Finos San Patricio in Taberneros

Took me far too long to get to Taberneros – the very first time I posted my list of restaurants for sherry lovers I was told I should go there and it ended up taking me over three years – shocking really. When I finally did duck my head in last week there were friendly smiles all round, an entire cocido was miraculously found despite the late hour and, even more miraculously, while I stepped outside to take a call three bottles of a fine old fino appeared on the bar. To be precise, three bottles of Fino San Patricio – the famous Garvey marque – from 1977, 1972 and 1967, respectively.

As a result a fella found himself under an obligation to pay a bit more attention than has lately been the custom, and found himself enjoying the experience all the more as a result. Nothing in it really color wise – and no surprise if you think you are drinking wines that are 41, 46 and 51 years in the bottle – but some quite telling differences on the nozzle and in particular on the palate.

The 1977 was piercing and saline on the nose, any hay bales appeared to have faded to sea air and brackish sea weed, the 1972 was a little bit closed and whiffy while the 1967 had a really intriguing nose of salty bacon flavoured crisps (frazzles) with a background of a little bit of ginger. Then on the palate the 1977 was intriguingly the least substantial of the three – vertical, bitter but fresh, the 1972 had that same profile with just an ounce more oomph and pungency but the 1967 seemed to have gone a little over the top, a much softer, mushier profile and clear signs of oxidation in the wine.

Very interesting and a real treat. I am by no means a fan of these older bottles but there is no denying how interesting the comparisons can be. The cocido, though, was even better. I will be back!

Fish and chips Media Ración style … feat. La Panesa

The bar of Media Ración is a special place: top class food, wine, service, comfort and condiments – it really has everything. Including fish and chips. Not on the menu, admittedly, but if you simply take the soldaditos de pavia (deep fried cod “soldiers”) and request some chips, Robert is your father’s brother as they say.

Best of all, and as previously reported on this blog, you can splash the resulting plate with a liberal quantity of really top class, tasty vinegar, sprinkle on some salt and wash it down with an absolutely superb fino: la Panesa.

El Señor Martin

Absolutely top trucking tonight at El Señor Martin, a classy fish and seafood grill here in town that opened a few months ago but is still chock full to the rafters.

At the end of the night it was no surprise. We were wonderfully looked after by Antonio, one of Madrid’s top, most under rated maitres, stuffed absolutely full of beautifully cooked aquatic protein and spoiled rotten by Patric the sommelier.

No worries with the list of sherries – eleven all told, plus two Montilla Moriles wines, and all the bases covered. In addition they had the white, rose, and red wines of Forlong and the 30 del Cuadrado – one of the few places I have seen it. It must be said that the prices by the glass were extremely fair – this is somewhere you can come and try a few things.

But forget about the wine, look at the cabracho! We ate superbly – everything from the oysters, the borriquete, clams, winkles, razor shells and scallops were spot on, but the cabracho (scorpion fish) took the cake. Even better, your man came and dissected the head for us, winkling out the muscles that had had the benefit of the eye juices in the cooking or the frequent bruising of a life spent feeding off rocks in strong currents. It was absolutely delicious.

No doubt that this place is going on the list – a great night and not the last.

Dancing with the stars in Corral de la Morería

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”.

Monday night champions in Taberna Verdejo

I don’t get out much lately so when I do have an excuse I try to take advantage. I don’t think there can but much debate that last Monday night was a bit of a success on that front. Some friends and colleagues were in town and anxious to learn about the wines of Jerez so we tooled along to Taberna Verdejo where el vino did, as they say, flow.

While the first bottle of palomino had a quick ice bath we started with a chardonnay “El Beso” (the name of which couldn’t have been more appropriate to the location) but from there on it was Jerez all the way, starting with La Choza de Callejuela, the terrific unfortified palomino from La Choza on Macharnudo Alto by the guys at Callejuela, a great example of a full flavoured, savoury palomino and a fascinating comparison with the opening Chardonnay.

