Posts Tagged ‘tapas bar’

Cuisine: Contemporary Spanish tapas.

Visit: November 2012

Price: Medium (for the quality and quite generous portions this a very good deal in central Madrid).

Mesón Cinco Jotas

Mesón Cinco Jotas is a success story of a chain of restaurants doing a great job! With branches in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and even in the Portuguese capital Lisbon it can easily lose track of quality, but this is not the case of the Mesón Cinco Jotas in Madrid as the restaurant/tapas bar is serving excellent and innovative tapas in a modern environment in the middle of the historic part of town.

Atmosphere: Modern, fresh and casual. Sitting between a heard of colourful bulls on one side and real life-size hanging hams on the other you know that you are not dining at a vegetarian restaurant. Meat is omnipresent in most of Spanish tapas places and Mesón Cinco Jotas is not an exemption. Central location attracts many tourists, but locals blend in quite high proportion so I cannot classify it as a tourist hangout. Its casual interior suggests that dress code is not a topic to be worried about, therefore wear anything you find yourself in while browsing the labyrinth of the old town.

Salmonejo cold soup

Food: An innovative take on typical Spanish tapas. The plates are rarely simple, with the exemption of fried green peppers with crumbly smoked salt, which are a staple vegetable tapa in Spain. They make them superb here – not too oily, large in size, with more depth thanks to use of the smoked salt instead of the usual white salt. Tortilla (a thick egg omelette) with fresh bread is served before your order comes and it is hard not to eat it all as both are very good.

Fried green peppers with salt

Of course you can also have a slice of Jamon Ibérico, the hard and intense Manchego cheese and other Spanish meats and cheeses, but it is the careful experimentation with traditional dishes that they do so well here, so you must try at least one of their ‘old made new’ plates as well.

Salmonejo is an Andalusian style of cold soup made from tomatoes, bread, vinegar, garlic and oil. It is different from gazpacho since it is more thick and creamy, because of the bread. Dried Spanish Serrano ham and diced hard-boiled eggs are added as a garnish. They must have used high quality tomatoes in this soup as it tasted so smooth and elegant that if too ripe or unripe tomatoes were blended in you would recognise it on the palate. It is very filling as well, therefore ordering a lighter second and third course is a smart choice.

Morcilla: blood sausage

I went through a different way though – the stones-in-your-belly feeling after your lunch requiring a long siesta dining style. I could not resist trying Morcilla, the Spanish take on a slightly spicy blood sausage. A great risk paid off. The Morcilla served on a red pepper puree, full moon-shaped potatoes and topped with a green olive cream dollop was superb! One of the best I have ever had. The ingredients freshened it up and calmed the racy flavours of the blood sausage so each bite fashioned almost a yin-yang taste of harmony.

My friend got Grilled squids and she was also impressed by her choice. Gently grilled, not burned or undercooked, sharing a plate with a vegetable ratatouille and the squids’ own black ink sauce, the dish looked not only gastronomically seductive, but it also tasted very good as my friend confirmed.

Grilled squids tapa

Drinks: Wines by the glass or “una copa de sangria” (a glass of sangria) are an option for light drinkers. I had a glass of red wine that I did not like much so I ordered a glass of sangria that was lighter in alcohol than I am used to and therefore ideal for lunch. They have Spanish wine list that is not super extensive but covers many regions of Spain with at least one example.

Plaza de Santa Ana, 1; Madrid 28012, Spain

Contact: Tel: +(39) 915 22 63 64

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Cuisine: Spanish seafood

Visit: November 2012

Price: Medium to low (great value for money for the quality you get).

Atmosphere: Casual, buzzing, local. El Rocio is a local secret, although it might attract some tourists that got a great tip from their Spanish friends to eat there. Overall though it is very local and unpretentious. Its location in the central barrio Salamanca in Madrid is convenient as you can pop in between browsing the Madrid’s sights or just before or after going to a cinema. The staff os super friendly, effective and speaks some English so no worries about getting something else then you ordered.

