I was excited to meet up with Ana Abascal, the new owner of the Restaurant Pura Vida, perched on the outskirts of the Jalon Valley, a small town of around 5.000 people nestled in the Val de Pop on the Costa Blanca. The town has an international community with a bustling Rastro market every Saturday and has a strong creative community of local artists and writers, I guess that is why I set up home here. This is a region steeped in the history. Vineyards sprawl across the valley floor in the misted shadow of mountains covered with pine trees. Between the creatives there is a thriving healthy community, somehow it all goes together. Of course, it does.
Ana has just arrived in the valley and fell in love with this former restaurant of a bygone era.
The restaurant was formally a typical Spanish Cafe. I only ate there once, I think I had an omelette, chips and salad. Being 90% vegetarian, it became my only option until myself and others started to complain about the lack of healthy options being served up in the valley and pleaded with local restaurant owners to recognise they had a market of healthy eaters here. Obviously, my one visit to the former restaurant did not result in a return visit. The building closed some years ago and had been waiting for someone to come along and rescue it.
Ana is a creative chef and is also a clearly talented artist. She has given the building a major make-over. I am attracted to the painted floor of the terrace. There are swirls and naturalistic lines leading you toward the entrances. “I painted this myself,” she tells me. I am imagining a wooden spoon in one hand and a paintbrush in the other. There is a rebel running through these walls, so don’t expect the normal here I think to myself but I am loving the vibe.
Distressed antique doors hang beside doorways next to African-styled heads, hand painted on the wall, I step over a painted elephant as I make my way under a palm-covered entranceway, lulling me toward the shadows of the interior. I am looking for a venue to display art for a showcase.
Creativity is running everywhere, it fuses with the magic energy of this valley. Feeling my excitement, I venture inside amongst the eclectic ambience of art and antiques, where every seated section is an individual in its style and charisma. Inside the bamboo bar takes up one corner. The collection of bottles, backlit and standing to attention framed with unusual artefacts……..Am I in Jalon still?
Art cafes are on the incline. People want more from a place than just a menu. Surroundings and entertainment that are themed take a huge amount of effort to pull together, it is not about hanging a few pictures randomly to create some ambience. Ana has created an eating experience and it has to all work together
Ana’s Mum is helping in the background, there is much to do and you get a sense that she is calmly holding it all together. There are only a few days to go until they open their doors to an all-consuming public, I have only known this valley for 12 years, it has pockets of communities that will be quick to judge anything daring to be different. Yet this valley has seen changes over the centuries with a continuous mix of international flavours thrown into the mix. It is impossible to stay still and resist change where with every twist and turn this valley produces you will come face to face with something new. We have to embrace it or we are in danger of getting trapped in time and we shall carry the blame.
DARE TO BE DIFFERENT – A phrase used precariously some would agree. Taking chances, and breaking boundaries can be viewed by some as reckless especially when it comes to opening new businesses. Although we are encouraged to do our market research, that should not mean we are required to follow what everyone else provides. Stepping out of line and going against the normal, can often entice a market waiting in the wings for recognition.
Ana portrays that gift of courage and a strong determination to be different, she does what she wants and is clearly in charge of her creations. This has to be admired, anyone entering unchartered waters will face the unexpected.
You never succeed by ‘playing it safe‘ I sense that ‘safe’ is not an option here and my thoughts are sent back to omelette and chips. Phew, can I finally breathe in some innovation?
I make everything fresh Ana tells me, but I encourage my customers to tell me what they want to eat. I am very adaptable and will cater for all, they just have to tell me what they want and I will cook it. Quality is on offer and it is quality that we value
Her selection of tapas is intriguing, I want to try them all. SEE MENU
We talk about the idea of holding our next Art Cafe at Pura Vida. Excitedly Ana suggests we combine our art with antiques and hold the next Art Cafe as a night market. “Lets do it” she says. ‘Oh Yeah’
There is a vibrancy here, pure life with that essence of energy. That is Pura Vida. Check out their Facebook page and make them your next dining experience.
‘He who dares, Wins’. Well, not always but when he does, there will be an explosion of achievement. That look of ‘I told you so‘ shows that when we believe in ourselves, success can often follow.