El Club Allard

Taking advantage of a transfer in Madrid, after a trip around Central Europe, we decided to explore (as usual) the gastronomical side of the city. Which included a reinforced breakfast at the San Miguel Market, where there was jamón, croquetas and pintxos, a digestive walk around town and a lunch at the restaurant El Club Allard.

As the name indicates, the restaurant was born as a private club, and in 2003 it opened its doors to the public under the command of Diego Guerrero, the chef who would take them to win two Michelin stars.

In this visit we took the Redoma Reserva Branco 2014 of Niepoort with us

We didn’t chose this restaurant for its Michelin stars (there are several in Madrid with the same award), what truly caught our interest was the story of María Marte, the chef nowadays heading the kitchen of El Club Allard.

María, a young Dominican girl,  who arrived in Madrid in the turning of the century, searching for a better life, taking all the jobs she could, from cleaning in a hair salon, to washing dishes at El Club Allard‘s scullery. Growing up and working her entire life in a small family restaurant, she was fascinated with the beauty and magic of a haute cuisine restaurant, dreaming of one day being behing the stoves herself.

That day arrived, after a few attempts, when a vacancy arised in the kitchen and she was given the chance to take it, as long as she wouldn’t leave her shift in the scullery, And so she did, for months she spent almost her entire day in the kitchen with a just a few moments to rest in the stairs. But her struggle paid off and in short time she took a main role in the kitchen, siding with Diego Guerrero when he conquered the two Michelin stars, in 2006 and 2011.

In 2013, with the unexpected departure of Guerrero, Maria took the full command of the kitchen, being able to keep the stars (a prowess, especially when few believed her capability) and molding the cuisine to her identity, taking some ingredients with which she grew to the Spanish haute cuisine.

An almost fairytale like story that led us to schedule this visit.

 The edible card with which every guest is awarded at the table, accompanying a light and tasty caramelized onion mayonnaise

Starting as a private club, the atmosphere of the restaurant still lives of that origin, without signs on the exterior with small rooms decorated in a minimalist way with classic details, where the white and gold details stand out.

Arriving, we are immediately welcomed by a wide team with smiles on and a kind word, taking care of our requests and bringing the caramelized onion mayonnaise to accompany the card decorating the table.

Followed a delicious selection of breads, with highlight to the tomato bread and the brioche, accompanied by an elegant olive oil.

By this time, the sommelier Javier Gila, was testing and approving the Redoma Reserva 2014 that would accompany the most part of the meal.

Smoked Eel, strawberries, coconut sauce, rocoto and almond

Right on the first snack of the menu, María shows the influence of Latin America, by introducing the rocoto pepper and the coconut. The result was an excellent combo of flavors and textures, which freshness of the elements went well with the more delicate and smoked side of the eel. A great start.

Butterfish Shot, white asparagus and ikura

A dish closest to the Spanish avantgarde, with the buterfish broth (of which I’m not quite a fan) working very well with the white asparagus foam, making an interesting Sea / Earth game, the sea explosion happens by tasting the toast, which we should alternate with the shot, made of algae and ikura (salmon roe).

Cupcake of eggs and truffle

This cupcake is one of the main signatures of the last menu by María Marte, made of cassava, quail egg and a spinach foam with truffle aroma. In the mouth, the result is an explosion of greasiness (which I love) thanks to the quail egg yolk. I wouldn’t miss the truffle aroma.

Usuzukuri of Red Snapper, Pico de gallo Mousse, tomato and asparagus cream

A dish flying between Japan and Mexico, from the thin slicing of the fish (usuzukuri) to the pico de gallo mousse, a mexican combo of onion, tomato and coriander. Once again, the result is a fresh combination, as it should for a first starter, technically flawless and full of flavor.

Ocean Rice

The dish is described as simply as that, the client being in charge of discovering its ingredients and its flavor. Well, in reality it’s not rice, but squid, cut like rice, and cooked with algae and plankton, developing an ocean flavor, unique and irresistible. Curiosly, the rice is present in the dish through the small crunchy bits in form of shells that come with it. Very, very good!

