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Monday, January 22, 2018

Dinner at Mad Grill

Bill
馃挾馃挾
Per Person
€22-4 per person. Shared starter, main, shared dessert. 2 beers.

Location
On the net


In Short
Hopes?
Something better than our most recent burger experience.
Reality?
Excellent food, potentially excellent experience.
First Impressions?
It's a bit overlit. Bulbs in bike wheels above.
A USP?
Bespoke burger range™ promised.
The food in three words?
Bespoke burger range™
Can they get the staff?
Lots of them, efficient and well-timed dish deliveries.
Service with a smile?
Mostly!
Would you take your friends?
Would work for some.
Rating for a dating?
If burgers make for dates.
Tip?
10% ish.
Change one thing?
I'll pass on the Mad sauce
Going back?
Possibly wins out over probably.

Compare and Contrast
Steakburger Luchana.
Bululu coffee and bar.

In Pictures
On Google Images

In Depth
Let's add a new bespoke burger bar to the roster. Mad Grill's got lots of very good things going for it. There are details to mention, so we'll break with tradition and get them out of the way. Quickly then:
  • Be ready at opening time.
  • Ask if customers have reserved. They should mention it (we admit, we didn't), but check.
  • Know your stock. Running out of a house bottled beer happens (and merits a sorry), letting us order an alternative that's also out (at which point the sorry arrived) doesn't look good.
  • Everyone should look pleased to see customers. There were lots of warm greetings and we got some pleasingly fun banter, but there was some monosyllabic coolness too.
Hopefully that didn't hurt, so on to the good news.

`twas a very chilly and wet night after Christmas and we were on the dot at 2030. Staff looked startled, Customers? On time? It happens. They fiddled with furniture. We decoed the decor. Lots of white painted brickwork and one exterior door left open didn't warm things up rapidly. Bicycle wheels suspended as lampshades? Very 2017. So it's distinctive, but not the warmest space to walk into. 

A table was on offer, the menu arrived a mite grumpily. Passing on the standard chicken starter suspects, we opted for a bowl of chilli. This turned up very quickly, could have been hotter - another 30 seconds in the microwave - but came with a generous bowl of corn nachos.

Mad Grill

Foregoing the plates, we spooned. The chilli onto the chips, of course. Clearly homemade, with chunks of tomato lurking within, it was well spiced, although could have had a smidge more kick for us. An excellent sharing starter, this is just a couple of garnishes away from a main course and might, with a little adapting, lend itself to widening the v-options. Very good.

Pleaesed with the starter, onward. Pulled pork sandwich and Smokey Burger. Two generously proprotioned plates of food arrived very promptly. Not the only PP I'd say was an acquired taste, Pulled Pork's usually just too sweet for me, but this had good quality cuts of meat, with an acidic cabbagey filling which balanced them well. A big gold spike of pickled cucumber would have fitted a burger better, though.

Said burger came in a terrific brioche bun, which passed the test - tasty in its own right, I scoffed the lot. There's a new rule in the offing:
Better buns mean tastier burger bars
The meat, properly al punto as requested, was enveloped in a megablob of smokey mayonnaise studded with crunchy bacony bits, making it look uncannily like a giant poached egg. I'm not sure how smokey mayo is made (with this?). It was good, tasty stuff. 


A good portion of freshly cooked skin-on chips came with both. This leads us to an excellent detail. A lettuce-tomato-onion garnish is on the menu but not reflexively plonked on the plate. If you ask for it, there's no extra charge, and, like as not you're intending to eat it. But it's less likely to go to waste this way. We applaud wise ideas like this. Well done, Mad Grill.

Two quality main dishes, then.

More smart details. Bottle carriers are put to good use, both advertising stocked beers and tidying table sauces. Lurking within was something labelled Mad Sauce. Startlingly like English salad cream, memories of grim childhood summer Sunday afternoon salads surfaced all too readily. Pickled onions and boiled egg for tea, anyone? Well. I wasn't crazy about the Mad Sauce, but flashback free it may well work for you.

Dessert. All too often, it's where the ice-cream cone of hope drops from the toddler's hand of fate into the wet sandpit of doom. But you may know the fourth rule, and, fanfare Alberto, it holds true. A key lime pie had a moist, no, not moist. It had, and we've been waiting for this moment, it had a buttery, biscuit base. Ahhh the media mash up link. It feels soooo good. The pie was suitably refreshing and citrussy too. A decent portion size wasn't sullied with spray-o-foam aerocream or chocolate syrup-gunge either. Good decision.

Service was efficient, but not as spontaneously cheery as you'd hope. First impressions count. I don't know what I did in a previous life to the person who sat us down but they didn't take to me at all. Then I made sure we'd never exchange Christmas cards by asking for two brands of beer in a row that weren't available.

Some very good food and staff who had got out the happy side of the duvet redeemed matters, which is no bad thing. But. But? But...

