If you’re missing the European foodie scene, an authentic slice of Spain is now being served by Pata Negra House Group. Carolynne Dear headed over for lunch.
Tucking in at Pata Negra House Group.
Pata Negra House Group has been importing high-end Spanish gourmet ham and other delicacies into Hong Kong for more than 15 years, but this summer the group’s co-founder and managing director, Mathieu Djedid, decided to open up its Iberico ham cellar and private kitchen to showcase its products.
And so Pata Negra House Group has launched what is Asia’s first Iberico ham cellar private tasting experience.
Pata Negra House Group is located in the industrial suburb of San Po Kong, a fair distance from the bright lights of Central or Tsim Sha Tsui, but, as it turns out, more than worth the effort. (It’s actually just a short cab ride from the expat strongholds of Clearwater Bay and Sai Kung).
The sixth floor space in a busy factory building has been converted into a chic open kitchen with shelves groaning with delectable gourmet Pata Negra House products that can be shopped and enjoyed at home.
But the piece de résistance of the operation is the ham cellar.
Grazing the tapas tasting table.
However, the ham cellar ‘experience’ begins in an adjacent space where we are presented with a table laden with tapas plates. Invited to tuck-in, we are expertly guided through each plate by the knowledgeable and extremely courteous Djedid.
The cold cuts, seafood and cheeses - think salami Iberico bellota (bellota, meaning acorn, is one of the highest quality hams in the world), chorizo Iberico bellota, a 20-month Serrano ham with melon, a selection of Manchego cheeses, cooked Galician octopus leg and Manzanilla olives - are paired with Spanish wines and we’re given an overview of their provenance and production along with serving suggestions.
Djedid is in fact French-born and is a frequent explorer (pre-Covid, at least) of Mediterranean countries and their artisan produce. He worked for a ham specialist in Spain before co-founding Pata Negra House Group in Hong Kong in 2013. He has opened up the Iberico Ham Cellar as a way of introducing customers to Iberico ham, blending education with food pairing. Djedid admits he was also keen to get to know his customers better.
“We wanted to present an interactive offering, where guests could learn about and taste some of the most remarkable and rare vintage hams from Spain,” he said.
Pata Negra House Group co-founder Mathieu Djedid at work in the ham cellar.
Having polished off the tapas table, the doors to the climate and humidity controlled ham cellar are thrown open. Premium vintage ham legs hang from the walls around a circular display table in the centre of the room. One by one, five vintage hams are presented to us, wafer thin slices proffered for tasting and glasses filled with pairing wines. Djedid is a professional ‘slicer’ and recently took second place at Asian food and hospitality show Hofex’s Spanish ham slicing competition - it’s not as easy as it looks, guests are invited to try their hand.
As Djedid takes us through the regions of Spain from where the hams have been produced, from the mountains of Salamanca to the Andalusia in the deep south, and carefully explains the diet of the pigs and how long the hams have been cured (some for up to 60 months), for a brief, golden moment, you feel like you might actually be in Spain.
We’re also introduced to the extremely rare, almost-extinct Rubio Dorado breed. Just 120 pieces of this ham are produced each year and Rubio Dorado is available exclusively from Harrods in London, City’Super in Hong Kong - and (natch) Pata Negra House Group’s Iberico Ham Cellar.
The climate-controlled ham cellar.
Appetites well and truly whetted, we are invited to sit for the final stage of the experience back at the kitchen as chefs conjure up a seven-course tapas meal to showcase the hams - including the most divine croquetas jamon you will ever taste. The menu has been designed by chef Heloise Fischbach of two Michelin-starred Hong Kong dining room Ecriture and is one of the tastiest and varied tapas experiences you could hope to sit down to. The huge, flavourful, flame-grilled Spanish prawns were also standouts.
The experience ends with shopping opportunities; Pata Negra House Group staff are on-hand to guide you through the delicacies, from the finest caviar, to smoked fish, truffles, foie gras and, of course, Iberico cold cuts.
Stepping back into the bustling streets of San Po Kong is like returning from Narnia. Here’s hoping for tapas plates on sun-dappled, acorn-strewn Spanish plains very soon.
The Iberico Ham Cellar Signature Experience costs HK$3,980 per group of up to six people (groups can top-up to a maximum of ten with an additional charge of HK$660 per person), Unit 601, 6/F Lee Sum Factory Building, 28 Ng Fong Street, San Po Kong, Hong Kong, patanegrahouse.com
What is Iberico ham?
Iberico hams are considered the finest in the world. They come from pure-bred Iberico pigs which are fed up to ten kilograms of acorns a day. This produces ham with fatty marbling, distinctive flavours and a melt-in-the-mouth texture. The pigs are raised free-range and fed with bellota (acorns) in southwest and northwest Spain. During the winter, the ham is cured in natural drying chambers for a minimum of 32 months and sometimes up to 60 months. Normally, experts from Pata Negra House Group will visit the best producers twice a year to carefully source each Iberico ham.
This story first appeared in the Autumn 2021 edition of Asia Family Traveller magazine. Never miss an issue by subscribing here.