72 Hours in Madrid – Part One: Tapas

Posted on Monday, 2nd April 2012

ESTADO PURO

What does one do with 72 hours in Madrid? There is of course a wealth of art to feast your eyes on (think Prado) and the fixtures at the Bernabeu would probably tempt many sports fans. But with the likes of Ferran Adria as one of the forefathers of modern Spanish cooking, I was most excited by the prospect of exploring some of the food options that the Spanish capital had to offer. That and the likelihood of warm and sunny weather had the makings of a very good time indeed.

In the first of a three part series, I will talk about Spain’s national institution, tapas, with the first tapas bar on my hit list being Estado Puro. The chef patron is Paco Roncero, the head chef of the two Michelin-starred La Terraza del Casino restaurant in Madrid. Roncero is not only considered to be one of the best chefs in Spain, he was also one of Ferran Adria’s star disciples and this modern touch showed in his take on the famous Spanish tortilla.

Named on the menu as a ‘21st Century Spanish omelette’ (€4.50), the waiter described the omelette as “like eating soup”, and the comparison rang true with the omelette appearing in a glass and consisting of beautifully caramelised onions covered with two foams, one of which was egg and the other of potato. Each individual component was delicious, but this 21st Century version had no texture. And for this reason the traditional versions, when done right, are in my opinion far more satisfying.

21st Century Spanish Omelette

21st Century Spanish Omelette

Pig’s trotters (€4.95) immersed in a gooey, thick and perfectly reduced port wine reduction was wondrous. The trotters were fantastically tender, and the accompaniment of ‘noodles’ made from cuttlefish also worked a treat. If pig’s trotters are your thing, this dish will surely win you over.

Pig's trotters

Pig's trotters

‘Callos’, pork tripe in a ‘Madrid’ style (€6.75), a dish typical in Madrid, was also scrumptious. Slowly cooked in a rich and flavoursome broth, the tripe was deliciously tender.

Tripe

Tripe

Traditional options are also on offer such as the humble ham croquette (€1.95 each) which came out piping hot and was also very good.

Ham croquette

Ham croquette

Prices are reasonable and range from €1.95 up to €21 for the Iberian hams. The service is functional and the decor is modern and sleek. Unlike the traditional tapas tabernas where choosing from a selection of pre-cooked food is the order of the day, you order à la carte at Estado Puro. This means that food that should be hot is cooked to order, a concept that I much prefer. A menu in English and an outside dining area are also available.

Estado Puro is open 11am to 1am and closed on Sunday nights.

Food rating: 4/5

Website: http://www.tapasenestadopuro.com/


LATERAL

Santa Ana Plaza wouldn’t have been my first choice of places to head for food in Madrid. Restaurants that are situated around a square make me nervous as the tourist trap potential seems high.

But tapas bar Lateral, right on Santa Ana Plaza, proved me wrong. Part of a chain of tapas restaurants, the food was inspired and cooked with a deft hand with ‘imitation’ baby eels (€3.30) proving to be delicious. Served on top of some crunchy toasted bread and a wonderful spread of delicious garlic aioli, there was also a luscious drizzle of olive oil and a sliver of sweet roasted pepper to round of this delightful treat.

Imitation eels

Imitation eels

Also thrilling was the sirloin with foie gras (€4.15). Had the sirloin been thicker, it would have no doubt been less cooked and rarer, but it was delicious nonetheless. And the topping of unctuous foie gras, perfectly seasoned, made this something not to be missed.

Sirloin and foie gras

Sirloin and foie gras

We were also captivated by the smoked tuna with tomato jam (€3.80). The delicately smoked tuna was good, and the sweet, slightly acidity jam bore a very good consistency to traditional jams.

Tuna and tomato jam

Tuna and tomato jam

Rolled salmon stuffed with ham, cheese and caramelised apple (€3.80) was good, if a little too cold. The caramelised effect of the apple was a nice touch.

Smoked salmon

Smoked salmon

The service was a bit grumpy, but I would not hesitate to go back again for the food. For a chain, I was rather surprised at the calibre of the cooking. The restaurant has a contemporary feel to it and the pricing was also very reasonable, with the tapas plates ranging from about €3 to €8. Tables are available outside for al fresco dining, and like Estado Puro, one orders from an à la carte menu. Lateral opens all day on Sundays, a big bonus in a city where lots of good restaurants are closed on Sundays. A menu in English is also available.

Food rating: 4/5

Website: http://www.cadenalateral.com/


TABERNA TXAKOLINA

I’ve talked of two very modern tapas places, so now to something more traditional. Taberna Txakolina has a modern look to it, but it is a traditional tapas taberna where you order of trays of precooked food. Packed with locals during my Sunday lunch visit, I found Txakolina to be a bit of a trying experience as standing to eat with hordes of people jostling for space can feel like an exercise in stress management.

But more importantly, I found the food to be less superior in terms of the quality of the cooking than Estado Puro and Lateral. Furthermore, certain things are simply better when they are hot. When you try things like crumbed mashed potato balls with minced meat and mushroom sauce and fried aubergine, well, they just taste better if they have been cooked to order. At Taberna Taxakolina the food is heated slightly in the microwave to a barely warm temperature. It was tasty enough, but food that should be hot simply tastes better when it is hot.

Mash, mince and mushroom sauce

Mash, mince and mushroom sauce

I may not have found a good traditional tapas place in Madrid, but Estado Puro and Lateral got the nod from me. Modern inventive tapas with table service and an à la menu won my vote.

Food rating: a weak 3/5

Calle Cava Baja, 26 28005
Madrid, Spain
#: +34 913 664 877


SAN MIGUEL MARKET

Another place to consider is the San Miguel Market in Madrid. It offers lots of tapas options and is incredibly popular with locals.

Website: http://www.mercadodesanmiguel.es/

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