Plaza de San Lorenzo, 1
Overall rating: 6.5/10
Date of visit: March 2012
Reading reviews calling this restaurant the best meal in Spain or even the best meal in Europe, I was looking forward to coming there, bearing in mind my light disappointment with most Spanish restaurants so far (as the food is simply often too bland/lacks flavour).
I didn’t have a single dish here that I thought was wonderful, but overall it was good. The best thing about this restaurant was that compared to most other Spanish restaurants I’ve been to, most of the food here actually had flavour.
The style was a good mix of classic food with more modern things.
We chose the 8 course menu at €46,50, and here’s what we had after an appetizer of gin & tonic served as a jelly with buggles crisps on the side:
1. Cream cheese and prawns in filo pastry.
I didn’t taste any prawns in there, and neither did my companion. I remember the sauce underneath the parcel as being somewhat cold. Quite nice, but not really that special.
2. Carpacio. I never choose carpacio at a la carte, as I find raw meat to have very little flavour. My companion, who really likes raw meat, felt that this dish was a waste of meat, as there was dressing, mushrooms and salad on top. It did overpower the meat, and although there was nothing wrong with the dish, it was just not something I would ever order if it had been a la carte.
3. “Breakfast”. Although they didn’t call the dish this name, I think this was what it was supposed to look like. The waitress said it was a garlic soup, although we couldn’t taste any garlic. Later, we overheard the table next to us being told that it was almond soup, although we couldn’t taste any almonds either (but it sometimes is that way with almonds). It also contained chives and preserved cherries, and as it was cold I would have put this as the first dish in the menu. My pleasure of it was a bit of a mix: The cherries at the bottom worked very well, but the soup itself was not so interesting.
4. Foie gras. I’ve never really liked foie gras – this was the second time I liked it (the first, and best, was in Sangonereta in Valencia). Under the thin slices of foie gras itself was some kind of jelly/jam (I’m not sure what it was), and the fresh flavour worked very well with the rich foie gras. The thin slices of toasted bread that was served on the side gave a crunchy texture to the otherwise very “gooey” dish. This was my favourite dish here.
5. Cod with spinach, cheese and whole roasted garlic. The cod itself was very well cooked. Cod can easily become very dry, but this was very juicy. Unfortunately, I found that the flavour of the fish was overpowered by all the other ingredients. Like the soup, both good and bad.
6. Pork tenderloin with mashed potatoes, a grid of fried onions and a braising sauce. I’m not 100 % sure about the sauce, as I wrote this review a couple of weeks later. What I do remember was that the mash was very good, intense and full of flavour. All the potatoes I’ve bought in Spain have been incredibly floury and a big letdown, so this was a nice change. I do also remember the tenderloin being dry. I’ve cooked this quite often myself, so I know from experience that it easily gets dry if it’s overcooked. It looked slightly pink, so maybe they just cut it lengthwise, making it chewy (it looked like it), or maybe it had been lying around for too long after having been cooked.
7. Cheese/Champagne dessert. My companion had cheese whereas I asked if I could have another dessert instead. They gave me a glass of champagne with lemon foam, if I’m not mistaken. It was actually very nice and refreshing.
8. Dessert: Vanilla ice cream with a strawberry and a sprig of mint on top of a flan + caramel in a squeezy tube, and small nibbles (almond flakes covered in either dark or white chocolate + a raspberry drop) as well as a glass of limoncello. I simply had too much Bacardi Limon in my youth, so I cannot enjoy this kind of limoncello. The ice cream tasted a bit synthetic, although I did see vanilla seeds in there. The flan was better, but nothing majorly spectacular. Same thing goes for the nibbles. Overall, a very classic dessert, and a fairly good but not great ending for a meal that was also fairly good but not great.
The service was good too, although I think the waitress barely understood a word I said. I attribute this to language difficulties rather than character – I barely speak any Spanish, and the waiters, or at least the waitress, didn’t speak much English. The service was worth the tip we gave – attentive and friendly.
What I really liked, just as in several other restaurants in Spain, was that they let us try wine before deciding which glass to go for. I didn’t really like the first red wine, so they just let me try another one. I have generally not been impressed with Spanish whites, but the one they served me was very good – and I could find it at El Corte Ingles the next day (for €3.04 even!).
When it comes to value, there were two things that put me off: 1. We paid €2.75 per person for cutlery!? I have never heard of this before. We (two people) apparently drank water for €11! I don’t mind paying for water, but this seemed a bit excessive – especially as the water was brought to the table in a small keg (we apparently had five of those), and we had no way of knowing what it was. Besides, to me water is just water, so just bring us the cheapest one from Mercadona, and I probably couldn’t taste any difference to the €70 ones you see in some restaurants. Nevertheless, I felt that the value was reasonably good at this restaurant.
2 x menus at €46.50 + 2 glasses of wine + 2 glasses of sherry + 2 glasses of Tokaji + way too much water + cutlery (?) = €139.10 in total (€69,55 per person).
Although I don’t represent Michelin, I would say the food here was more or less worth the bib gourmand they have, but not a star. The food was, however, better than what I had at the Michelin starred Victor Gutierrez in Salamanca (which is probably the worst Michelin star restaurant I’ve been to). My companion at Az-zait was less impressed than I was.