We kicked off our recent visit to Spain with lunch at two Michelin star restaurant El Club Allard Madrid. Formerly a private club, El Club Allard has, since 2003, opened its doors to the general public. It earned its second star in 2011. As with many multi-starred restaurants, dinner there is an expensive proposition, so it makes sense to go for the more affordable lunch. Many people must have had the same idea as the lunchtime slots were almost all taken when we made our online booking some weeks in advance.
Housed in the Casa Gallardo building, an old building with intricate details, it was not easy to find El Club Allard Madrid as there was no obvious signboard indicating its existence. It is best to note from the map its location at one corner of the rectangular Plaza de España (above picture). Once inside, we found ourselves in an elegant but simply decorated restaurant
There were three options for lunch. We elected to have the most basic 10 course lunch at 86 Euros per person.
As we took one of the few remaining late lunch slots of around 3 pm, we were grateful to have a selection of beautifully baked bread offered to us quite promptly. The bread was top-notch but what was even more memorable was the superb olive oil that was served. Pure yet complex tasting, this was the best olive oil we had tasted in a long while. The 5 Euros per person ‘cover charge’ was reasonable considering the happiness we got out of the bread.
A dish containing a humus-like dip was offered. We were encouraged to eat the El Club Allard name card with the dip. We hesitated at first, in case the real message was getting lost in translation. We finally complied after checking with more members of the staff. The card was made of potato. It tasted and felt like a light wafer biscuit. Quite an unusual way to start a meal!
The first course was smoked eel with a white coconut sauce. A strange combination but the tastes worked well together.
Next was the shot of butter fish and white asparagus. The shot glass contained a butter based emulsion with fish and asparagus tastes. The small piece of toast had real fish eggs and globules of olive oil made to look like eggs. We liked the very rich and powerful seafood taste in this small dish.
The third course was egg and truffle cup cake. This was quite ordinary dish which did not leave much of an impression.
The fourth course was called “sea rice”. It looked like a small plate of risotto with some seashell ornaments. In reality, the ‘rice’ was bits of squid and we loved the taste and chewy texture and how the visual senses did not correspond to the taste on the palate. The crisp, delicate shells looked like jewellery.
Next came the three main courses which were meat items. The grilled duck with corn, the monkfish stew and black roast were all well-made items but lacked the wit and surprise of the preceding appetizer courses. The duck was served on a grill which emitted a mild smoky smell that flavoured the meat.
Before proceeding with dessert we should pause to acknowledge the excellent selection of wines by the glass that was available. We tried an assortment of whites and reds. We did not recognise any of them but they were all good and reasonably priced at around 5 Euros per glass.
Time for dessert and the creativity of the chef surfaces once again. The first was a ‘hibiscus flower’. It looked too pretty to be eaten, but we had to do what we had to.
Next was the chocolate cluster. This was the best of the three desserts offered. Different types of chocolate in terms of taste and texture.
Finally, the playfulness of the chef can be seen in the ‘Blackboard’ dessert. Pieces of pastry served on a “blackboard”. The taste was not exemplary but the dish made us feel younger.
Finally the meal ended on a sweet note with some complimentary Spanish sherry – Solera.
Chef Maria Marte made an appearance in the dining room to mingle with the diners. She is one of the friendliest celebrity chefs we have seen, taking time to speak to each table and posing for the cameras. Moving from the Dominican Republic to Madrid in 2003, she has moved up from washing dishes to one of the few female top chefs in Spain. She was made head chef at Club Allard in 2013 and successfully retained their two star rating. You can read more about this remarkable lady in this Guardian article – Washing dirty dishes to serving dazzling plates: Madrid chef’s journey to the top.
Our lunch at El Club Allard Madrid was indeed a wonderful experience. Good food, elegant restaurant and friendly, professional service.
Club Allard is within walking distance (about 15 minutes) from some of the major historical attractions of Madrid such as the Santa María la Real de La Almudena Cathedral (above picture) and the Royal Palace (below pictures). Access to the Cathedral was free and uncomplicated. There is an admission charge to get into the Palace and some queuing was needed to get in.
Overall Rating: 5 TOPs
El Club Allard
C/ Ferraz, 2 – 28008 Madrid
Tuesdays to Saturdays
Lunch: 13:30 (last orders 3:00 pm)
Dinner: 21:00 (last orders 10:30 pm)
The restaurant is closed all day on Sundays and Mondays.
During the month of August, due to holidays, the restaurant closes.
Tel : +34 91 559 09 39