Then we headed under the flor, starting with a manzanilla, and not just any manzanilla: the Sacristia AB, second saca of 2015, full of characteristic haybales and chamomile aromas, the saline shape and finish, and allowing a nerdy excursus on filtering, marquismo and bottle ageing (which may or may not have been too much information). After a manzanilla of that quality I felt obliged to have a glass of La Panesa, which was absolutely epic: full in body and in palate, a big mouthful of sherry and nut butter, like a kind of dry liquid shortcake. A big boned fino in contrast to the slinky manzanilla.

Then (when you may have been expecting an amontillado) we had a medium that I had never tried, Las Señoras by Delgado Zuleta, which to me seemed finer and fresher than your average medium (but I would admit I don’t drink much average medium). It was certainly finer and fresher than the bottle that followed it: the Gobernador, the guvnor, Emilio Hidalgo’s classic oloroso and a perfect introduction to the style. Sharp start, acidity, caramel and burnt finish – perfect with a rich stew – and another exercise in compare and contrast – in this the (pretty obvious, I admit) difference between oloroso’s with and without a dose of PX.

But we weren’t finished, next up was the epic amontillado VORS by Tradición, one of the leaders in its class on any basis, as aromatic, elegant, dry, complex and potent as any wine around, from Jerez or otherwise. But provoked by a comment from my colleagues at the table, who couldn’t believe there could be wines as dry, saline and sharp, we completed our sherry bingo card with the legendary Sanlúcar palo cortado Quo Vadis. Not a lot left to say at this stage, just enjoy the saline intensity and rapier flavour.

It was a pretty good dinner alright. So much so that our neighbours on the next table, impressed by the continual arrival of bottles, declared us the Champions of Monday night. It was a huge honour and a title worth celebrating – with an absolutely cracking brandy from Bodegas Tradición.

But there was no doubt who are the real champions of Monday night: Taberna Verdejo themselves. One of Madrid’s best and certainly one of its friendliest restaurants, a sherry temple and a happy place. I cannot say too many good things about them and if you are ever looking for sustenance on a Monday (or any other day for that matter) you should get your head in there. Many many thanks once again and I look forward to coming back to defend my new title!

 

Clos Madrid

A really fantastic lunch today in Clos Madrid, just outstanding. A menu (the “Closicos”) that was just superb from start to finish, flavourful, elegant, superbly executed and fun, from the callos-infused egg yolk at the start to the “find the lady” style petit fours. Lick the plate stuff all the way through, impeccably judged quantities, and superb tempo of service.

And some cracking wines to wash it down, starting with the pure class of the Maruja Manzanilla Pasada and including some really delightful wines and pairings. And readers of this blog need not have any worries about access to top sherries: 19 top wines from El Marco on the list by the glass and bottle, including some absolute gems.

Really brilliant: even a shirker like me feels obliged to write a post!

Taberna Trasteo, Zahara de los Atunes

Undertheflor on tour this summer took me down to Zahara de los Atunes and after a thorough survey and despite some superb work with the espeto down at the beach there is no doubt that the number one spot down there is Taberna Trasteo.

Really fun, informal food with funky takes on local classics (witness the saam-style tortilla de camarones, with more camarones and more attitude than tortilla) and top class, friendly service despite being absolutely mobbed (it was busy when we arrived and absolutely heaving when we left).

More importantly given the need to rehydrate after a long day at the beach it is a cracking little spot if you want a glass or two of the good stuff. The sherry list is short and to the point, with quality all the way down from the likes of Primitivo Collantes, Callejuela, Maestro Sierra, Yuste and Las Botas, there was plenty of local talent amongst the other wines too (including my favourite Cadiz Cabernet Sauvignon: the Forlong Rosé) and it didn’t take long to find they had a few extraballs off the list like the cracking Arroyuelo en Rama Selección de Botas above.

Top quality and no wonder they get so rammed.

