If you are ever in Madrid, I very strongly recommend you get to this restaurant. One of my food heroes Anthony Bourdain features it in his show No Reservations, and I can safely say he echoes this sentiment. Even after two michelin star restarants, this is my favourite meal to date on this trip to Europe.
The restaurant is immediately likeable, with edgy decor and warm lighting, and was buzzy and fun from the get go with families, couples and groups of friends alike. As Bourdain said, this restaurant serves clever, delicious food without being up itself.
Please note though, the menu is in Spanish – but they have seriously informed waiters that can help you out with the language barrier and also recommend some really good stuff.
So we started off with foie with caramelised pineapple served with toast. This was like a pineapple and foie gras creme brulee. You crack the top and get into that creamy duck goodness and it’s just delicious. We then had a tuna salad with egg and olives, which was fine and homely without being spectacular. I wouldn´t recommend this dish, but I would absolutely go for the foie again.
What happened next was a food epiphany for me and probably the most delicious thing I’ve ever eaten: coddled egg with pureed potatoes and truffles. MY. GOD. Seriously, if you come to La Gabinoteca and don´t order this dish, it´s a wasted venture. This is glorious. Just rich all round, and I don´t think any combination has worked better for me than this delicious trifecta. I only had half of one (I had to share with my brother and I HATE sharing), but I could have eaten ten.
After this, another delicious morsel: Scallops on toast with marinated capsicum, cheese and mayonnaise. Don´t knock it ´till you´ve tried it, because this again was super delicious and went extremely well with the coddled egg. The secret to this, I think, were the exceptional scallops, which were sweet and juicy and plump and super fresh.
Next up was shrimp meat and caviar, which was okay. The shrimp meat, which I´m sure would have been fresh for this calibre of restaurant, tasted like the seafood salad you get at shopping centre food courts. I wasn´t sold on this one.
Following this was the Beef cheek, caramelised onions, crispy shallots and pureed potato, which was brilliant. This Beef was slow-cooked to perfection and braised in a red wine sauce, and it all just melted in your mouth.
Following this was the salt-baked fish with raspberry, lime, coriander and chilli vinegar. This was perfect, as you expect a fish cooked in a salt crust to be. Moist, juicy, a little bit salty. But the piece de resistance in this dish was the vinegar dipping sauce, which dissolved any leftover salt crust and added heaps of flavour and bite to the otherwise mild-tasting fish. Delicious.
The desserts were very gimmicky and Heston Blumenthal-esque, but that was fine with me. My dad had the cream with mango sauce and vanilla, mixed with liquid nitrogen – genius and deliciously smooth, and nothing says Heston more than liquid nitrogen. I had a dessert where all the components come in a toolbox and you are to assemble it yourself, then send a picture in to the La Gabinoteca website, where if it´s good, you win a dinner for two at the restaurant. It consisted of chocolate brownie, banana cream, raspberry compote and vanilla ice cream. I went a little banana-cream crazy, so my dessert looked a disaster, but it was delicious. The banana cream and the raspberry compote tasted perfect together, but the brownie was a little dry and unneccessary, in my opinion. Maybe I was just sulking after my failed plating-up experience.
Regardless of the gimmicky feel to some of the food, La Gabinoteca is absolutely worth a visit, if only for the coddled egg, pineapple foie and scallop toast. My stomach´s grumbling just thinking about it. Maybe a second visit tonight? … Now there´s a crazy but totally doable notion.
For Anthony Bourdain’s take on La Gabinoteca: