A short two-day trip to Madrid this week. Flying from Venice with Iberia. Ostensibly a flagship airline as opposed to low-cost, but I discovered that it cuts service to the bone, i.e. zero: even the coffee on board (on a two and a half hour flight) you have to pay for. At least it offered on-line check-in from home one day before, so I could have a seat of my choosing.
Arrival at Madrid Barajas airport to find that a spanking new Iberia terminal had opened: in the style of modern airports, this is a very long building, certainly over a km long, concrete and glass with a wavy wood-clad roof. Soft reflected lighting. Very nice, pity the bags took a long while at arrival. Transfer to Madrid city centre couldn’t be easier: the metro arrives right to the airport. Modern trains with wide spaces, LCD tellies with newsreels and, please note, UK transport chiefs, a flat fare of just one Euro to travel all over the city!
I am here to visit a small trade show, but by happy coincidence, I discover my Man in Seville is here too, accompanied by our numero uno Spanish customer. What an excellent excuse to have a good meal together! The more so since Manuel, my distributor, is a fellow Gastronaut and is sure to know the right restaurant. Our taxi takes us to the casco viejo, the old city centre, where in a maze of narrow streets we find Casa Lucio, in an old medieval building. This is an old-established Castilian restaurant, much frequented by pols, actors and other important people such as ourselves. We are lucky to get a table: we were threatened with an 11pm reservation, but after some bargaining a table is “discovered”. Manuel orders for us all – as a starter a good plate of jamon serrano, the local prosciutto that comes in several varieties, some very expensive. This is always a good choice in Spanish restaurants, I find it excellent, but Manuel is picky, saying the jamon in Seville is far superior, but for him anything outside of Andalusia is suspect! Next on the menu is a hearty plate of callos a la madrilena, a tripe stew with tomatoes and chorizo sausages – a very traditional and classic Madrid dish, we happily dunk our bread in the sauce to finish it up! I find it a pity that tripe and other innards have fallen out of favour – there are many wonderful recipes out there that are no longer cooked for want of raw material. After the tripe, a surprise: a dish arrives with what seems to be a horrendous British culinary invention: fried potatoes mixed with scrambled eggs!. I gingerly taste a spoonful, despite the appearance the taste is excellent, and Manuel explains to me that such egg concoctions are a speciality at Casa Lucio. Our meat is a wonderfully tender solomillo a la parilla, a fillet served sizzling on a hot skillet, with large grains of sea salt sprinkled on top. Spain is blessed with good meat – maybe a by-product of the bull rearing?
Our wines are truly excellent: two bottles of Ribera del Duero, a potent full-bodied barrique red with an alcohol content of 14-15%. The first bottle, a 2003 Emilio Moro is wonderfully fruity with an intense bouquet of wild cherries and blackberries, the second, a 2003 Matarromera is also rich, but more rounded and very smooth. Pity that Casa Lucio sees fit to serve wine in glasses that could have come out of my grandmother’s pantry!
To round off this excellent meal, a snifter full of Gran Reserva Luis Felipe, a brandy from Huelva matured in old sherry casks, similar to my personal favourite Cardenal Mendoza. Great to cradle in one’s hands and catch the rising aromas, whilst discussing the intricacies of Spanish politics (Manuel is a committed Franquista). I’ll definitely have to add a bottle of Luis Felipe to my shopping list!
Casa Lucio, Cava Baja 35, Madrid. Tel: 91 3658217