-The restaurant is owned by husband and wife team, Sergi Arola (Executive Chef) and Sara Fort Costa (Front of House Manager) with Ferran Cerro as Chef de Cuisine in the kitchen.
-The restaurant was awarded Two Michelin Stars in 2009.
-The space recently underwent a renovation and revitalization in the Summer of 2014 so I was lucky to see the new brand new space when I visited.
-Good to note- in the basement of the restaurant is a sexy date-appropriate cocktail lounge that definitely looks worth checking out.
-When I arrived at the newly renovated restaurant, I was greeted by a lovely doorman who checked my name and escorted me in. The wall along the staircase is lined with live plants that smell like a dewy Spring day. We walked to the top of the short flight where we were greeted again by one of the servers just outside the sectioned off dining room. A quick push of a button, and an industrial looking electronic glass and steel door moved aside to reveal the dining space.
-A handful of two-seater tables were arranged along a narrow hall with the chairs beside one another and facing the compartmentalized wooden wall. With little cubbies, drawers and cupboards, it was as much functional as it was beautiful- an innovative way to maximize a small space. Towards the back was another small room anchored with a unique art installation, a perfect space for accommodating larger groups.
-The white linen topped tables broke the traditionalist mold with the addition of a rustic shaped table runner made of dark brown leather.
-After two weeks of dining in sterile rooms without any music or noise above the discomfort of cutlery clatter, it was nice to hear a gentle hum of music in the air. It was all classic oldies, so surely it would be agreeable music for most.
-Service was tremendously friendly, jovial and helpful throughout the night. The three servers who were assisting us spoke fairly good English and were happy to describe the menu in detail when I asked for clarification. Plates, cutlery and water glasses were consistently refilled, and the entire meal moved at a steady pace with no large gaps between courses. It was still a long meal (about 2 1/2 hours) but it didn’t seem unnecessarily drawn out.
-The sommelier, Daniel Poveda, was also very personable, yet completely professional in his demeanor. Because we were sharing our selections, and only my partner was doing the wine pairings, he was very good about staying close by to deliver the appropriate wines (depending on which of the two dishes my partner decided to stick most to).
–Speaking of wine, the restaurant offers about 500 different bottles, of which 60% are Spanish, 25% French, 20 % the remainder of Europe and 10% from the rest of the world. The preference is for organic biodynamic wines out of responsibility for caring for the soil.
-Daniel Poveda has composed wine pairings for both sizes of tasting menus, for 55 and 65 € respectively.
-Unlike most high end Spanish restaurants I visited on my trip, Sergi Arola Gastro also features a substantial cocktail list. The 27 cocktails are divided into Creation (house cocktails, 13€), Champagne (with bubbles, 15€), Classics (standard bar drinks like the Cosmo, Mai Tai, Manhattan, Pina Colada and Melon Ball,13 €), and Sours (13€). It’s pretty old-school to say the least- not exactly the cocktail culture we see in trendy North American bars, but it was still nice to see a non-wine option I was admittedly craving. Since the Gin and Tonic seems to be the one consistent drink the Spanish do well, especially when made with the delicious Spain-based Nordes, I decided to start with that. Remarkably smooth and way too easy to drink.
-Following that, my partner went with the wine pairings, all of which we agreed went beautifully with the meal. Poveda was fantastic at describing and explaining his choices, and was very generous with his pours, often refilling the glass when my partner got low.
-I knew I couldn’t do a whole flight, so I simply ordered a la carte- a wonderfully fruity Ocho Patas Albarino and a rare dessert wine from Spain called Caligo. It tasted very much like a Sauternes but with a little more honey body and flavour.
-Chef Sergi makes an enormous effort to make nearly everything on the menu. From stunning house made breads like walnut and hazelnut, to beautiful compound butters, to flavoured salts and sausage- you can tell Chef Sergi takes pride in his work.
-Sergi Arola Gastro offers two tasting menus that change monthly with the season. The menus are a nice balance of old and new- combining some of chef Sergi’s latest creations with some of his classic bites. The Discovery Menu offers a selection of small amuses, 1 tapa, 1 starter, 1/2 portion of fish, 1/2 portion of meat and 1 dessert for 105 €. The Sergi Arola menu goes for 135 € and delivers the same spread of amuses, 1 tapa, 2 starters, 1/2 fish, 1/2 meat, and 2 desserts.
-Those wishing to pick and choose their adventure can select from an unconventionally organized menu divided into Imagination (unusual playful dishes, 27-31 €), Sea & Mountains (seafood and meat, 50-58€), and Sweet Moment (desserts, 16€).
-We decided to go with the Discover menu, order different dishes and then share. We also decided to add the cheese course to our meal to yield a menu somewhere in between the size of the Discovery and the Sergi Arola.
Green Olive Sphere
Red Vermouth Foam, Orange Caviar & Sugar, Gin Cream
Salty briny olives, aromatic gin cream and sweet and acidic tiny orange balls. I loved this playful first dish.
Anchovy Candy with Olive Ice Cream
Certainly an unusual but playful sensation when you’re expecting a sweet and receive the most savoury combination imaginable.
A deliciously crispy topping to contrast the fluffy moist egg, and the burst of brilliant tomato juice in the sphere.
Crispy Cornet with Baby Prawns
The following five dishes were meant to be reconstructed versions of classic Spanish pinxtos. Starting with the prawns, which I ate quite a lot of on my trip, I absolutely loved this crispy bite of savoury goodness.
One of the most perfect little croquettes I had in Spain- the wicked contrast of the crisp exterior against the creamy salty center made for an absolutely addictive bite.
