72 Hours in Madrid – Part Two: Traditional Dinners

Posted on Tuesday, 10th April 2012

Following on from Part One

CASA SALVADOR

The idea for trying Casa Salvador came from Anthony Bourdain’s TV series called No Reservations. In case you have never heard of this show, Bourdain basically travels to different cities around the world to eat at some of the best food haunts that each of those places have to offer. I digress, but the food Boudain tried in the Hong Kong episode was out of this world, enough to make you salivate. Boy do I want Bourdain’s job!

Anyway, in the Madrid episode Bourdain goes to Casa Salvador. In its heyday, Casa Salvador was the place where bullfighters use to go, and famous celebrities, the likes of which included Ava Gardiner, also went if they wanted a bullfighter. You get the picture. The chef is Pepe who took over the restaurant from his uncle when he was in his teens. Pepe must be at least 60, so that gives you the sense of history surrounding Casa Salvador. There are lots of pictures of bullfighters from a bygone era on the walls, the ones you might find in a museum, and with all the waiters dressed in white jackets, there was an old school feel to the restaurant which I found rather charming.

The signature dish here is ‘rabo’, braised oxtail (€16), which Bourdain lapped up with fervour when he visited Casa Salvador. This dish is quite common place in traditional restaurants in Madrid and I couldn’t think of a better place to try it then at Casa Salvador. The oxtail was tender and beautifully cooked, and the braising sauce was rich and flavoursome. This dish was cooked how ‘mama’ would have probably made it back in her day. The only thing that let it down was that it was a bit too salty.

Oxtail

Oxtail

I also tried the fish soup (€8) as my starter. There was a good seafood flavour running through the soup which held a generous amount of seafood (clams, prawns, fish, etc), but again, it was a touch salty.

Fish soup

Fish soup

Casa Salvador is the kind of restaurant you come to for a little slice of history. The food is tradition in every sense and decent. And the service was old-school and quite charming.

If it wasn’t for the over seasoning, the cooking would have rated a 3.5 out of 5, but it only gets a 3. Three courses is about €30 per head excluding drinks.

Address:
C/ Barbieri, 12
28004 Madrid,
Spain
#: +34 915 21 45 24

EX LIBRIS

I found Ex Libris in the Lusso Hotel to be a good option in a city where most good restaurants don’t open on a Sunday evening. The restaurant bills itself as serving inventive traditional cuisine. The cooking was definitely more contemporary than at Casa Salvador but not quite in the mould of molecular gastronomy.

We tried a number of starters. Foie gras with a caramel crust (€18.50) was lovely. There was a real depth of flavour in the generous portion of foie gras, and the lightness of the apple cream and the gentle hint of acidity from the pawpaw sauce worked well with it.

The quail in a salad of seasoned wild berries (€14) was nicely cooked and the berries offered a lovely contrast to the bird.

Shellfish sachets with shrimp, fish, mango and avocado (€11) were delightfully fresh. It came with a basil-style tomato concassé which was refreshing with its herby aroma. However, another starter of fried egg with baked potatoes, Iberian ham and grated truffle (€13) proved a little dull. The potatoes were extremely oily and a little chewy.

Shellfish satchets

Shellfish satchets

Egg, potato, Iberian ham and truffle

Egg, potato, Iberian ham and truffle

Our only main was fried baby squid (€16) with sweet onion, violet potato chips and grated lime. This was a tasty dish with the squid being very tender.

Fried squid

Fried squid

A “flan-like dessert” with lime (€6) resembled a flan in texture but tasted of zingy lime. Accompanied by a lime foam and blackberry ice cream, the combination of the ice cream with the flan made the dessert too sweet.

Flan-like dessert

Flan-like dessert

The service was a bit haphazard with our waitress occasionally walking away to take calls on her phone as she was meant to be serving us. Otherwise, it wasn’t particularly bad or memorable.

The food at Ex Libris was well cooked to a high calibre with touches of inventiveness. The décor is pleasant and this was a good choice in a city with limited Sunday night dining options.

A menu is available in English. Three courses is about €45 per head excluding drinks.

Food rating: 3.5/5
Service: 2.5/5

Website: http://www.restauranteexlibris.com/en/

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