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By Chris | February 26 2016
Visit the Spanish capital as it begins to flourish again following a tough recession. The city’s renewed energy is evident in hotel openings and an exciting food scene. Alongside brilliant tapas restaurants, Madrid is home to 25 Michelin stars. Tina Nielsen has spent some time in the city and has come to agree with the local saying: de Madrid al cielo – from Madrid you head straight to heaven.
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DiverXO, by self-styled punk chef David Muñoz, is a multi-sensory experience unlike any other three-Michelin-starred meal. The world of Muñoz is a colourful room filled with spinning discs and oversized ice cream cones doubling up as wine coolers. Diners are met by flying pigs when they enter the room – a clear message from the chef that anything is possible. Unexpected flavour combinations and a theatrical element are all part of the DiverXO experience. It is also the hardest table in town to get a seat at, with a seemingly never-ending waiting list. Those who do get in can expect a tasting menu of between 10 and 20 courses lasting several hours.
Q&A WITH DAVID MUÑOZ
Q) How would you describe the food in DiverXO?
A) We used to serve more fusion food, but not now. You won’t see Chinese, Japanese or Peruvian food on the menu. You just see DiverXO food being served.
Q) What is your ambition with the food?
A) It is full of strong flavors and it is very creative – we serve it on canvas instead of plates. But to me the most important thing is to have fun. The food should make you happy. Eating here should be a mindblowing experience.
Q) How often does the menu change?
A) All the time. In a restaurant like DiverXO change is crucial. People come here to have fun and get surprises. You want to have butterflies in your stomach when you experience something new.
Q) What is different about DiverXO?
A) We are obsessed with the idea of giving people a unique experience; everything has to be unique – nothing can remind you of something you have experienced at any other restaurant.
MASTER CHEFS OF MADRID
In a city that loves food, check out these top chefs
The Catalan chef hits a perfect balance between the avant- garde and traditional in his intimate eponymous restaurant. Expect classic cooking with some surprising elements, such as the Manchego cheese appetizer disguised as a precious stone and baby prawns served in edible paper bags. There’s plenty of smoke and unexpected elements on the menu, but there is method behind every fancy technique applied to the dishes and nothing is done just for show. Among Freixa’s signature dishes is his Tomato Study, a section of the main menu that comes in three parts all centered around tomato and cooked four different ways.
A pillar of the Madrid dining scene, Oscar Velasco’s Santceloni has been around for 15 years. It has two Michelin stars – the second was awarded in 2005 – and offers a dining experience to match. The basement dining room is bright and spacious and has a humidor for cigar lovers. Choose from the à la carte menu or embark on a journey through one of the tasting menus – the gastronomy menu o ers a selection of the restaurant’s signature dishes, such as ravioli with smoked ricotta and Petrossian caviar, while the grand menu sees chef Velasco create a bespoke selection of dishes that take into account the diner’s individual preferences.
The Table By…
The Table By is an innovative concept that sees top chefs take over the space in the Urso Hotel on rotation for six weeks apiece. The people behind the project (from pop-up events company Better) traveled across Spain on the hunt for exciting chefs who already have their own restaurants. With each change of chef the entire restaurant space is re-invented with new decor and furniture. The rst series of residencies was a huge success and the second kicked o in October 2015, including chefs from Asturias, Galicia, the Balearics, Catalonia, Valencia and Andalucia. The next installment in 2016 will feature Javier Olleros from Culler de Pau in Galicia; Begoña Rodrigo from La Salita in Valencia; Oriol Ivern from Hisop in Barcelona; and Xanty Elias from Acánthum in Huelva.
TAPAS WITH A TWIST
It’s no secret visitors to Madrid go for the tapas, not the ne dining. It is loved by locals and tourists in equal measure – it’s hard to beat a perfectly crisp croquette or a well-made tortilla de patatas. However, a new class of tapas in the city is elevating the sharing plates to a higher level, applying di erent techniques to re-invent the classics. Chef Paco Roncero, who holds two Michelin stars at La Terraza del Casino, has opened tapas bar Estado Puro where diners can enjoy what he calls “21st century tapas”. Dishes such as the foie gras sandwich or deconstructed tortilla de patatas served in a glass sit alongside more traditional tapas dishes on the menu. It should come as no surprise that Roncero worked alongside Ferran Adrià at elBulli for many years.
Restaurante Álbora in the Salamanca neighborhood was awarded a Michelin star for its selection of tapas. Head here for the exquisite platter of Ibérico ham. Finally, another chef with Michelin stars, Sergi Arola, has opened his version of the tapas bar, Vi Cool in the Huertas area. Hot and cold raciones of traditional dishes with a twist are served in addition to the coca-pizzas, a type of pizza-style flatbread from the Catalonia region.
A new generation of chefs have started to make their mark on the Madrid culinary scene in recent years. Diego Guerrero is one of them. He came to Madrid in 2001 to take charge of the kitchen at El Club Allard, a traditional members club. Over the following 12 years he transformed its gastronomic offering and was awarded two Michelin stars.
In 2013 he decided to start over. He and his team opened their new restaurant DSTAgE in the Salesas area. The name, an acronym that stands for “Days to smell, taste, amaze, grow and enjoy” is a statement of intent. “For us luxury is found in the small things and we want to tell our version of haute cuisine,” says Guerrero. “I wanted to make the experience more interactive, both for diners and for the chefs.” Guests and themselves enjoying their food in different parts of the restaurant – starters at the bar, main course in the dining room – and being in contact with kitchen staff. DSTAgE was awarded its first Michelin star after just five months and a waiting list of four months is not unusual. For Guerrero, it is a vindication of his instinct to follow his own path.
Every Madrid neighborhood has its own market where, in days gone by, local residents would pick up their vegetables, fish and meat. Many still serve their original purpose, but some are being transformed into gourmet markets. The first was theMercado de San Miguel (mercadodesanmiguel.es) near the wonderful Plaza Mayor, which now has stalls with ne wines, exclusive jamón Ibérico sandwiches, artisanal bakeries and chocolatiers and countless stalls with refined tapas.
Two markets to the north across Gran Via followed – the Barceló market (mercadobarcelo.es) in Las Salesas and San Antón (mercadosananton.com) in Chueca have both been transformed into a paradise of food and drink.
Over by Plaza de Colón, developers turned a run-down movie theater into another gastro destination. The stunning Platea market (plateamadrid.com) now house restaurants, deli markets and regular live entertainment on the original stage. Many of the movie theater’s original features remain intact.
Even department store El Corte Inglés (supermercado. elcorteingles.es) has created a gourmet experience in the branch on Calle de Serrano, which has seen chefs with a total of seven Michelin stars gathering together – David Muñoz has moved in with his StreetXo brand, pastry specialist Jordi Roca of El Celler de Can Roca fame launched his ice cream outlet Rocambolesc and Roberto Ruiz has opened Cascabel, a Mexican dining room that evokes the 1940s.