When Acánthum restaurant received a Michelin star, it became the first establishment in Huelva to do so. However, such acclaim was just about the last thing on Chef Xanty Elías’ mind.


He had been passionate about cooking since the age of 12. When his mother took him to Madrid to lend his uncle Claudio a helping hand. Claudio was a baker and in his warm and fragrant kitchen, little Xanty fell in love with the aromas. Moreover the technique and the chemistry behind bread baking. So much so that by the time he was 14, he was already enrolled in cooking school. Xanty honed his craft under a host of culinary wizards, including Juan María Arzak. However when he launched Acánthum, he remained true to his dream. That of creating cuisine which highlighted the plentiful produce of farmers and suppliers from Huelva.

A Skill Born of Passion

Xanty’s childhood love for food preparation was deepened by a motorbike accident he had at 30. “ I suffered a heart attack and during recovery it became clear to me that I wanted to cook to make people happy. This emotion has guided me throughout my career and it is always my ultimate goal.

If you like to keep up on gourmet news then you undoubtedly have read about the Acánthum team’s laudable efforts with World Central Kitchen (WCK). Chef José Andrés non-profit organisation. WCK has been playing a key role in helping to feed the needy during the COVID crisis. “The World Central kitchen contacted us and we were keen to be part of the project.

For seven weeks, our staff worked in our kitchens, preparing a total of 26,900 meals for vulnerable members of society.” The staff joined a select group of restaurants around Spain, who also lent their support to Andres’ acclaimed project. Chef Elías now has his sights set on the reopening of Acánthum to the general public under COVID-related-restrictions.

He has taken this time to strategise, defining a new path for his team to tread. When I ask him if his restaurant has had to make any renovations to adopt recommended regulations. He answers, “Funnily enough, Acánthum always had a distance of over 2m between tables. The restaurant has a capacity for 70 diners but we only accept 22 to enhance the sense of intimacy and privacy, in line with our diners’ preference.”

The post-COVID Acánthum will look different, despite adhering to the same philosophy. Chef Elías says, “Our research indicated that diners were viewing Acánthum as the kind of restaurant you visit for a special occasion like a birthday or anniversary. We wanted to turn that idea on its head; to encourage people to visit us more often and enjoy a less formal experience. Our research also indicated that, post-COVID, people are seeking to reconnect. The ground floor of our restaurant will be dedicated to casual dining, while the top floor will feature the tasting menu experience.”

Even the menú de degustación (tasting menu) has been turned on its head. “There will be one table upstairs, which a total of eight people can book.” This means that one couple might book two seats and join other couples or small groups of diners, sharing a unique social experience. “I will be right there cooking in front of you,” says the Chef, “but I will also ask you to take on a role. I might put an apron on a couple of you or surprise you in other ways.” The idea of opening up mind, heart, and palate to new experiences sounds like a panacea after living for so long in relative isolation.

‘What type of cuisine will I be trying out in Acánthum?’ you may ask. The answer is: creative dishes made with Huelva-produced and -sourced ingredients like prawns, choco, mojama, anchovies, and caballa. “We will also be serving ingredients like langostinos de trasmallo (King prawns that are not dragged along a net and which therefore have a superior taste and texture).” Every tasting menu is different and based on the produce sourced on the day of your booking so you will never know what to expect. One thing you can be sure of, however, is that you will have a great time and experience, once again, the inimitable joy of carefully crafted dishes in the company of people who are as passionate about food as you are.

C/ San Salvador 17, Huelva. Tel: 959 245 135.



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