Monday, 10 June 2013

Restaurant reviews: Madrid & Segovia


Having just come back from Spain, I thought I’d write about a few of the places we ate at and here are my three favourites.
Friday lunch
Restaurante Brios (website) – Concha Espina, 4, 28036, Madrid
We ate here, having just done the tour of Real Madrid’s football ground, the Bernabeu. There are so many eateries in the surrounding streets but unless you know where you’re going, or what you’re after, it can be difficult. Restaurante Brios is practically opposite, with a cerveceria (a bar serving more lunch-based snacks) as well as main restaurant. We ended up in the restaurant thanks to my limited Spanish and I wasn’t sure how to ask for the other menu, or if we were even allowed to order from it as well.
The restaurant is typically Spanish, from its decor to the food itself, although there are other offerings I’ve accustomed to expect for tourists i.e. spaghetti bolognaise. When I say the decor is typically Spanish, I mean old-fashioned but homely: drinks cupboard, dessert table, as well as cabinets full of china and outdated pictures plastered over the walls. Not too over-the-top in any sense, but by no means modernised.
I ate the habitas fritas salteados con jamon (stir-fried broad beans with ham, in an olive oil dressing) – lovely but very filling and maybe more suited for sharing with a number of other dishes! I knew we were having a bigger meal later, hence why I was hoping for the bar menu, with a lot of snacky options including tostas (open sandwiches: a piece of baguette topped with various fillings). Jake went for the albondigas de ternera a la casera (homemade veal meatballs), which are a Spanish classic. Served in a gravy with peas and carrots as well as a portion of chips, they looked very good.
Considering my limited Spanish, the staff were friendly and patient and while we were unable to strike up a conversation with them, we were able to get by and everything was to our liking. The meal was well priced, coming in at £28, which also included the standard bread supplement and 10% service charge. The ambience was very homely as well and I immediately felt comfortable, even though I was unable to speak the language fluently; being in a traditional restaurant is so much better than going to a chain – the easy option!
8/10 – Ranked #2,983 of 4,556 on Trip Advisor

Friday dinner
Restaurante Hylogui (website) – Calle Ventura de la Vega, 3, 28014, Madrid
I’d been here before when holidaying in Madrid and although I couldn’t remember it, what a restaurant it is! My auntie and uncle come here a fair bit when in the city and who can blame them? Everything was superb.
To eat, we shared a couple of starters: jamon iberico de bellota (a plate of cured ham) and veduras a la plancha (a selection of grilled vegetables). The ham was to die for and you could tell from the taste that it had been freshly carved. The wafer thin slices were great to pick at and you didn’t even need to eat them with bread. The vegetables are one of my favourite Spanish starters and although can be quite salty, are just lovely and colourful. We had a mixture of onion, mushroom, tomato, courgette and aubergine – of course it varies from restaurant and the artichoke is recommended (I don’t even like artichoke!).
For the main course I went for the sirloin steak (or solomillo) and had it cooked poco hecho (medium rare – in England, this would have been a rare steak as the Spanish cook theirs for less). It was easily the nicest steak I’ve ever had, cooked to perfection for my taste. Although it was served with chips, I didn’t have room for those as the steak itself was enough and deserved to be savoured.
I had flan for dessert, a must-have when visiting Spain, and the meal was followed by chupitos (shots) with a selection of four liquors. I went for the acorn (which is my mum’s favourite) and it was sweet, with hints of honey and hazelnut. Just divine!
If you’re up for a more upmarket meal and happy to pay top-range prices for quality, I’d thoroughly recommend Hylogui – I know next time I’m back in Madrid, I’m bound to go! Everything about the meal and overall experience was just excellent – the wine was a local full-bodied red and complemented the steak perfectly. The staff were very friendly and even remembered my auntie and uncle – they went out of their way to ensure everything met our standards. Waiting staff need to be like this in England!
10/10 – Ranked #519 of 4,556 on Trip Advisor

Saturday dinner
Meson de Candido (website) – Plaza del Azoguejo, 5, 40001, Segovia
We drove an hour to the beautiful town of Segovia on Saturday evening. Its history and heritage make it a popular location with tourists and locals alike and there is so much to see, we couldn’t do it all in a few hours! On arrival, you’re met by the aquaduct, very impressive particularly given the bricks aren’t held together by cement or any other fixant. The plaza mayor is great and there are plenty of places to grab a drink or something to eat. There’s also the cathedral and the Alcazar – the castle which was one of the inspirations for Walt Disney’s Cinderella castle. We ate at one of the best restaurants in Segovia.
The restaurant is family-run and named after Candido, a well-known and respected man in the area. Consequently traditions are important and have managed to be upkept. Suckling pig (cochinillo) is one of the most popular and famous dishes and reason why people eat at the Meson – it’s even served in the old-fashioned way.
We ate the suckling pig, which serves two and after it had been presented to the table the waiter cut it using the edge of a plate before later hurling the plate to the floor (similar to the Greeks). This created quite a reaction from other diners with excellent photo opportunities and a lot of people left their seat to crowd and watch with anticipation. The pork itself was very succulent and just fell off the bone with ease. Although the pig is cooked whole in a special oven for about an hour, it’s constantly basted to ensure it doesn’t dry out. I don’t think I’ll ever see roast pork in the same way!
The restaurant was on a number of floors and there’s the option to sit outside underneath the aquaduct, which sounds amazing! Unfortunately it was about 12C so we settled for inside which was cosy and very rustic. The decor was keeping with the medieval themes – a lot of carved wood and carefully designed architecture. I’m still in awe of the whole experience.
10/10 – Ranked #9 of 129 on Trip Advisor

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