Saturday, 11 June 2011

Estado Puro, Madrid

Ever since my first visit to Madrid, over a decade ago, I've been enchanted by a fabulous city filled with art, culture and, most importantly, the finest jamon.  I was very excited about this most recent trip as not only was it the Ewing's first visit, but we were meeting up with my good friend Tom, resident here for the last couple of years, and also my sister who is on a visit from Down Under.

When the Ewing and I arrived the others were still recovering from a weeks partying in Ibiza so we had a whole afternoon and evening to entertain ourselves.  Of course I already had a carefully researched lists of 'must dos' and, as well as all the usual suspects, I was keen to try some of modern style tapas created by former student of Ferran Adri√†, and Michelin Star winner in his own right, Paco Roncero at Estado Puro, his bar at the NH Hotel on the Paseo del Prado.

The room itself is comprised of a back lit bar area to the left, and then a light seating area with a tiled 'tunnel' effect and a bright mural on the far wall.  The atmosphere is cool but casual, with long communal tables and high stalls. We found a perch that looked out on to the bar's busy pavement terrace, and to the Prado beyond, and ordered the first of many vino tintos on our trip.

While drinking our wine and munching on some very moreish candied peanuts we sought out a tapas menu.  Although the menus are printed in both English and Spanish the waiters seemed a bit reticent to offer it to us, and on attempting to order a few tapas they were at pains to explain that this wasn't an 'ordinary' chorizo sandwich and the tortilla would be served in a glass and not a wedge.  While the reason for our trip was to sample some of this re imagined traditional food it seems that perhaps the unwary visitor maybe a little surprised with these modern interpretations.

The 'Matrimonio' of two different types of anchovy, the dark salted variety and the vinegar cured boquerone, was the most traditional and simple of our choices.  Gorgeously slippery, oily, slightly bitter peppers and the crunch of the bread offset the salt and vinegar of the fish nicely, but at nearly five euros you may hope for more than a couple of bites each.

The 'Sausage sandwich'  came as a slice of lardo between two pieces of warm olive oil bread.  Although this looked light and delicate there was a good smoky, porky flavour from the fat and the lovely contrast between soft and crisp.  The perfect pub snack.

The '21st Century Spanish Omelette'.  Although not ordinarily a big egg fan I have a soft spot for the ubiquitous tortilla, available in almost every Spanish bar.  This version was presented as a light, warm almost custardy layer with a foam on top and a rich base of onion and potato.

I worried that this might be a step to far for me, but the creamy top married perfectly with the salty, sweet onions and I found my self fighting with the Ewing for the last few spoonfuls at the bottom of the glass.

The jamon and mussel croquettes.  The ham version was studded with plenty of piggy nuggets and was comfortingly dense and crunchy. There was a good fresh fish flavour to the mussel version as well as a decent spike of chilli which livened up the bland bechamel base nicely.  Possibly the best seafood based croquette I have sampled.

The Pig's Trotter with Cuttlefish Noodles.  The trotter was wonderfully gooey and gelatinous with a gloriously sticky reduction that took some serious will power not to lick straight off the slate.  The soft cuttlefish 'noodles' were served on crispy rounds of toast and managed to avoid the shredded rubber band texture while still having a nice amount a chew.  And, at only five Euros, this dish was also a real bargain.

The lovely, and convenient, location would make it a perfect stop for a light lunch after a morning visiting Madrid's great galleries.  And, at nine o'clock, when we left the place was quickly filling up with beautiful people sharing some great looking jugs of cocktails and a few bar snacks before a night on the tiles.

So, in a city boasting hundreds of great tapas bars, was it worth a visit?  Well, yes and no.  The food, while certainly interesting and very tasty, is served in pretty small portions with a not so small price tag attached.  The bill, including two very reasonable glasses of Rioja, came to nearly 30 Euros, maybe a bargain in London but pretty pricy here, even by the Prado.  The place does, however, have a classy charm and a lively vibe, and is certainly offering some great cooking and something a little bit different from the standard Spanish fare.

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