Sandwich of Fried Squid and Mayonnaise
Light yet decadent, with just enough fresh-sea flavour to balance out the richness of the mayo.
A super yummy and playful take on the peasant food I’ve had all over the city.
Wow- talk about refreshing. We were instructed to save this bite for last so we could cleanse our palate with the salty-sweet juice.
Asparagus Cream, Foam & Confit
I loved the sweet verdant flavour of the asparagus represented in the three different textures and consistencies.
White, Malt & Corn with Bread Sticks, Butter, Clarified Olive Oil, Herb Salt and Spiced Salt
I hate when bread is this good as it’s always so hard to turn it away. My favourite piece was by far the malt, especially with the addition of the aromatic salts and a good smear of the housemade butter.
Smoked Beetroot and Rhubarb Jelly
Some of the most perfectly cooked gnocchi I’ve ever had, and surely one of the most beautiful presentations of it, by far. These babies were pleasantly plump and fluffy, paired with a slightly smoky sweet beet and a mildly astringent and refreshing rhubarb jelly.
Light Creamed, Mousse of Poultry in Thyme and Lemon
Oh dear goodness was this ever good. As I write this, I am pining for this dish, and I’m sure I will think about it again and again. The temperature contrast between the nutty sweet Jerusalem artichoke puree, the ice-cold satiny smooth chicken mousse and the delicious crunch of the lemon, thyme coating made for an unapologetically orgasmic dish- and I never use that word when describing food. Both of the starters were total winners, but this one will go down as one of my favourite bites of the year.
Loin with Fresh Peas, Hops and Wasabi Vinaigrette
A beautifully cooked piece of hake served in a broth made of beer, supple sweet peas and a wasabi vinaigrette. I don’t mind a bit of wasabi, but for me, the combination of the bitter hops in the beer and the spicy wasabi completely overwhelmed the delicate fish and peas. A little bit would have been nice to compliment the natural sweetness of the greens, but in this case, I just found it to be too much.
Stewed with Verdinas and Morels
Yum, yum, yum, yum- this, my friends, was comfort food done right. The tender fish simply melted on the tongue alongside the starchy creamy beans and chewy umami-rich morels. Again, a dish I will no doubt think about for years to come.
Suckling Lamb Cheek
Stewed, with Orange, Pumpkin, Carrot and Yogurt
Wow. The already succulent lamb was stewed to yield an impossibly tender bite that was then glazed in a perfectly balanced sauce. While delicious in its own right, I loved the pairing of fresh sweet orange produce and the aromatic tangy yogurt to cut the inherent richness of the meat.
Hamburger Style, Apple Emulsion Bun, Souffle Potato, Legs and Ketchup
One of the most unique takes on a burger I’ve ever seen. Here, the quail meat had been ground and formed into a patty, dressed like a classic burger (a la pickle, tomato, lettuce etc.) BUT served on a bun made out of apple. The result was a bit sweet (much like the addictive fast food versions we are all guilty of adoring) to contrast the naturally savoury flavour of the meat.
This was then served with a little side plate of accouterments- housemade ketchup (some of the best I’ve ever had), ethereal potato chips, and the most fantastically meaty confit legs I’ve ever tasted. After this, I may never want a regular burger again!
Comte Cheese, 36 Months
Stew Potatoes a la Crème with White Wine
A nicely smoky aged cheese to compliment the gouda fondue with perfectly cooked sweet new potatoes.
I could have used something sweet or acidic to cut the richness on the plate- even a fruit cracker would have been nice, but regardless, a lovely cheese course.
Tonka Bean with Honey Ice Cream
Not too sweet, and remarkably light. Actually, this soufflé was so light that I almost doubted there were even any egg yolks inside. Honestly, it tasted more of iles flottantes than soufflé, but perhaps that was a nice way to end a hearty meal.
Strawberries and Cream
Stuffed Swiss Meringue with Rhubarb Wasabi
This was a much more successful application of the wasabi than with the aforementioned cod.
The perfectly ripe sweet strawberries were bound to an delicate crispy meringue, and then paired with a wasabi mousse with tart rhubarb and graham cracker crust on the bottom. Again, I liked that this dessert was neither too sweet nor too rich, a great finish to a fantastic meal.
The following 5 dishes were described as “sweet versions” of the appetizers we enjoyed at the start of the meal. This one were tiny tiramisu bites with a perfect balance of bitter, sweet and luscious creaminess.
Bouncy and light- a great marshmallow texture to contrast with the toasty crisp coconut.
Chocolate Ice Cream Cone with Apricot
If only all ice cream cones came like this, I could have many of them every day. I loved the richness of the chocolate cut by the sweet jammy apricot. Delish.
Yummy crisp apple filling with a comforting hint of cinnamon, all wrapped in a crispy golden-brown crust.
A refreshing chunk of frozen pineapple coated in a sweet crackly layer of white chocolate. A tropical paradise in Spain!
-For the two Discovery menus, 1 wine pairing, 3 glasses of wine and tea, the bill came to 325 € ($450 CAD)- a very reasonable price for a gorgeously executed meal. I loved the creativity on the plate without ever feeling like it was dipping into the unpleasant world of gimmicks. Furthermore, I found the wine pairings spot on, the service to be friendly, personable and refined, and the space to be incredibly comfortable and unique.
-In conclusion, I would put Sergi Arola Gastro at the top of your list if you’re thinking of traveling to Madrid for a fantastic 2 Michelin Star meal at a worth-while price.