5 Aug, 2023 @ 19:30
2 mins read

SPANISH DINERS go wild for elephants

WHAT Spain’s trendy diners want most with their cocktails and sharing plates is a jungle vibe and rarely spotted wildlife.

Yes, like vertical gardens before them, the large mammals of the African plains are taking pride of place in the most fashionable restaurants of Madrid – not on the menus, happily, but looming over the clientele.

Giraffe, gorilla, monkey . . . more wine?
Papúa Madrid

GIVEN the restaurant is called ‘Papúa’, you’d think they might have stuck with new world wallabies, possums and bats, but no. Designer Adolfo Monserrat, who took for his inspiration the early voyages of European explorers to Papua New Guinea, went a bit left of field by selecting yet more of these in-demand mammals from Africa. Anyway, the result is a spectacular space in the centre of Madrid, much loved of the cool Insta crowd. 

Elephant in the room

IT’S not so unusual to see an elephant at an Indian restaurant now and again – Lal Quila in Estepona has a striking pair – but more unexpected in a buzzy designer haunt serving Mediterranean food in the centre of Madrid. With its top hat and the fact it’s balancing on a ball, the elephant at Fanático is less wild than circus-trained, but, set among tables, it does add a touch of the exotic. That’s in keeping with the whole Fanático vibe, which keeps young, wealthy Madrileños queueing with its combination of upmarket elegance and frivolity.

There’s another elephant over in Burgos. This one enjoys the green and vaguely tropical setting of Basterra, the stylish bar-restaurant of Hotel Rice Reyes Católicos. The design brief, apparently, was ‘modern’ – it’s an interesting take.  

Rhino in the wild
Salvaje, Galería Canalejas, Madrid

THAT’S ‘wild’ as in Salvaje (Spanish for wild) in the fancypants Galería Canalejas Food Hall. Another upmarket ‘maximalist’ Madrid restaurant with fun high in the mix, the rhino is suspended over the bar. It’s not immediately obvious how a gold rhino was selected as just the right finishing touch for a place specialising in sushi, but, look up after a couple of cocktails, and it all seems perfectly normal. 

A passing giraffe
Amazónico giraffe

THE menu features dishes from Brazil and Peru but also Argentina, Japan, China and India, but the cocktails at Madrid restaurant de moda Amazónico are full of exotic fruit and the decor is plant-filled, lush and opulent in an Amazonian way. It’s quite confusing to eat in such luxurious surroundings, with CEOs with expensive watches on one side, and familiar faces from TV on the other, when there is a giraffe on the other side of the window and a peacock on the bar; anyone who has taken a child to a Rainforest Cafe will understand. ‘The sophistication of the wild in the heart of Madrid,’ as they say – also London and and Dubai. 

Giraffe, zebra, monkeys . . . and more
Zebra at Museo Jungle. Photo: Ponferrada Hoy

MORE of an affordable cafe than gastronomic destination, the Museo Jungle in Ponferrada, Leon, is a surprising find in the home of snow-capped mountains. The rich population of fauna includes the ever popular flamingo, a nice seated giraffe, a zebra at the foot of the stairs, and a chimp swigging from a bottle on the bar. There are jungle sounds as well. Launched a couple of years ago and open from breakfast to dinner, it does indeed represent a ‘new concept’ in hospitality design.

Sorrel Downer

Sorrel is a journalist based in Spain who writes for The Guardian, and whose bylines include The Telegraph, The Times, Financial Times, Conde Nast Traveller, Business Life, Business Insider, Reader's Digest, Evening Standard, and the BBC.

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