ELEGANCE is one of the key requirements of my wife when dining out. So when this can be coupled with fine food and some theatre you have the major ingredients for a successful restaurant.
La Terraza del Casino could hardly go wrong when it opened in 1998 on the top floor of Madrid’s stunning 165-year-old casino with its sweeping staircases, chandeliers and other remnants of the ‘Belle Epoque’.
Right in the heart of the city, it was anything but a gamble, offering diners a bird’s eye view of the famous rooftops of Gran Via, adorned with horses and chariots and other delights.
But while stylishly designed and cleverly using the light, it is the culinary skills of its chefs that really stand out and have garnered it two Michelin stars… and in my opinion deserving of three.
Initially overseen by Spain’s most famous chef Ferran Adria, its current team of Paco Roncero and talented youngster Sergio Pachon, 35, are definitely up there with the cream of Spanish cuisine.
One of the best meals I have eaten in Spain, the fabulous 12-course tasting menu was beautifully sculpted, varied and seasonal.
“We try and use as much seasonal produce as possible and a mix of unusual things that might include tongue of Kobe beef, algae, even kangaroo,” explains Madrid-born Pachon, who trained under Ferran.
“Since Ferran left a year ago we have been changing things and creating our own dishes, particularly paying attention to the recession, and the feedback has been good.”
It is not difficult to see why. The attention to detail and sheer level of thought that goes into the preparation is impressive. But it is not so science-laden that it becomes like a chemistry experiment, which can be the case at some restaurants these days.
I was particularly impressed with the ‘carbonara egg nest’, a false egg of parmesan cheese, with a gelatin consome, truffle oil and the yolk of a quail’s egg. Equally good was the delicious ‘deconstructed salmon tartare’, served in its own miso. It came out like a battle scene basically comprising the ingredients that go to make a good tartare.
We also liked the delicious razor clams, which came out in a broad bean stew with a tiny slice of pancetta and a chunk of artichoke, as well as the ‘powdered’ Calamari served with coconut and curried rice. Extremely suave.
Each of the dishes were cleverly married by the wines selected by sommelier Maria Jose Huertas, a huge fan of sherries and, curiously, Rieslings from Germany. A nutty 30-year-old Amontillado from Bodega Tradicion a real highlight, alongside a rich creamy Godello called Louro.
But, if anything summed up the fun we had at Casino it had to be the stunning plum and cranberry coulis desert, which came with ginger and a dollop of dry ice.
Theatre at its best, only the stunning petit fours, that looked like eyeballs, could match it.