 Grilled Duck with fake sweet corn 

The charming mini barbecue the dish is served in, has the purpose of slightly smoking the dish, bringing to the table another dimension and aroma. Delicate duck, perfectly cooked, with a tasty sauce reminding the typical barbecue sauce. The corn is made with Peruvian corn, molded to resemble a mini corncob. Another good combination between the chef’s origins and the haute cuisine details.

Turbotsmoked arbequina olive oil and vegetables

A dish with a less bold look, to start the main courses, showing there’s also room to respect the classics, like in the good old private clubs. Big size turbot, flawlessly cooked, baby vegetables nicely prepared and turned,with a pil pil made with basis on smoked arbequina olive oil and the natural gelly of the turbot. The sauce was a great link between all the elements.

Till this point the meal was accompanied, as we said, by the wonderful Douro white, Redoma Reserva 2014 from Niepoort. A wine of complex aromas, an amazing integration of wood and a fresh and mineral mouth, with unique elegance and acidity, allowing it to accompany, very well, the lighter and fresher dishes of the menu. Another proof that 2014 was a great year to the Douro whites.

Baby Lamb shoulder, okra and date gnocchi 

Tasty meat, cooked on spot, moist and succulent, with an upstanding sauce from the roast. Accompaning was, nicely, the sweetness of the dates, the texture of the okra and the freshness of the yogurt sauce finishing the dish. A very well prepared classical dish.

Harmonizing, the choice of Javier Gila went to another Douro, more precisely a red from Ribera del Duero, a Viña Pedrosa Criança 2012. A 100% Tempranillo, or as we say here, a Tinta Roriz or Aragonês,with a power and elegance making a great pairing.

Hibiscus and pisco sour 

As pre dessert comes another dish that’s already signature of the chef, an hibiscus flower with pisco sour and a pistachio crumble. A brilliant palate cleanser with contrast of acidity and sweetness in a beautiful homage to María’s origins.

Pear and Pineapple

For the first dessert arises something much to my taste, little sweet, light and fresh. A small bonbon filled with pear and pineapple, a creamy and tasty explosion and a small french Toast with yogurt foam, also tasty. Very good!

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Chocolate stones

Chocolate stones, mint foam, pepper ice cream and olive oil bread, are elements of this last dessert in which they all work well individually, with flavores that could also match, but to which is missing a connecting element, namely a cream or liquid, once the ice cream can’t perform that role to perfection.

Petit fours

To finish an already long meal, a delicate infusion accompanied by the petit fours, presented as a school board, where we are allowed to play with the orange chalk while tasting the ginger letters or the yuzu cookies. An ending that brings a smile to all guests.

The Service was close to perfection, with the necessary courtesy, formality mixed with relaxation in the righ moments and a correct knowledge of the entire menu. The stars in fact don’t come to chance, and the service, so many times forgotten, assumes a main role in the client’s experience.

Final Remarks 
We left El Club Allard with the feeling that in fact María Marte is much more than a real fairytale, her struggle and recognition are in fact very well deserved when taking in account all she puts in each dish. And it’s in those dishes we see her identity, almost in all of them we can find an ingredient or element that transports us to her origins and to latin cuisine. Her menus present a good combo between more innovating techniques and the more classical cookings of the main dishes, in a fusion that works well with image of the restaurant. Dishes with few elements in which they’re allowed to shine their own way, not altering the flavors.

And like that, El Club Allard enters the limited group of the best restaurants in Madrid (the competition is huge, and good) with the only woman distinguished with two stars and a history worth knowing at the table, through a delicate service of vibrant flavors. ‘Till next time!

El Club Allard
C/ Ferraz, 2 – Madrid – Spain
+ 34 91 542 95 89

 Versão Portuguesa

 Text: João Oliveira | Photos: Flavors & Senses with Sony A7S

Redoma Reserva 2014, courtesy of Niepoort.

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