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Santceloni in Madrid - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 90.
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Outstanding (93-95)
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Restaurant Santceloni at the Hesperia Hotel in Madrid was originally established by the late, Catalan three-star chef Santi Santamaria. Head chef since the opening in 2001 has been Santi Santamaria protogé Oscar Velasco. After attending the Segovia School of Hospitality, Velasco started his training at Benjamin Urdiain's iconic Zalacain in Madrid (Spain's first three-star restaurant in 1987) and restaurant Martín Berasategui in Lasarte (three stars since 2001), but spent his formative years at Santi Santamaria's restaurant Can Fabes in Sant Celoni (which held three stars from 1994 until the chef's untimely death in 2011 and subsequently closed in 2013). Michelin awarded Santceloni its first star in the year of the opening (2002 guide) and a second star was awarded in 2004 (2005 guide).

Santceloni is open for lunch and dinner Monday till Saturday (no lunch on Saturday). The restaurant offers a multi-course 'Grand Menu' for €180, an 8-course 'Gastronomic Menu' for €150 and there's an a la carte menu. I had lunch with my husband at Santceloni on Friday 4 April 2014 and we both ordered the 8-course Gastronomic menu.

Lunch started with seven appetisers. To start there was an elegant amuse bouche of marinated salmon and sliced pickled onions, served with the marinating juices. Next four delicious bites arrived: an aubergine, mint and Parmesan croquette - Algae and shrimp cracker with crisp baby shrimps - Meringue filled with a foie gras paté - Smoked quail's egg served in a crisp filo pastry cup. Then there was fresh, skinned tomato, served with a green gazpacho sauce and toasted garlic bread crumbs. The final appetiser was a clean tomato, vegetable (diced carrots, courgette and tomato) broth with suckling pig. A lovely and tasty selection of appetisers.










Shortly after the first course of the tasting menu was served. A crisp cracker, topped with dots of mild, smoky tomato puree, roughly chopped scallop tartare, sprinkled with Iberico ham crumbs and garnished with coriander shoots and finely chopped chives. The scallop had been marinated in sherry but unfortunately these flavours were not detectable. Overall however, this was a lovely dish with a nice contrast between the crisp cracker and the soft and creamy scallop tartare.


Second course was Langoustine a la plancha. Two meaty and succulent langoustines, served with Canarian potato, braised onions, grapefruit, avocado puree and fresh sorrel leaves. The braised onions had a nice soft texture and they had been seasoned with saffron. A lovely combination of flavours, the saltiness of the potatoes matching the marine sweetness of the langoustines nicely.


The next course on the tasting menu was a dish with artichokes, celeriac and black truffle, but I had replaced it with an a la carte dish, intriguingly described as squid noodle soup. First to arrive was a plate with fresh, squid 'noodles', onto which a gorgeous, umami-rich squid soup was poured, cooking to noodles to tender loveliness. Also on the plate were large and juicy morel mushrooms, pieces of courgette and carrot, strips of semi-dried tomato and an egg yolk, together creating a wonderful combination of textures. A lovely dish with earthy, rich flavours, the umaminess of the soup complementing the squid perfectly.


Fourth course was Scorpio fish served with sweet potato puree, flavoured with warm spices like cinnamon and cloves, a dark, umami-sweet fish reduction and a small pile of nutty, toasted garlic crumbs. A good dish, but overall it was lacking some refinement.


This was followed by a splendid Hare a la Royale, which was perfectly moist, intense, rich and luscious, as it should be. The hare was accompanied by crunchy onions (from Figueres) and a dark, well-reduced sauce, that had a great depth of flavour and a lovely syrupy consistency. Loved the clean and elegant presentation.



On to the sixth course, cheese! Santceloni offers an absolutely stunning cheeseboard with mainly Spanish cheeses, including a fabulous blue sheep's milk cheese (top, right).


Desserts were simple but flavoursome. First up was an elegant and refreshing pre-dessert of coconut ice cream, served on a 'salad' of pineapple, quince jelly, apple, fennel and confit lemon zest. Next were chunks of brittle and toasty hazelnut shortbread, accompanied by a mint foam, Italian meringue and lemon crème. A decent but slightly uninventive dessert.




Lunch at two-star Santceloni was a very enjoyable experience. The room is delightful, the service is attentive, but foodwise Santceloni didn't really live up to its two-star rating. Oscar Velasco is an accomplished chef who delivers well-cooked, flavoursome dishes prepared with great ingredients, but apart from the hare and the octopus (two dishes that stood out) the cuisine was slightly unremarkable. I guess I had expected a bit more resourceful cooking and more artistically presented dishes at this level, but it wasn't showcased in this menu. However, Santceloni does give you a pampered (if pricey) Michelin-starred experience and it is well worth a visit, even if only for the marvellous cheeseboard.



Posted 07-07-2014




 
 
 
 

 
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