The year was 1969 when Manuel Torres and his wife Àngeles Medel opened a potato chip stand in Premià de Mar, Catalonia. Almost half a century later, that potato chip stand is now Patatas Torres, known to gourmands the world over for giving the humble crisp a seriously posh update.
Legend has it that a single white truffle can sell for £165,000; while the black summer truffles used to make Patas Torres’ delicious chips aren’t quite that rare (though summer truffles can still command hundreds of pounds per kilogram) they retain the intense hazelnut-like aroma of their scarcer cousins.
Perhaps the most distinctive thing about truffles – cost and fullness of flavour aside, of course – is how they’re found. It’s thought that humans have been using animals to sniff out these delicacies since the Roman Empire. Traditionally pigs were used; they’ve since been replaced largely by dogs, who are less likely to scoff the precious fungi on sight. But some purists, insisting that their swines’ natural love of truffles makes them far superior at sussing them out, insist on sticking with the traditional truffle hunter.
For the team behind Patas Torres, the key to producing a crisp of high enough quality that can stand up to the rich flavour of the truffle is simple: care. The entire Patatas Torres philosophy is based around passion for the quality of their raw materials; they care for the crops, respect their farmers (many of whom have worked with the company for 35 years or more) and reap the benefits: a potato chip unrivalled in the world of gastronomy.
But where can someone in the UK find Patatas Torres crisps, along with a treasure trove of other Spanish delicacies? The answer is Brindisa.
This wholesale business has been bringing the exceptional foods of Spain to the UK since 1998, and its Borough Market shop is widely considered one of the finest food outlets in Great Britain. Stocking everything from incredible serrano ham to bottles of Spain’s finest wines, it’s a veritable paradise for food lovers everywhere.
But Brindisa’s success – and, indeed, the British public’s access to Spain’s finest cuisine – looked far from guaranteed at the outset. Founder Monika Linton had chosen to take Spanish at school, almost randomly. And, while it had proven to become something of a passion, it didn’t connect her immediately to Spanish culture and cuisine. In fact, while studying modern languages at university she chose to spend her time abroad in Lima, Peru, rather than in Spain.
But an intimate knowledge of the language gave Linton access to the wonderful world of Spanish cuisine. From fine cheeses and beautiful wines to tapas and jamón, she was discovering a whole spectacular cuisine that had yet to make its way to the UK.
When Linton started Brindisa – the name comes from the word ‘brinidis’, to raise one’s glass in a toast – in 1998 it was with £1,500 and a staff composed entirely of herself, her brother and their friend. In its original form, Brindisa is a wholesaler of Spanish foods, importing these delicacies and selling them on to cafes, bars, restaurants. But it took time to get the British public excited about these foods; after all, you can’t ask for what you’ve never even heard of.
But the food spoke for itself, and within just a few years the UK public had grown to love the Spanish delights that Brindisa was bringing to their local restaurants. To give the public even more access to their favourite delicacies, Linton opened a shop in London’s Borough Market, where she still sells Spain’s finest foods directly to the public. This shop is widely considered one of the UK’s finest food markets by foodies across the country.
And, for gourmets living outside the capital, Brindisa’s online shop is a lifeline. The incredible selection of delicious Spanish foods ensures that food lovers can find their beloved Manchego, Rioja and jamón whenever they need them, regardless of where they live.
Now, 28 years later, Brindisa has grown to encompass a market in Barcelona, five tapas bars and the famous ham school, where serious foodies can learn the essentials of carving jamón – and, of course, which wines are best to pair it with.
Over the course of almost three decades, Monika has truly opened up a whole new world of food to the British public – and it all started with a snap decision at school. She says, “I never thought a language would take [me] this far.”
Find your local Brindisa stockist here to get your hands on Patatas Torres and other treats.