Insiders Madrid comprises a small team of Madrileños who share passion and adept knowledge for the real Spain, providing tailor-made gourmet tours and events in the capital city and surroundings. Here, Insiders Madrid’s Joanna Wivell talks us through the current trend for high-end tapas in Madrid.
Madrid is a city that was made for tapas-hopping. The addictive dynamic of moving from bar to bar, ordering your favourite dishes or raciones to share with friends before moving on to the next place. And the more crowded, the better. While traditional tapas bars continue to serve us their mouth-watering classics, the main players on the gastro circuit have in recent years adapted their haute cuisine expertise to the tapas concept.
David Muñoz, awarded his third Michelin star for Diverxo in 2013, set up Street XO (pronounced Street Show) in 2012, located on the 9th floor of the Corte Inglés with its breathtaking views of Gran Vía. Keen to sample dishes from this Madrid Wonderboy, the bar fills up most days as punters pile in and work their way down the menu. Muñoz combines ingredients from classic tapas with interesting flavours, textures and techniques not necessarily identified with Spain. Dishes like hot and sour Iberian pork ramen with egg yolk and sweet paprika, fried calamari with a fermented truffle emulsion and tamarillo ketchup, steamed sandwich club with ricotta, fried quail egg and shichimi-togarashi are some great examples of Muñoz’s imaginative Spanish fusion. “David’s always combining flavours and textures he has come across on his travels” says Jonathan Setjo Sanz. Born in Bali but raised in Madrid, Setjo Sanz cut his teeth at Diverxo and now fronts Street XO with David’s input on a weekly basis. “We have a new dish on the menu every week and David is with us every Sunday to make sure it is prepared and served as he wants it”.
New restaurateur Javier Goya, trained under Muñoz in Diverxo before going on to open award-winning restaurant TriCiclo just one year ago with fellow chefs and friends, Javier Mayor and David Alfonso. TriCiclo divide their menu into simple dishes using fresh local produce on the one hand, and elaborate dishes with Spanish ingredients and with ingredients from further afield on the other. Despite being a restaurant rather than a bar, guests are still able to select between full, half and one-third portions. Be that white and green asparagus with cod pil pil, albondigas meatballs with truffle, or semi-cured tuna with red pepper salmorejo and almond oil. “It’s about fresh produce, prepared in the best way possible way to offer quality dishes at an accessible price.” says Goya.
This idea of gastro accessibility has marked a trend in recent years as Madrid-based greats have opened up their own tapas bars. Avant-garde front-runner Paco Roncero, known for his innovative techniques as head chef at La Terraza del Casino (with its two Michelin stars), has just opened his new exclusive restaurant, Sublimotion in Ibiza. He opened his first of two tapas bars, named Estado Puro, back in 2008, combining excellent produce with haute cuisine know-how to offer classic tapas, be it the essence of jamón Iberian croquette, cod buñuelos, or the 21st century tortilla. Roncero also offers up his culinary creations in a casual dining space at Platea, set in the exclusive Salamanca neighbourhood. Another Madrid-based gastro headliner, Sergi Arola, opened Vi-Cool in Madrid’s central Huertas neighbourhood, alongside his two Michelin-starred Sergi Arola Gastro, which also features a newly opened Vermouth bar called SOT.
One of the best places to sample tapas in Madrid, Juanalaloca Pintxos-Bar is situated on Plaza Puerta de Moros, in a buzzing Latina neighbourhood. When it opened in 2000, Juanalaloca was the first of its kind to serve elaborate tapas and pinchos, and it’s not uncommon to see a Michelin star bearer here on a day off. “Juana” is another constant in Madrid, combining good produce with haute cuisine in a tapas format in hallmark dishes like confit onion Spanish tortilla, butterfish sashimi with shaved black truffle in an asparagus mousseline, and shredded duck confit in soy crêpe. “We are what we are,” says owner Isabel Tocchetti. “We have no fine table-cloths, we have only so many square metres but each tapa is a mini marvel and we want our guests to focus on precisely that”. It is certainly an approach that mirrors the high road of today’s tapas route in Madrid.