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Posts Tagged ‘tapas’

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.

Address:
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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Cusine: Spanish tapas

Visit: July 2012

Price: Medium. The quality speaks for itself – a plate of an excellent Jamón Ibérico Manuel Maldonado comes to £20.00, but croquetas (croquettes) and other similar tapas around £6.

The tapas bar at Pizarro

Chef: There is one famous Pizarro – the Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro González, who conquered the Inca empire in South America and was assassinated in Lima in the 16th century, yet, today there is another Spaniard gaining fame as he is conquering the London’s restaurant scene. First cooking at the tapas bar Brindisa and now he opened his two new places at once!

The chefs’ table behind the bar at Pizarro

Josè Pizarro is becoming a legend. With his new cookbook Seasonal Spanish Food under his hand and success at tapas bars Brindisa in London, opening his own place was just the next reasonable step. His sherry and tapas bar José on Bermondsey Street is very small taster of his Spanish heritage, but if you walk a couple of blocks further you can taste his daily changed rainbow of flavors at the full-size restaurant Pizarro.

Seafood – ceviche inspired tapa at Pizarro

Atmosphere: busy, vibrant, rushed but also friendly and casual. The staff is accommodating and explains all the questions you might rise. There are long so-called common tables, the recently highly popular concept of sharing a large table with unknown people has picked up very well in the over-crowded London.

Food: basic, rustic recipes using mostly local and fresh ingredients the chef sources on London’s markets. The restaurant’s proximity to the famous Borough market calls for a visit by the chef. After all, it was there where Brindisa, Pizarro’s first successful tapas adventure is located.

His tremendous skill to find the right ingredients proved with our first order – Jamón Ibérico Manuel Maldonado. An outstanding leaner ham pleasing even the harshest critics of chewy fat in meat and preferring the clean texture of pure meat.

Ceviche is another dish on which the quality of ingredients shows off. This Peruvian fish and seafood inspired dish boosting with lemon and zesty onions got a makeover by Pizarro. Adding the olive oil and some crispy greens have transferred this currently fashionable dish to a Spanish richer tapa. After all who knows if it were not the Spaniards who introduced ceviche to Peru and Chile, since their influence during the conquest of the region is indisputable.

Morcilla – Spanish take on a blood sausage

Morcilla is the Spanish name for a blood sausage. The Iberic drier, less blood-leaking version is perhaps my favorite from the all national takes I have had in Europe so far (France, UK, Czech Republic, Slovakia and others have their own versions of this dish). At Pizarro it is served with grilled stripes of red peppers sprinkled with herbs and olive oil. What a treat with a glass of full-bodied Rioja or even the power-raging Priorat. This dish is an interesting interplay between cold and warm courses. I would not start with it as it has quite powerful taste and any lighter dish would vanish in the terms of taste profile after this delicacy.

One of the possible followers though may be Croquetas, the fried balls filled with cheese and potato mash. The croquettes are rich mainly because of the addition of aromatic sheep cheese giving the balls a more chewy texture. Really tasty take on this Spanish staple food.

Croquetas – the remaining two (they’ve gone fast)

Checking out the “daily specials” board hanging on the wall, we have switched to one lighter dish – a crispy salad with sheep cheese. A great starter or a refresher after heavier meat-based tapas. Crisp lettuce leaves and celery were mellowed by the soft cheese and olive oil based dressing. If they offered it again I would go for it without thinking.

Crunchy salad with cheep cheese

The most creative dish from our tapas selection was a Lentil stew with carrots, mushrooms and almonds. It does not have the look of a posh dish, yet it is supreme! The combination of lentils with mushrooms, almond flakes and veggies would have never came to my mind. It is this daring and original combination of ingredients what makes Jose Pizarro a great chef.

Lentil stew with mushrooms

Drinks: A large choice of cava, sherries and wines by the glass from all over Spain. From a glass of Godello to a blend of for Spain quirky sounding Hondarribi Zuri with Hondarribi Beltza, one can try so far unknown varietals for him/her or stick to a familiar glass of Rioja or Albarinho. Dessert wine by the glass feature on the list as well. And if you would rather some beer (cerveza) with the tapas the Alhambra Especial will not disappoint.

Contact: +(44)020 7378 9455

Address: 194, Bermondsey Street, London SE1 3TO, UK

Opening hours: Mon-Fri 12.00– 23.00; Lunch 12 noon – 3pm & Dinner 6 – 11pm

Bar open all day serving cold cuts, coffees and desserts 12 noon – 11pm

Sat 12.00 – 23.00; Sun 10.00 – 22.00 Bar and restaurant open all day – Brunch Menu 10am – 2pm

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