El Rocio

Food: Casual, honest and excellent quality of the ingredients. Many lucky seafood eaters who know, come to El Rocio regularly and order just the mussels (in Spanish: mejillones). Once you see them, you will understand why. Yet, it is not only their size that impresses many of the constantly returning seafood lovers, these mussels also taste wonderfully! Juicy, sumptuous, delicate with a mineral salty touch from the sea … a glass of a refreshingly aromatic white Albariño (wine from Norther Spain) … a group of nice friends – equals a heavenly time out perhaps not just for me. Usually they are served in a spicy broth, but you can ask for a non-spicy version as well if you are not a fan of too hot food.

A giant mussel

After eating a pot or two of such marvellous mussels, you might feel like switching to something simple and different. A plate of fried Spanish green peppers with flakes of crunchy salt goes well not only with a pint of beer, so popular in Spain, but almost any white wine such as the Albariño. The later does a great job balancing the oily texture of the fried veggies.

Spanish fried green peppers with salt

Other tapas such as fried onions, squids and other seafood are optional, but make sure you do not miss out trying possibly the biggest mussels ever in this casual setting right in the centre of Madrid. It is an ideal spot to get a quick bite before going to the cinema, night club or at any time you feel like having a plate of honest seafood.

Price-friendly Abelleiro Albarino

Drinks: From sangria, beer to great value for price/quality wine you can drink anything that will not ruin your wallet while enjoying the taste. The drinks mostly suite well to the tapas style seafood served at El Rocio.

Address: Pasaje Matheu 2, 28012 Madrid, Spain

Contact: Tel: +(33) 91 523 31 93

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Ortega- rioja tasting
In London’s rainy fall it is great to hide inside, so why not visit Ortega,a Spanish restaurant just in front of the Smithfield market. For £15 per person you get to taste six different riojas accompanied by typical Spanish tapas.

The staff takes an exceptional care of you as it is for the first time they are doing a wine tasting.
On the table you have set a paper with descriptions of each rioja and tapas accompanying it.


We started with the white Luis Canas 2008 with the famous Tortilla Espanola making it a perfect duo. There is a description next to your glass, though my impression was that I could taste more green apples than citrus. What was interesting was that it resembled the Italian Pinot Grigio.

Rosé wine

Next step was rosé. This was the first time I had rioja in rosé version. I thought it is quite atypical for Spain. The Finea Manzanos Rosado 2008 was crisp, refreshing with hints of strawberries and light sparkle on a tongue. It was served with delicious Croquetas de Champinones.

Red wine

We moved to red wine, which is more common for rioja. The Castillo Clavijo Gran Reserva 2001 reminded me bordeaux style wines. Its powerful and slightly acidic taste with oaky smell absolutely enchanted my Mexican friend. Accompanied by Garbanzos con Espinacas, which basically is a chickpea mash with spinach.

My favourite was the deeply red Verga del Razo Reserva. Its silky, medium bodied and elegant tones with fine tannins were mouth-watering! Savoury taste fit well with Patatas Bravas straight from Barcelona (at least they tasted like that).

Spicy finish assured the red rioja Solmareno from Crianza. Mulberries and soft oak dominated the otherwise smooth flavour. A heavy Fabada Asturiana from North of Spain was just right for this wine. Fabada is beans with ham in a saucy style.

Comparison with other Spanish region

Unfortunately, the restaurant was out of the Monte Clavijo. Instead we tried a Shiraz from the Spanish province Castilla. The Hacienda Casa del Valle 2005 bottled in the estate was interesting in the way that we could compare its full bodied and a bit peppery flavour with riojas based on Tempranillo grapes offering more raspberry and spicy blend.

I recommend you to come around lunch time or during the afternoon so you will have most of the restaurant for yourselves and can discuss your impressions from the tasting with the kind members of staff.

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