The capital now boasts nine Michelin-star restaurants and another four in the Madrid region.
There are around 3,100 culinary establishments in Madrid, but only Santceloni, La Terraza del Casino, Sergi Arola, Ramón Freixa Madrid, Diverxo, El Club Allard -with two Michelin stars-, and Zalacaín, Kabuki and Kabuki Wellington -with one-, are the chosen ones. Their claim is backed up by well prepared dishes, a painstaking service and a select atmosphere.
For lovers of gastronomy and restaurant owners in many European countries, the Michelin Guide is a Bible, a document which is the hallmark of gastronomic perfection, and which can transform the finest chefs into truly galactic artists. It is the best selling and most prestigious guides of its kind, and its judgement is rarely called into question by those foreigners who come to Madrid in search of the finest Spanish nouvelle cuisine.
In order to appear in the pages of this prestigious guide, an immaculate kitchen is an essential, although by no means sufficient, characteristic. The quality of the service is another factor taken into account, from waiters to maitres and sommeliers, all of whom work together in order to offer the customer in-depth advice and unbeatable service. The design of the venue along with a decoration which helps to create a relaxed and comfortable atmosphere are other areas which cannot be ignored. With these qualities in mind, Madrid has several establishments offering a veritable delight for the senses.
This restaurant opened its doors in Madrid in 2001, and obtained its first Michelin star alter only nine months (the second was conferred in the 2005 edition).
Under the guidance of Santi Santamaría, owner of the Racó de Can Fabes in Sant Celoni, and the first Catalan to obtain the coveted three stars from the Michelin guide; Santceloni has stuck to its guiding principles from the very beginning: a cuisine based around the best the market has to offer, with a respect for the finest ingredients. For the maitre, Abel Valverde, the highly coveted star represents "an important recognition given the prestige of the guide, which puts us in an excellent category, both at a national and international level. We have fought to really stand out," he says. "We fight for what we believe in and this is a reward for our efforts".
Prizes and awards notwithstanding, the Santceloni kitchen, headed by chef Óscar Velasco, offers the very best of each culinary culture our country is home to. The seasons also play a role: truffles, mushrooms and seafood vary according to the time of year in order to offer each client the finest products. The restaurant has two sampling menus, the Gastronomic Menu and the Grand Menu. Although the it does not have any specialities as such, a number of dishes are suitable for the most descerning palates alone. These include the white veal hocks with potato purée, the red mullet with fried eggs, migas (a typical Spanish dish based on bread, pork and olive oil among other products) with paprika oil, the wonderful cheeses and the Petrossian Alverta Imperial caviar with razor-shells and green beans.
Paco Roncero, one of Spain's leading contemporary chefs, helms the kitchen at La Terraza del Casino, a delightful establishment in the 19th-century Casino de Madrid. In addition, it is worth mentioning María José Huertas' contribution as sommelier. She was recognised by the International Academy of Gastronomy as the best Spanish sommelier in 2005.
As is to be expected from a kitchen specialising in signature cuisine, La Terraza offers a truly original selection of dishes. Its seasonal menu includes tapi-dishes, which consist of all kind of ingredients, including nitro maize with black truffle jelly and foie gras, sole with asparagus and mandarin purée, and fillet of ox with ravioli stuffed with Iberian belly pork and potatoes. On the other hand the Tasting Menu offers a cocktail for starters - namely caipirinha made from liquid nitrogen - and snacks such as a paella made from Kellogg's cereals. Moving on to the tapas, you'd do well to try, among others, the unusual pork sausage or chorizo sandwich, made with toasted cocoa bread stuffed with Iberian salad marinted in red pepper. Main courses on offer include meat and fish dishes. And dessert comprise other little bits of madness and original creations such as sherbert-based peta colas or the false pine kernel shortbread or polvorón.
The interior décor of La Terraza del Casino recently underwent a significant renovation process, headed by Madlrilenian Jaime Hayón, one of today's most prestigious designers. At the moment, the restaurant's interior is well-lit, sophisticated and avant-garde, and is as such perfectly matched to Roncero's innovative ideas.
Sergi Arola brought fame and fortune to La Broche, and in 2008, regarded as one of the most prestigious chefs in the country, he embarked on a new gastronomic adventure on Calle Zurbano. With the backing of his head of kitchen, Manuel Berganza, Sergi Arola Gastro is the place where this restaurateur has reflected all his savoir faire and professional ambitions. It currently has two Michelin stars. In this restaurant, one of our most famous chefs tries to express on his tasting menu the complexity of the sensory world he feels and believes in. This is reflected in the four set meals - Sergi Arola, Descubrimiento (Discovery), Lunch and Infantil (Kids) - currently on offer to cater for guests' different needs and tastes.
