Mesón Cinco Jotas: modern tapas in the centre of Madrid
Mesón Cinco Jotas is a success story of a chain of restaurants doing a great job! With branches in Madrid, Barcelona, Seville and even in the Portuguese capital Lisbon it can easily lose track of quality, but this is not the case of the Mesón Cinco Jotas in Madrid as the restaurant/tapas bar is serving excellent and innovative tapas in a modern environment in the middle of the historic part of town.
Atmosphere: Modern, fresh and casual. Sitting between a heard of colourful bulls on one side and real life-size hanging hams on the other you know that you are not dining at a vegetarian restaurant. Meat is omnipresent in most of Spanish tapas places and Mesón Cinco Jotas is not an exemption. Central location attracts many tourists, but locals blend in quite high proportion so I cannot classify it as a tourist hangout. Its casual interior suggests that dress code is not a topic to be worried about, therefore wear anything you find yourself in while browsing the labyrinth of the old town.
Food: An innovative take on typical Spanish tapas. The plates are rarely simple, with the exemption of fried green peppers with crumbly smoked salt, which are a staple vegetable tapa in Spain. They make them superb here – not too oily, large in size, with more depth thanks to use of the smoked salt instead of the usual white salt. Tortilla (a thick egg omelette) with fresh bread is served before your order comes and it is hard not to eat it all as both are very good.
Of course you can also have a slice of Jamon Ibérico, the hard and intense Manchego cheese and other Spanish meats and cheeses, but it is the careful experimentation with traditional dishes that they do so well here, so you must try at least one of their ‘old made new’ plates as well.
Salmonejo is an Andalusian style of cold soup made from tomatoes, bread, vinegar, garlic and oil. It is different from gazpacho since it is more thick and creamy, because of the bread. Dried Spanish Serrano ham and diced hard-boiled eggs are added as a garnish. They must have used high quality tomatoes in this soup as it tasted so smooth and elegant that if too ripe or unripe tomatoes were blended in you would recognise it on the palate. It is very filling as well, therefore ordering a lighter second and third course is a smart choice.
I went through a different way though – the stones-in-your-belly feeling after your lunch requiring a long siesta dining style. I could not resist trying Morcilla, the Spanish take on a slightly spicy blood sausage. A great risk paid off. The Morcilla served on a red pepper puree, full moon-shaped potatoes and topped with a green olive cream dollop was superb! One of the best I have ever had. The ingredients freshened it up and calmed the racy flavours of the blood sausage so each bite fashioned almost a yin-yang taste of harmony.
My friend got Grilled squids and she was also impressed by her choice. Gently grilled, not burned or undercooked, sharing a plate with a vegetable ratatouille and the squids’ own black ink sauce, the dish looked not only gastronomically seductive, but it also tasted very good as my friend confirmed.
Cuisine: Contemporary Spanish tapas.
Visit: November 2012
Price: Medium (for the quality and quite generous portions this a very good deal in central Madrid).
Drinks: Wines by the glass or “una copa de sangria” (a glass of sangria) are an option for light drinkers. I had a glass of red wine that I did not like much so I ordered a glass of sangria that was lighter in alcohol than I am used to and therefore ideal for lunch. They have Spanish wine list that is not super extensive but covers many regions of Spain with at least one example.
Plaza de Santa Ana, 1; Madrid 28012, Spain
Contact: Tel: +(39) 915 22 63 64