You see, we liked the place and enjoyed it, overall. The food's intelligently thought out, there are smart touches and it's worth the money. Those of a V-persuasion will find a falafel burger, which seemed to be it, so definitely work needed there to widen the client case. There's the (now) standard extensive range of beers with odd names: draught, bottled, and, hopefully, in stock.

It's details that hold it back. Correctable details.

So, Mad Grill.
Try it?
You'd be daft not to consider it.
And if it's gonna survive, it's good to get a little crazy.


Monday, January 15, 2018

Lunch at Casa Hortensia

Bill
Price Range
馃挾馃挾馃挾
Per Person
€30-35. Four courses incl Fabada, 1/2 bottle Ramon Bilbao.
Gratis: digestive/chupito
Reservations advisable.

Location
On the web


In Short
Hopes?
A traditional celebratory lunch.
Reality?
Exactly that.
First Impressions?
It's an office building.
A USP?
Enormous Asturian portions.
The food in three words?
Share it out!
Can they get the staff?
No shortage of mostly mature males.
Service with a smile?
Old school.
Would you take your friends?
The menu means it depends on the friends.
Rating for a dating?
Probably not the best. Too much food.
Tip?
Small one.
Change one thing?
Speed up the service.
Going back?
Almost certainly.

Compare and Contrast
Authentic food from elsewhere in the North at Ribera do Mi帽o.

In Pictures
On Google Images

In Depth
A Madrid classic. Mention CH to any group of locals. Someone will know it.

So, looking for a spot for a birthday do for 10? It's a go-to choice, but not for the V-minded. Unless you like cabrales, egg & chips and asparagus. And don't think tortilla de la casa is a Spanish omelette. It's a p矛nkish, chilled, fish-based cake (yes, really) that's about 20 cm across and 10cm high.

Taking a lick from our favourite popsters, at CH two restaurants become one. On the second floor, the restaurant proper is a la carte. In practice, the sidreria upstairs which does tapas and raciones, often acts as overflow space. What they do is colossal portions of meat and fish and, just note, photos follow.

So starters?

Cabrales was on the table as soon as we sat down. Spreadable, on some distinctive fresh bread, with a beer this sets the tone perfectly. Powerful. Moreish. Asturian.

Not listed, the ham croquettes/croquetas are first class. 10 per portion, one of our group was so keen they ordered an extra plate. Fresh, very crunchily breaded, ask after them. But...egg and chips? Smash 'em up. Share with bread and a good red wine. It's a revelation. A cracking dish, even. No...? Well.

Casa Hortensia Casa Hortensia

Equally impressive is prawn and asparagus revuelto. Extremely tasty this, but one between ten meant a couple of forkfuls each. Why? We knew what was coming. The main courses.

Casa Hortensia

As the say in Oviedo, Beanz Meanz fabada. Find better in Madrid and we want to know. A meaty, powerful concoction to fuel hours down the mine, on the boat or in the fields shoving cows around. Punctuated by terrific chorizo, morcilla and pork belly, it demands a decent bottle of red. Magically, it stays moreish, no mean feat with these ingredients. Still, two big ladlefuls and you'll be fed until tomorrow. Nominally that's a single portion, but there's enough for at least two and you almost could feed four at a push.

There are more to come. Here's merluza a la romana. Again, it's nominally for one, but there's enough to share between two or more. Fresh fish, simply fried. Very good.

Casa Hortensia

Several red meats are on offer. You could try the 2cm thick veal entrecotte, which is very tasty, although you'll navigate a fair bit of fat. With a friend (or two), there's a sharing sirloin or ox chuleton/T-bone.

The sirloin arrives flash griddled on all sides, served sliced. There's a red hot plate to let you - and company - finish each slice to your liking, al taglio.

The T-bone's intended for one but enough for two. Two medium sized velociraptors, that is. We're talking two steaks left as one joint, weighing a kilo-plus - including bones. Prepare for a monolith of meat, a chunk of chop, a pile of protein, a load of loin.

Casa Hortensia

OK, feeble comic wordplay is our only means of defense, but imagine being intimidated by a lump of beef. Early Schwarzenegger movies aside, this scenario is not in the official reviewers' training manual.

Our preference is the sirloin. It's a sociable experience, upskilling your grilling with others. It's more fun, sharing with other steakholders. Steakholders, you see. No...? Well. We're not sold on the very well done and extremely rare meat of the incredible hunk. Still, some will be in heaven and our resident carnivore was delighted - it's also remarkably good value.

There are plenty of desserts on offer, but with a birthday celebration to follow, we kept it light. Cups of ice-cream are generous, multi-scoop affairs. Cheesecake is a generous homemade wodge which,  isn't defaced with spray-on plasticream. Last up, and invaluable if (i.e. when) you (i.e. I) overindulge on the mains, is  a glass of lemon sorbet with cava. It's a great palate cleanser, but I'd rather have a spoon than a straw.

And, yes, we ordered cider. 



 In fact, you could say we splashed out. No...? Well.

