Hermosos y Malditos
By now, every foodie knows that Spain is the tapas mecca par excellence, with tapas bars on nearly every corner of every town. And so what better place than its capital to experience a distillation of the very best this country has to offer? And furthermore, to take the art of the tapa to the next level of refinement? Having undertaken the arduous task of researching this matter, I present to you three newish, upmarket establishments with a mix of both takes traditional and contemporary, homegrown and global, on this quintessential Spanish cuisine – but always with a combination of quality and brilliant flavours that will leave your tastebuds dancing on your next visit to Madrid.
Just about a year old, this elegant restaurant in one of central Madrid’s poshest neighbourhoods, Salamanca, offers as one of its top amenities a set of huge windows allowing diners to drink in one of the city’s more elegant buildings, the Palacio de Amboage (built in 1917 and these days home to the embassy of Italy). Though using cutting-edge culinary techniques, Amparito’s take on tapas is traditional but top-quality, designed to make their flavours sing as loudly as possible. Top examples include huevos rotos con jamón y pimientos del gitano Muñiz (scrambled eggs with cured ham and “gypsy Muñiz” peppers). Closed Sunday. Calle Juan Bravo 12.
Several blocks from Amparito in the adjacent Goya neighbourhood, this avant-garde eatery and cocktail bar named after F. Scott Fitzerald‘s Jazz Age novel The Beautiful and Damned, is part of the TOTÉM Madrid hotel. Describing its cuisine as “Mediterranean with a New York touch”, its tapas tend toward the nouvel, on the order of hake fritters with kimchi mayonnaise and mackerel skewers with a light chive mayonnaise. Closed Monday night and Sunday. Calle Hermosilla 23.
Another year-old Salamanca star, on Calle Serrano, known for its upscale shopping, its various dining areas (including a nice outdoor terrace) are softly, cosily lit and kitted out with ceiling beams and enormous industrial-chic light fixtures. Many of its tapas are international in inspiration, with the likes of hummus, Vietnamese spring rolls, and tacos of cochinita pibil, the savoury pork concoction of Mexico‘s Yucatan Peninsula. Yet dear old Spain is still amply represented, with dishes such as homemade meatballs and croquettes “like your mum used to make”. Open daily. Calle Serrano 91.