Award winning Spanish chef to launch new look Rioja restaurant in Glasgow

The Spanish restaurant has had a makeover during lockdown and will welcome a new chef, who has moved to Glasgow from his post within a Michelin starred restaurant in Valencia.

Published 25th May 2021
Updated 21 st Sep 2023

Miguel Angel Mayor has arrived in Glasgow during one of the coldest springs on record, but the change from the balmy climes of the east coast of Spain hasn't deterred the chef - who obtained a Michelin Star for Sucede in 2017.

Miguel and his family have moved to the city in order for Miguel to become the new head chef at Rioja in Finnieston, and he's keen to broaden the understanding and experience of Spanish food in Scotland.

Miguel explains how this move came about, saying: "Scotland, its people, its products, and its history have always piqued my interest.

"When I first met (Rioja owner) Toni Carbajosa in February of this year, we immediately connected over our shared love of Spanish food, Scottish produce, and innovative cuisine.

"A project to do something together in Glasgow was born shortly after that."

The tapas restaurant sits on the trendily named Finnieston strip (Argyle Street to anyone that frequented it pre 2015) and counts Alchemilla and Six by Nico as neighbours.

"It feels exciting to be here in Scotland and so far the city of Glasgow, and the people, have welcomed me with open arms."

In normal times, the area was a bustling hub of critically acclaimed restaurants and bars, and with a city more than ready to get back out and dine, Miguel is raring to go.

"I couldn't wait to get started on the restaurant project in Glasgow, and with uncertainty surrounding covid travel restrictions, it was a quick move, he said.

"It feels exciting to be here in Scotland and so far the city of Glasgow, and the people, have welcomed me with open arms."

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Miguel is not the first Michelin experienced chef to grace the Rioja kitchen, in 2017 chef Modesto Fabregat cooked up a one-off tasting menu that went down a treat.

Toni Carbajosa, co-owner C&C Restaurant Group that owns Rioja explains that hiring Migeul after such success has been a dream come true.

He said: "In 2017, we had the pleasure of hosting Michelin-starred chef Modesto Fabregat for a one-time takeover, which was a big hit with our customers.

"Now, fast forward to 2021, as we welcome the culinary genius of Miguel as our head chef, our dreams of working with one of the finest Spanish chefs in the world is a reality".

Trained in the CETT in Barcelona, Miguel's career includes stints in restaurants such as ‘La Broche’ , ‘Mugaritz’, ‘Le Procope’, ‘Quique Dacosta’, ‘elBulli’ and ‘Arola'.

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His aim at Rioja is to challenge the perspective of Spanish food while highlighting the amazing produce that we have here.

"There's more to Spanish cuisine than Paellas, Bravas, Croquetas, and Chorizo, and in Rioja Glasgow, we'll change that misconception."

Miguel said: "In terms of concept, we'll link the high quality of Scottish products to the history of Spanish cuisine.

"The menu will constantly evolve and have no borders. A one-of-a-kind celebration of produce, with flavours that showcase innovative techniques while maintaining respect for the product.

"There's more to Spanish cuisine than Paellas, Bravas, Croquetas, and Chorizo, and in Rioja Glasgow, we'll change that misconception.

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"Our menu will offer the best of traditional Spanish tapas alongside modern creations."

Rioja will open in summer, with a new look that takes its influence from Spain's coastline (and Miguel's former home), with tones of baby blue, peach and pastels.

Before then though, Miguel is busy developing the menu and has been 'hectic' since his arrival.

"I've been researching and discovering lots about Scottish produce and sourcing some of the finest suppliers to work with, he said.

"Scotland is very lucky to have some of the most sought after, natural produce in the world and when you fuse that with Spanish flair and traditions, it's exciting to develop."

And as for that elusive Michelin star, which would be the second for the city?

Miguel is laid back about it all, saying: "We are working hard to become a great restaurant, to demonstrate our knowledge and creativity, and if the Michelin Guide recognises us along the way, it will be the result of our efforts and the fulfilment of a dream."

Known for cake making, experimental jam recipes, Champagne, whisky and gin drinking (and the inability to cook Gnocchi), Rosalind is the Food and Drink Editor and whisky writer for The Scotsman, as well as hosting Scran, The Scotsman's food and drink podcast.
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