In general, I was more impressed with the food I had in Madrid than in Barcelona. Since I was only in each city for 3-4 days, it’s a very small sample size, but Madrid far exceeded my expectations. Santceloni was no exception. It is a 2-star Michelin restaurant located in the Hesperia Madrid. The hotel itself is nothing to write home about, but Santceloni was spectacular in every way. The dining room was my favorite among all of the Spanish restaurants that I went to – it had an intimate atmosphere with warm lighting and modern decor. The service was top-notch and always on point. I never had to ask for anything because the servers were so attentive.
Overall judgment: 5 of 5 stars
From the service to the food, the dining experience at Santceloni definitely merits 5 stars. We ordered the Gastronomic Menu, which is 150 euros per person. (In general, we tended to order the smallest tasting menu offering at every Spanish restaurant we went to because we were eating out so often.) I thought that every dish was delicious and well thought out. The free-range chicken, in particular, was a standout dish. My mouth waters every time I think about it. The cheese selection was also the most impressive of any restaurant that I have been to. I left feeling incredibly satisfied with the whole experience. On to the meal:
Amuse bouches: ham and eggs, eggplant croquet, foie gras parmesan, shrimp flavored green chip. We started off with several amuse bouches. I really enjoyed the savoriness of the “ham and eggs” treat. The shrimp flavored chip had a wonderful, crispy texture.
Amuse bouches: salmon onion salad. The salmon was tender, and the chopped onions paired well with it. This was my favorite of the amuse bouches.Appetizer: tomato cube with fried onion and green gazpacho. You might not think that a tomato cube sounds very interesting, but this combination of flavors and textures worked well together. I enjoyed the crunchiness of the fried onion bits.Appetizer: cauliflower and vegetable soup. This deconstructed version of cauliflower and vegetable soup was delicious.Tuna in loins. Slightly salt cured, tender almonds and beet. This was one of my favorite dishes of the night. The tuna was incredibly fresh, but beyond that, there was a meatiness to it that I have never experienced elsewhere: it had a stringy, sinewy texture and was juicier than is typical for tuna. I thought the beets were watermelon at first and got really excited, but alas, they were rather bland pieces of beets that didn’t add much to the plate. Free-range chicken. Ratatouille, red pepper bittersweet and wheat crust. Oh, the free-range chicken. If I could have one dish from this tasting menu again, it would undoubtedly be the free-range chicken. The slices of chicken were so thin that you could have mistaken it for carpaccio. The flavoring was incredible. The ratatouille sauce that was drizzled over the chicken was delightfully delicious, with the perfect amount of spiciness. Cold peas cream. Mint, dried tomato, ham, squid noodles and curry. I’m not sure that the cold pea soup and the squid noodles worked that well together, but I liked the creativity.Fish of the day: sea bream. Scrambled eggs, breadcrumbs and red pepper oil. The fish of the day seems to be a staple of Spanish tasting menus. This sea bream dish was excellent. I’m very particular about fish dishes, because I think that too many restaurants overcook fish to the point where the fish no longer has a pleasant texture. In this case, however, the chefs expertly prepared the sea bream. It was lightly cooked and very tender, which is just the way I like it.
White pork rib. Courgette, garlic-lemon and barbecue sauce. Usually by this point in tasting menus, I’m ready for palate cleansers and dessert and stealthily deliver portions of meat to my boyfriend’s plate. Not this time, however. The pork was so tasty that I finished it all.
Assorted cheeses. The next course was the cheese course. Below is a picture of Santceloni’s very extensive cheese selection. The servers drop this enormous cheese table in front of you at the start of this course and then encourage you to try as many cheeses as your stomach can handle. Mix of Spanish cheeses. We opted for a selection of Spanish cheeses just to try something new. Our server chose a mix of different types of cheeses from local areas and proudly presented this carefully crafted plate to us.Fennel and basil slush. Celery, vodka and lemon sorbet. The next dish was the palate cleanser. I appreciated the acidity of the sorbet and “slush”.Strawberries. Fresh cheese, amaretto, coffee, mint and greaves. The strawberries were fresh and sweet, and they paired nicely with both the light cheese and coffee and amaretto-flavored cream. Petit fours. Petit fours were the perfect way to end our meal at Santceloni. As always, my favorite was the vanilla-flavored macaron. Overall, I had a wonderful experience at Santceloni. This meal restored my interest in Spanish fine dining for the rest of the trip. Believe it or not, I had gotten to the point where I was tired of tasting menus, and all I wanted to do was find the nearest hole-in-the-wall dumpling joint and eat the rest of my meals there. Well, I did find a dumpling joint (Zhou Yulong) in probably the sketchiest of locations beneath the Plaza de Espana, but I made the trek to Santceloni and couldn’t be happier with my decision.
Every dish at Santceloni was consistently high quality, and the service and dining room atmosphere were unarguably the best I experienced while in Spain. I would recommend Santceloni to anyone looking for a delicious fine dining meal in Madrid with impeccable service.
Santceloni, Paseo de la Castellana, 57, 28046 Madrid, Spain