In terms of food & drink, coming to Madrid mid-August was probably not the best of ideas. More than half the places recommended by friends were closed for holidays, though of course in just three days I couldn’t have got to more places than I actually did. In fact, other than my first day in town, when Jo and I did an “all-dayer”, lunches were just a quick snack for me before meeting up with Jo again in the evenings for a proper meal. And because of one place being closed we “discovered” a new place across the street that ended up being quite wonderful.
Salón Cascabel in El Corte Inglés (Serrano) Gourmet Experience. This bar is run by chef Roberto Ruíz, whose PuntoMX is the only Mexican restaurant in Europe with a Michelin star. We ended up here after arriving too late for StreetXO’s lunch service, which turned out to be an excellent “consolation prize” as the food here was exquisite (plus they make killer margaritas). We tried three tacos, all very different, all delicious…
Taco Ibérico Cochito & Chicharrón: pork with avocado sauce.
Tacos Pop Corn: crispy chicken, spicy tamarind and chipotle sauce.
Taco Arabe: beef, habanero tzatziki, hierbabuena, cucumber.
An evening tapeo on Sunday included stopping into two bars for their iconic tapas. THAT tortilla de patatas at Juana la Loca and THOSE meatballs at Bodegas Ricla.
A unique and tasty experience at Sala de Despiece (the cutting room) by chef Javier Bonet. It’s all about PRODUCT here, and the quality is impeccable. The space itself maybe goes a bit overboard with its minimalist butcher block theme: long marble communal tables with tall stools, packing crate walls, a plastic stip curtain over the entrance to the bathrooms. We were lucky that we got two seats on the side facing the wall as the majority of the seating have clientelle on either side of the largest and longest centre table, so you are facing total strangers while you eat. Anyhow, back to the food….
Bonito (tuna) sashimi with wasabi mayo, puffed rice and seaweed powder. The tuna is first dipped in the wasabi, then rolled in the puffed rice before eating.
Fried snow peas (mange tout) with soy sauce and sichimi spice.
Costilletas (pork ribs) with an amazing spice combo (can’t remember). Eaten with fingers, deliciously messy.
Korean style beef prepared at the table. It comes as a ball covered in its own fat, infused with spices and three kinds of sesame seeds, which is then blow torched until the fat melts and the beef cooks, creating a complex “sauce”. Once the beef is cooked raw egg yolk and mixed kimchi veggies are added and stirred in, then this mixture is spooned onto soft lettuce leaves with toasted garlic. The star dish of my entire trip. You can see a video of Cristina preparing it here.
Snacky lunches. The renowned bocadito de calamares at El Brillante, and the equally famous cod croqueta & tajada at Casa Labra.
Tapas aren’t as common in Madrid as they are in Andalucía, but complimentary aperitivos (snacks) are often served with your drinks.
Another “accidental” feast. Much like we ended up at Cascabel after not getting into StreetXO, we also lucked out after finding both Triciclo and its sister bar Tandem closed for holidays. Bistronomika – on the same street and open in August! – turned out to be my another happy “consolation prize”. A warm and cosy ambiance, nice service and an open kitchen, we were sorry we only had room for two raciones (plates).
Dumplings: Rubia Gallega beef and prawn, served with miso sauce.
Rubia Gallega beef meatballs with grilled calamar in a crazy rich and delicious sauce over parmentier potatoes
After dinner we stopped for an úlitma penúltima at La Venencia, where I took a “forbidden photo” of our palo cortados. Clearly I have to get to Madrid more often than every couple of years. And next time I will also try to plan meals with groups of 3 or 4 friends so we can try more dishes.