Opinion – Josimar Melo: Notes from Madrid

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Back on the international circuit, where things happen again (and let us in), in March it was time to visit the Spanish capital to participate in the Madrid Fusión event.

It was a true celebration of the end of the pandemic (which we hope will be confirmed!). Large gastronomy events have become frequent in the last twenty years, and both gained importance and became unavoidable pretexts for travel by professionals and gourmets. Spain, a new gastronomy mecca, hosted at least two of them: Gastronomika, in San Sebastian, and Madrid Fusión.

It has become a privileged showcase for the new trends in Spanish cuisine, led by chef Ferran Adrià, but also for new talents hitherto hidden within its borders. It was where Gastón Acurio, from Peru, emerged; Seiji Yamamoto, from Japan; René Redzepi, from Denmark; Pascal Barbot, from France; Alex Atala, from Brazil.

Now, after an in-person hiatus produced by the pandemic, Madrid Fusión has fully returned to activity, celebrating twenty years of existence, and welcoming speakers such as Albert Adrià, Joan Roca, Dabiz Muñoz, from Spain; René Redzepi and Ramus Munk, from Denmark; Henrique Sá Pessoa, from Portugal; Antonia Klugmann, from Italy; Héctor Solís, from Peru; Hisato Hamada, from Japan; Mario Castrelón, from Panama; in addition to the Ukrainian chef Ksenia Amber, from Odessa, who received a standing ovation at the end of the event.

Not to mention the record participation in its history: there were 16,500 visitors, 1,771 registered for the lectures, in addition to 1,031 journalists.

It seems that it was the harbinger of the return of the great personal get-togethers (with their debates and meetings) between chefs and lovers of the kitchen, who during the pandemic had only pale virtual versions, devoid of human warmth.

In Madrid, I stayed in a hotel that was a pleasant surprise: the Pestana CR7, beautifully located on a charming corner of Gran Vía. You read that right: this line of hotels, from the Portuguese chain Pestana, bears the signature of the player Cristiano Ronaldo.

What could she offer? Confirming my initial slight apprehension, yes, it carries the football star’s marketing, but reduced to a discreet lobby showcase with products that bear his brand.

Other than that, what I found was a modern boutique hotel, well adapted in an old and charming building, with compact but well-designed and comfortable rooms, as well as a bar and a restaurant on the top terrace overlooking the beautiful avenue in Madrid.

And, in them, a curious menu: neither Portuguese nor Spanish, but Italian. And well resolved: pizzas for the more hurried and less wealthy traveller, dishes with a more contemporary finish (like an eggplant parmigiana enriched with fried and crunchy slices of the vegetable), and, without departing from Italy, but paying homage to Iberian traditions, a succulent dish of cod.

The Madrid adventures included a long and surprising lunch at DiverXO, a multi-starred restaurant by chef Dabiz Muñoz, known for his irreverent and multicultural cuisine (as well as his Mohawk). About this lunch, a separate article is needed. I have to say, however, that after eating there and in other great restaurants, and on the eve of saying goodbye to Madrid, a little bit of the local and ancient flavor was missing.

I got an address from the hotel concierge that I could walk to and that a Madrid native like him (not a foreign guest) would go to in search of a dish of tripe (callos a la madrileña). And so I discovered a pub called Bodega de la Ardosa, founded… 130 years ago.

In the crowded little room, I squeezed on a stool in front of a small counter, drank vermouth and white wine, ate sepia croquettes and attacked the tripe served in the ceramic bowl. Then I was able to set sail with a peaceful heart.

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