El Campero

Had a fantastic meal at El Campero, Spain’s most famous temple to tuna in Barbate, along the Cadiz coast to the South. Had no reservation, just rocked up to the bar (and waited an hour and change) and kept it simple – some cracking toasts, carpaccio and tartare to start and then a few different grilled cuts (heart, tarantello, parpatana, and ventresca) but it was all top class stuff. No time today for them to explain the terroir of the sea – they were absolutely mobbed – but the service was quick and efficient and I enjoyed it.

Couldn’t resist a glance at the wine list and as you would expect, it wasn’t bad at all. Eight finos (including Tradicion, Tio Pepe, Arroyuelo, Cruz Vieja, and even the Barajuela), five manzanillas, four amontillados, five palo cortados, six olorosos and three creams.

On top of all that they also had some top class unfortified wines from around the region: everything from Viña Matalian and its brother Socaire, through the Marismilla Rosee to Garum, Sumaroca and Tintilla.

Absolutely top bombing – a winelist like this takes the stress out of waiting for a table alright.

Cataria

It is easy to be carried away after a lunch as good as the one we had today at Cataria.

There were some really top wines flowing, great friends all around the table and a fella was enjoying himself, but even so I am pretty sure the superb sardines, oysters, langostines and gambas rojas, squid, baby squid, corvinata, bucinegro and anenome (and the cheesecake) were as good as I have had. I certainly can’t remember anything like it. And even if I have been on the outside of physical produce of this quality, cooked and prepared with this skill, I certainly have never enjoyed ingesting aquatic protein as much as I did today.

The quality really was outstanding: textures, flavours and aromas that will live long in the memory. Carlos Hernandez and Edu Perez, the crack chef and top man bossing the grill are clearly names to remember. But the presentation and explanations of menu and dishes were even better.

It is by no means unique these days for chefs to come over and explain the dishes, but I have never seen a menu explained and presented like it was today. Fleetingly I felt like I understood the season of the langostine, the cycle of the tides, the breeding patterns of the squid and the best neighbourhoods for anenomes. Sapidity, intensity, muscle, age: no dimension was left unexplained. It was a lot to take in and I wish I had recorded it, not least for the infectious enthusiasm with which Carlos Hernandez dropped his knowledge on us.

And it really enhanced the meal. I have written before about how a little knowledge can increase the pleasure and this was one of the clearest examples I can remember. For the first time I knew how to compare my langostine and my gamba roja, my corvinata and my bucinegro, or what to look for in my squid or anenome. And not just the anenome: I will never throw a fish head away again (even if I couldn’t find any divine presence in the tiny eye bones).

I will write another post about the wines we had: suffice it to say that sherry lovers need have no worries about the liquid accompaniment.

For now, just my sincere congratulations to Carlos, Edu, the team and the sealife around Sancti Petri. It was really outstanding today and will live long in the memory.

Triciclo

It has been far too long since my last visit to Triciclo but I was reminded of it these last few days by the good people of twitter as one of a select handful of top class watering holes (together with La Malaje, Lakasa and Ponzano 12, beloved of this parish) still open amidst the August shutdown. And it was great to go back because a couple of fellas and I had a top, top lunch.

I cannot tell you in any detail about the wine list: I did at one point ask about it but it was one of those lunches where there were more laughs than notes taken, and to be honest it is almost miraculous that there are photos.

All I can tell you is that they certainly have the right stuff to hand: we started with none other than El Muelle de Olaso and that was one of no less than three unfortified palominos on offer, together with the epic UBE Miraflores (which we had later) and another whose name escapes me. In fact strictly speaking they have two more unfortified palominos: the Barajuela Fino from 2014 and even the Oloroso.

Absolutely joyous wines which were the perfect foil to some superb fresh, summer dishes. A lot of imagination in the menu and really fun stuff, and all the tomatoes, ceviches and seaweed could almost have been chosen to accompany the wines of the South. And as for the cheesecake …

Fantastic lunch and great to see my favourite wines strutting it on this kind of stage. Will have to come back after the holidays and have a look at the winelist!