This eponymous restaurant showcases the cooking of Ramon Freixa, who trained in several restaurants in Belgium, including the famous Comme Chez Soi, and also with Michel Bras in France before he returned to Barcelona to take over the family restaurant. He opened up his own restaurant in Madrid in June 2009, getting a Michelin star within months of opening and gaining a second Michelin star in 2010.
The restaurant is located In the Hotel Selenza, with its own entrance around the back of the hotel, overlooking a small garden with a terrace for the summer. The dining room itself is small, with a grey floor with an elaborate marble inlay at its centre. Walls are also grey, with a brown curtain separating the main room from a small private dining area. Apparently the room can seat 30, but I counted 18 diners on the night of my visit. The a la carte menu had starters between €25 and €39, main courses between €25 and €43 and desserts at €12 to €15. The menu has a mix of traditional and modern Spanish dishes, which seems to me a nice idea, and I tried one of each as starter and main course. Ramon himself went round the tables taking the orders.
The wine list arrives in several volumes in hardback binders. Mark-ups are very kind by London standards. The list of course has plenty of Spanish wines, but also a careful selection of French wines and a reasonable selection of wines from other countries. Examples include Cloudy Bay Sauvignon Blanc 2008 at €37 compared to a shop price of around €22, Michel Morey-Ciffinet Chassagne Montrachet “Les Farendes” 2007 at €85 for a wine that retails at €32, up to Vega Sicilia Unico 1999 at a very reasonable €245 for a wine you can find for €218, and Grange Hermitage 1999 at €350 for a wine that costs €219. I drank 2003 Torres Mas La Plana at €60 for a wine that costs €33 in the high street.
Initial nibbles were sunflower seed "paper", crisps made from purple potatoes with celery salt, and an organic milk bread roll that actually had a liquid centre of milk (17/20). Next was a series of snacks: a mussel and saffron croquette was a little odd in its texture and did not taste greatly of mussel, gazpacho "bomb" had a pleasant, almost liquid texture though subdued gazpacho taste, but I enjoyed white noodles with steak tartare. There was also black sausage with potato, a little pasta with caprese sauce and a slightly odd tasting but delicately thin carrot and orange biscuit. A mixed bag, but interesting and technically well made (17/20).
These were followed by a bit of kitchen trickery. A little cube of pistachio and crab was presented in a bowl, over which was poured a liquid "soup" of tuna. Within seconds the soup had solidified into a jelly. Very clever, and the soup did indeed taste of tuna, though the crab flavour was lost and I am not sure that pistachio and tuna is a natural flavour combination (16/20).
Bread was made from scratch, and in fact is made by the chef's father, whose own restaurant is based in Barcelona. It turns out that the grandparents of Ramon were bakers, and his father has continued in this tradition, spending a lot of time scouring Europe for the best flavour and yeast. The bread is delivered three times a week. I tried a superb tomato and garlic bread, which had both attractive texture and strong flavours, a white bread, and an excellent fruit and nut bread. This was really terrific bread (18/20 pushing 19/20).
For my starter proper I went for one of the dishes marked as traditional. Cannelloni with three meats was simply presented but very well executed. Chicken, veal and pork were minced and combined, seasoned and served inside delicate cannelloni pasta, with a little cheese sauce. Though rich, this was a most enjoyable dish, the meat having lovely flavour and the cannelloni excellent texture (18/20). My only comment, and it is a minor one, is that the portion size would have been generous as a main course, let alone a starter, and this made it difficult to finish the main course, even for someone as greedy as me.
The main course was a more modern affair. Suckling pig was served with a topping of pork crackling, with several elements on one side. First was a strawberry salad with celery leaves and vinegar, next a crisp coca bread on which were pork scratchings, red peppers and yellow tomatoes. There was also a little rhubarb soufflé with xirivia (parsnip) and long pepper (a variety of pepper more often seen in Indian pickles than in European food). Finally there was a little bowl of pig trotter with foie gras and mushrooms. A complex array of flavours indeed. The suckling pig itself had good flavour and the crackling was crisp. Certainly with such a rich dish some balance of acidity was needed, but I could not grasp why this was provided by a few slivers of strawberries, which hardly surprisingly lacked flavour given that this was November. The little crisp was nicely made, but the miniature soufflé and parsnips just seemed like a flavour or two too many. Overall, though each element was well executed, this did not seem to me a coherent dish (16/20).
As a pre-dessert there was an array of what might have been petit fours. There was a tutti fruity jelly (pleasant), a chocolate shot with passion fruit (rich), an olive oil muffin (misguided), a strawberry filled with green tea (weird), a white chocolate biscuit (pleasant) and a crisp miniature apple (odd). This was a fairly odd assembly of things, some of which just did not work well e.g. if you were to choose a single flavour for your muffins, your “last meal” muffin, would you choose olive oil as your flavour? I thought not. This stage was hard to score, but there were more hits than misses (13/20). My dessert was a selection of chocolate tastes. The main element was a "pizza" of nutella, red fruits and hazelnuts, alongside burnt milk ice cream, cocao royal with meringue, and a thin sugar sheet. This was good rather than dazzling (16/20).
The bill was €155 (£135) for one, and it would have been easily possible to pay less than this with a cheaper wine, of which there were many. This seems to me an acceptable price for food of this quality. Service was very classy, with friendly, knowledgeable staff and faultless topping up of water and wine. Overall this was an enjoyable meal, though for me the traditional elements of the cooking were superior to some of the wackier modern flavour combinations. This is partly a matter of taste, but not entirely, with the main course an example of a dish with too many elements, not all of them optimal. However, the execution of dishes was consistently good, and there is clearly plenty of technical skill in the kitchen.
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