Yet another celebration at Corral de la Moreria and as always a pleasure to be there. The motive on this occasion was the award last week of their first Michelin star, the first for a tablao de flamenco. A historic achievement for a historic establishment and a proud moment for a fantastic team.
There is no doubt that the superstar and man of the hour is David Garcia, the crack chef who since joining in 2016 has earned his second embroidered jacket by taking el Corral to another level. He has done so with cooking that is superb, imaginative, and perfectly matched to both the fantastic wines on offer and the crackling atmosphere of the tablao, with simply prepared outstanding product spiced up with unexpectedly zingy sauces, sharp contrasts and crisp textures. It is no exaggeration to say that he is responsible for some of the tastiest morsels I have ever eaten and certainly some of the most memorable dinners.
He hasn’t done it alone of course. He captains a big crew of cracking young chefs in the kitchen, and there is an even bigger crew of waiters and staff (incredibly adept at serving wines and dinners while crouching and crawling around on the floor) marshalled superbly by sommelier David Ayuso and, above all, by Juan Manuel and Armando del Rey. It is not for nothing that these guys won the Premio Nacional de la Gastronomia for the best “sala” (service) this year (that was also a great party) – it is friendly, polished, and faultless. (And of course it also helps that they have a quite spectacular wine list, including probably the biggest collection of sherries old and new that you will find anywhere.)
And however much we would like to talk about the cuisine, the service and the wines, there is no point denying that what defines the Corral de la Morería is the “tablao”: the raised area of floorboards in the corner, and the artists that grace it. The guitarists strumming joyfully, taking their cue from the dancers, the lads hammering on boxes, the big lads singing, clapping and giving it the occasional “olé” at the back and the quite outstanding dancers whirling, posing, tapping and hammering across the stage. I am blissfully ignorant of the intricacies but you don’t need to be an expert to see that this is art of the highest order, something beautiful, human, exhilarating and inspiring, that gives a little bit of meaning to life and that anyone can enjoy.
There really is nowhere like it, and although I am happy for them today I can’t help feeling that one star is scant reward for so much talent, so much excellence, and so much fun. If I wasn’t lucky enough to already live in Madrid I would happily drive here just for el Corral, the very definition of “vaut le voyage”.