I like a man who’s frank. And Daniel was graphically so. Within minutes of sitting down in El Apartamento, the restaurant near Puerta del Sol that he recently opened with four friends, we were discussing childbirth. Specifically, his wife’s upcoming parturition. But rather than put us off our beef cheek, his easy-going personality paired perfectly with his restaurant: modern, relaxed, light – the kind of place that can swing both ways: sharing plates at the bar with friends, or a sit-down meal with the in-laws.
I glanced at the menu and liked the mix as well as the prices. Daniel suggested we try four dishes: the croquetas and the foie to start, then the carrillera de ternera (stewed beef cheek) and caballa en escabeche (mackerel in brine).
Let’s cut to the chase.
I’ve never been a big champion of the sacred croqueta – like the tortilla de patata it’s a Spanish comfort food that’s regularly overrated and usually disappointing. But these ones were excellent – creamy with strong, sharp flavours (we were served a selection of jamón, mushroom and goat cheese and caramelised onion croquets).
The foie – caramelised on its wee head and served with side of apple and pear jam – was a touch too sweet.
But the carrillera de ternera rolled back the years, sitting me at my grandmother’s table. It had a wonderfully meaty flavour, and collapsed under our forks. Delicious.
The caballa en escabeche was intriguing, but didn’t totally work. The vinegar overpowered. A smaller serving would have been better.
Finally, one of the waitresses suggested carrot cake for dessert (€5.00). Baking, and specifically baking carrot cakes, has become desperately trendy in Madrid. And, as it is with any food tainted by trend, most of the cakes are piss poor – too spongy or too dry. Happily though, El Apartamento’s cake was among the best I’ve had in the capital.
So, where does that leave us? The dishes that were good were very good and there’s something beguiling about El Apartamento, something drawing me back. The menu strikes a balance between dishes you know and dishes you’d like to get to know. There are plates for sharing, plates for individuals, and a number of dishes are available as half portions. You can grab a table, or simply sip and pick at the bar. The space is inviting and the location, five minutes by foot from Sol, is ideal.
Also, for hot and hungry tourists, the €14 lunch menú del día (three courses, plus wine) makes El Apartamento an excellent entre-museum stop for reasonbly-priced, modern Spanish food.
Verdict: I’ll be back as a paying customer.
Disclosure: My meal was paid for by the restaurant.
Calle Ventura de la Vega, 9
917 554 402
Metros: Sol, Sevilla