Service is not always quick, despite plenty of scarlet-waistcoated waiters circulating. 5 minutes to take a drinks order and 10 to deliver some beers is inexplicable. Polite verging on formal, things got unexpectedly curt when we were after those extra croquetas. Diners, we got the impression, like the croquetas, ought to know their place.

Decor is fairly formal and traditional and you'll be surrounded by extended families celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, like our group. It's a hint of daily Madrid life many visitors rarely get to be part of.

An experience, then, but with such massive portions, take plenty of friends or a plan.


Monday, January 8, 2018

Lunch at Krachai

Bill
Set lunch; 馃挾馃挾
Per Person
Set menu; €13.50

Location
On the net



In Short
Hopes?
Orient, express.
Reality?
Points failures.
First Impressions?
Semi posh Madrid.
A USP?
Thai for the safety conscious? Does that count?
The food in three words?
A mixed bag.
Can they get the staff?
Rapid service.
Service with a smile?
No connections.
Would you take your friends?
No.
Rating for a dating?
Decor and ambience are right, food's safe.
Tip?
No.
Change one thing?
Take dessert even a bit seriously.
Going back?
Not likely.

In Pictures
On Google Images

In Depth
Today we’re on a daily menu, in the €13- €15 bracket and wondering where on the Madrid Thai spectrum we’ll be at. Some places aim for a sub-authentic feel, with allegedly Thai d茅cor (馃挕! "Let's stick a tuc-tuc on the ceiling, guys!") almost entirely unlike being in Thailand. Krachai takes a classier approach. Sit down, look around and it's smart – there’s a nice brass bell on a sideboard, a rather smart temple mural behind us.

Result? D茅cor that won’t scare conservative diners, even if it doesn’t draw in the sockless. Two different forces pulling in opposite directions, there. Ye cannae break the laws of physics, but who’s going to have the greater pull?

Where does the food sit in this equation? Instinct would say it’s going to be photocopy Thai. All look, no depth. Reality? We shouldn’t judge a restaurant by its covers. There are some things to enjoy here, but, at least on the menu del dia of the dia in question, serious issues.

Kick off. 

Karachais

A trio of str**tf**d is accompanied by two sauces – plum and sweet chilli, we reckon. They sell the place well. Satay scores 4/5. It’s decent-sized and there’s loads of sauce, so points for that. There’s background chilli which stays with you. Maybe a smidge more heat would help, but it’s good. The other elements have the right feel but need more punch. 4/5 for the sausage, 3/5 for the Spring Roll. It's all far tidier than Thailand would be, but not a million miles off in impression.

Mains.

Karachais Karachais

Mixed bag here. Scrambled eggs with "oriental" rice? Which force is pulling here? Forget Newton's law, see our first rule. Not actively bad, but a mildly spiced revuelto isn’t going anywhere we want to visit.

Pleasingly, chicken green curry is travelling a different course and nearly gets there. A one plate job, there’s a good portion of rice, sauce with a kick and a ladleful of variable main ingredients. Some veg are crunchy, others a mite soft. Conclusion? It feels pre-prepared. Freshly cooked, it would have more whack, we think. No fresh herbs, either.  For a lunch menu, it’s acceptable, but I hope the a la carte version has more passion afforded it.

Dessert. 

Groundbreaking, this. It's Schrodinger's pudding.  The menu lists quantum physical desserts. I.e they exist as no more than possibilities. You only find out if they're real when you ask. And today? They're fictional. All of them. The dessert wavefunctions collapse like primadonna footballers in the penalty area. Ah, so what is on offer, you wonder?

A scoop of ice-cream.

Per person.

Look, we should pause a mo to let that sink in. Back in two ticks.

1
2 (Yep, one scoop. Doesn't sound much, does it? Oh, sorry, yes were pausing. Shhh, us.)
3
4
5....and breathe.

Some places are offering homemade specialities, and this letdown undoes the pleasing work earlier.

So, in the end, which variable is stronger in this formula? Exciting the flavour-hungry hipsters or pleasing the cautious conservatives? Until the desert of the dessert menu, it had been a balance of the forces.

A thai tie, if you will. No? Fair enough, please yourselves. 

But the fourth rule holds true, and if they don't care even a hypothetical cat's whisker about the last third of the menu, what does that say? 


Friday, January 5, 2018

On the twelfth day of Christmas...

h:m ran out of adjectives eating;

twelve plates of genius.

Dstage

It's one of the tasting menus at the peerless dStage.


Thursday, January 4, 2018

On the eleventh day of Christmas...

We felt we'd earnt a cocktail at...

Eleven Calle Ruiz



And we'll be back for a daiquiri before you know it at Cafe de Ruiz.



Wednesday, January 3, 2018

On the tenth day of Christmas...

Honestly remembered...

The dishes in 2017 we'd give

Ten out of ten.

And call them Honestly:recommended.



 

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

On the ninth day of Christmas...

We found a taste of North America, with giant portions at

Nine, Calle San Lorenzo

La Casa Tomada

A big lunch at La Casa Tomada