ago there wasn’t a lot going on, but the last five-six years has seen a real transformation. Chefs are braver, and we are seeing a movement towards tapas and small taster dishes that are also more affordable.”
Peter and Jonray like to visit other skilled chefs they are friends with around the country, although they never aim to criticize the concepts or ideas of other chefs.
“If you see something you don’t like or if you see something brilliant, take it with you and make your own restaurant better.”
The brothers do not have any current plans to forge a career in London but they are looking to open a new restaurant in the area. And with their track record of success so far – Michelin star in 2009, named Gordon Ramsay’s Best restaurant in 2010 and other awards since then – the tables are unlikely to remain empty there either.
Text: Anna-Lena Ahlberg
Published: February 10, 2016