TAPAS: Opposite Sides of
Madrids Culinary Coin
Story & Photos by Richard Frisbie
a recent trip to Madrid, Spain, to attend the Salon del Gourmet, foodie
friends invited me to one of the top new tapas restaurants in the city:
Estado Puro. As they started to give me directions I realized it was
right across the street from my hotel, the Madrid
Ritz. What a great location that turned out to be! I was on a park-like
boulevard next door to the Prado Museum, 2 blocks from a huge public
park that stretched down to the nearby train station, with the architectural
and culinary rich old town just up the street behind the restaurant.
I was at the culinary heart of Madrid and didnt even know it!
The restaurant Estado
Puro is subtitled Los Tapas de Poco Roncero (part of the NH World)
and is the domain of Chef Roncero, an alumni of Ferran Adria of El Bulli
fame. With such a legendary pedigree I knew I was in for a treat.
Madrids first gastropub, Estado Puro has outside
and inside seating, with higher prices outside. Sitting at a table overlooking
the spectacular fountain in the center of the round-about was our plan,
(and worth it!) but with none available we opted for an indoor seat.
Im glad we did. The décor is amazing. The traditional Spanish
hair comb worn by the woman in the mural on one wall is replicated by
the hundreds on the ceiling. It becomes an overlapping arched screen
that subdues the lighting and casts intricate shadows on the diners
Looking across the restaurant at the mural (shes
obviously upset with her suitor - shes pouring his beer on the
That, the aroma wafting in from the kitchen and the
artfully plated food being delivered to other tables told us we were
in for a unique culinary experience.
Until my food arrived my fun-loving friends joked that
I ordered the beer and sandwich combo, but nothing is pedestrian in
Chef Ronceros eatery. The beer was conventional enough, but Id
never seen a sandwich delivered standing upright before!
It was delicious, and impossible to put down.
Flavor, novelty and style thats what to
expect at Estado Puro.
Iron and glass Mercado de San Miguel, off Plaza
We left there in search of more plebian fare up the
hill, into the older section of the city, and found ourselves at the
egalitarian Mercado de San Miguel. It was a beautiful old iron building,
once a traditional neighborhood market, converted in 2008 into a collection
of 30+ tapas stalls and bars - all under one roof. Imagine the standard
cheese, fish or meat counter in any market selling plates of the gorgeous
food on display and you have Mercado de San Miguel.
Various (ham, cod, shrimp) croquets to choose from.
There were plenty of high tables to sit at or stand
around, and a great variety of tapas available to fill them. We had
a ball! It was a little easier on our wallets, crowded with a convivial
charm, but without the intimate (and very prestigious) Estado Puros
My friends in the crowded interior of Mercado de
In the heart of the city we enjoyed opposite sides of
Madrids culinary coin. The elbow-rubbing raucous party at Mercado
de San Miguel showed us the roots of the tapas tradition, and Estado
Puro illustrated how such humble beginnings can be elevated to gastronomical
heights. Both ends (and plenty of middle ground) can be covered in an
afternoon of gastropubbing and tapas bar-hopping in Madrid.
of Madrid; Madrid
and the Art of Armor; Tossa
de Mar, Spain;
Valencia, Spain; Galicia,