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Richard Frisbie: Madrid Tapas

sign in front of the Estado Puro tapas restaurant, Madrid, Spain

TAPAS: Opposite Sides of
Madrid’s Culinary Coin

Story & Photos by Richard Frisbie

uring 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 didn’t even know it!

Estado Puro menu in English

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.

Madrid’s 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. I’m 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 below.

hundreds of traditional Spanish hair combs form an arch decor on the ceiling of the Estado Puro restaurant alongside a mural of woman wearing a similar hair comb
Looking across the restaurant at the mural (she’s obviously upset with her suitor - she’s pouring his beer on the table!)

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 Roncero’s eatery. The beer was conventional enough, but I’d never seen a “sandwich” delivered standing upright before! It was delicious, and impossible to put down.

Flavor, novelty and style – that’s what to expect at Estado Puro.

the iron and glass facade of the Mercado de San Miguel, a collection of tapas stalls and bars converted from a neighborhood market, Madrid
Iron and glass Mercado de San Miguel, off Plaza Mayor.

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.

a selection of ham, cod and shrimp croquets at a tapas stall at the Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
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 Puro’s cache.

the writer's friends dining at one of the stalls inside the Mercado de San Miguel, Madrid
My friends in the crowded interior of Mercado de San Miguel.

In the heart of the city we enjoyed opposite sides of Madrid’s 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.

Related Articles:
Memories of Madrid; Madrid and the Art of Armor; Tossa de Mar, Spain; Valencia, Spain; Galicia, Spain


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Let Richard know what you think about his traveling adventure.

* * * * *

Hey Richard - another winning series of words, all put together in your usual brilliant, and very creative format. And hey, love those glorious photos - Wow, what scenery - looks like some sort of paradise. What a super life you lead!!!

--- John Clayton, Palos Verdes CA

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I want to go there!!!!!!! Mmmmm! Yes! Love the photos and your article, Richard! Have read the book, seen the play several times and now dream of seeing these historic places. I've been wanting to go to Spain for some time. Now at 12:30 a.m. I'm heading off to bed with songs from Man of La Mancha ringing in my mind. Thanks!

--- Betsy Tuel, Rosendale, NY

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You are fortunate to have Richard on your staff. Richard is a fantastic writer and a wonderful person. Congratulations to Richard and to you.

--- Denise Dubé, New England



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