Besides, he tries beyond trends and presentation tendencies to get back to the warmth and textures from his first stages in his previous restaurant in calle Doctor Fleming.
Young chef David Muñoz is the alma mater of this restaurant on Calle Pensamiento, in the Tetuán district, an area which is characterized by its fusion of national products and recipes with flavours from Asian cuisines.
Muñoz, who trained in Viridiana - Abraham García's popular restaurant - and in London's Hakkasan, insists on downplaying his success and maintaining "his unique style which ensures customers are always happy. In 2011 he was awarded his second Michelin star.
Ramón Freixa's restaurant is located in the Único Hotel, in the heart of the Salamanca district. This gastronomic Mecca was awarded its first Michelin star in 2009, and in 2010 it received its second one. Based on a fusion of traditional dishes and the most sophisticated creations, all his cuisine has a Mediterranean flair. The restaurant offers three tasting menus to suit all tastes.
El Club Allard opened in 2003 and still preserves the select air of the members-only private club it was founded as in 1998. In 2007 it opened to the public, thus becoming one of Madrid's most important gastronomic temples while, at the same time, accommodating a vast range of cultural activities, from painting exhibitions to literary presentations, not to mention the Enrique Ponce & Allard bullfighting awards.
El Club Allard's kitchen is helmed by young Álava-born chef Diego Guerrero, who, in November 2007, obtained his first Michelin star and, shortly after, in 2011, earned his second. His secret is signature cuisine that combines tastes and textures in simple but original recipes, like his cod with pil pil sauce on a bed of brandade sponge and garlic bread fritters -which earned him the award to the best cod dish in the Region of Madrid in 2004- or the eggs with bread and lardon on a light potato cream, winner of the ‘pil pil' gastronomy prize in 2002. Other prizewinning dishes are the Camembert truffée Mini Babybell - winner of the Fifth National Tapas Contest held in Valladolid in 2009. Amongst the desserts, some are especially noteworthy, such as the Fish Bowl, the poached egg and the classic shot of chocolate with fritters.
Zalacaín is a long established restaurant which, 30 years after being founded by Jesús de Oyarbide continues to be a reference point of the capital's gastronomic scene. The kitchen is now helmed by Antonio Medina who took over from Benjamín Uridaín. Although originally based around the cuisine of Navarra, the manager José Jiménez Blas defines its cooking as "creative and international".
As with many of the previously mentioned establishments, the menu in Zalacaín changes with the seasons, incorporating mushrooms, game, seafood and certain fish and vegetables according to the time of year. In addition, the regular menu offers dishes such as the Little Don Pío Jar (quail eggs, smoked salmon and Beluga caviar), or the monkfish ragoût, red shrimp and peas with aroma of sherry.
Sushiman Ricardo Sanz helms the kitchen of this Madrid-based restaurant where traditional Japanese dishes incorporate Spanish products leading to such succulent creations as the quail's egg sushi with white truffle. To put the cherry on the cake, Kabuki serves desserts prepared by Oriol Balaguer, one of the best pastry makers in the world.
Although this is elder Kabuki restaurant, it wasn't awarded its first Michelin start still 2010. The prestigious award recognises Ricardo Sanz' talent for preparing the highest quailyt and adventurous sushi. The awardwinning eatery also boasts an impressive selection of exotic fish.
In addition to all these restaurants found in the city, the Region of Madrid also boasts four other establishments with a Michelin star. The first of these is Coque, located in the area of Humanes just 25 kilometres from Madrid, where Chef Mario Sandoval directs this family-run eatery. A true devotee of contemporary Madrid cuisine, he combines his roots with the multicultural facets of modern society, something reflected in his three set menus: Gastronomic, Market Cuisine and Our Classics, which are based, respectively, on the chef's latest creations, seasonal products and traditional recipes.
Signature cuisine and seasonal products are the essence of Casa José, a cosy establishment in Aranjuez run by the Del Cerro family, who started in the business back in the 1950s with a small restaurant. In 1991, the family opened their current eatery which that very year was awarded a Michelin star, and today continues to offer original and innovative cuisine. The kitchen helmed by Fernando Del Cerro offers salads and two set menus, the Classic and the Tasting menu, that are evidence of how one can go that one step further with local products.
Although not actually presented with an award in 2010, the Rodrigo de la Calle restaurant was certainly noticed by the prestigious guide, who may very possible have a star ready for it in 2011.
In 2011, Aranjuez' Rodrigo de la Calle and its gastro-botanic flavours were finally awarded their first star, as was Chirón, in Valdemoro, in 2012 for its exceptional flair for fusing tradition with creativie dishes.