Madrid Part 2: dining conceptually

Today we head to DSTAgE for lunch. DSTAgE is a ‘concept’, which essentially means they do interesting things with food and a lot of the things on the menu you won’t have seen before. It has 2 Michelin stars, so we’re expecting good things from the 14-course tasting menu. The first thing I’ll tell you, is that it isn’t easy to find. There’s no sign above the door and no name printed on the window, so we end up wandering up and down the street for a few minutes, with no idea where it is. Eventually, we hedge our bets and tried the only door without a sign above it, and it turned out to be the right place – perhaps you need to locate them conceptually or something?

Now, I’m not going to lie to you, there were a few properly weird things on this menu, and they weren’t things that I would necessarily be keen on eating again. But, it’s a 14-course tasting menu and it’s a ‘concept’ so there are bound to be some odd things on there. Despite some strange textures, tastes and combinations, it’s interesting to see what these conceptual chefs manage to do with food. How they come up with these ideas and make these things edible, I’ll never know.

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We start off with a squid something or other (as I recall, it was squid, coated in squid, covered in squid) served at the bar on a bed of ocean paraphernalia, with plenty of wafty dry ice. This was followed by a prawn dish, which was made on a block of Himalayan salt (very on trend) in front of us and was topped with the ‘legs and moustaches of the prawn’. This sounds super weird and it was served on some kind of leaf at the kitchen, but it was surprisingly nice, considering we were eating moustaches.

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I disagree on all levels, however, with what I think was either our 6thor 7thcourse. They brought it to the table but refused to tell us what we were going to be eating, encouraging us to guess after tasting it, which would have been fine, if all the other courses hadn’t been described in minute detail. So, needless to say, we were incredibly suspicious of course 6 or 7 (whichever it was). It looked dubious, to say the least. It was brown and layered and had a suspect sheen to it. I was pretty sure I knew what it was at this point, but I was trying to convince myself that I couldn’t possibly be right, so I cut a piece off (it provided much resistance) and popped it in to my mouth.

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As soon as it was in there, I knew my guess had been correct. I chewed, experiencing feelings of both intense pleasure (because my guess was right) and incredible revulsion (because what I had guessed was not something pleasurable to consume). It did not go down easily, let me tell you that for free. It kept trying to resurface and I had to concentrate exceedingly hard so as not to gob it back out on to my plate. My gullet was putting up a fair fight against this going further down, and I don’t blame it for a moment. I’ll put you out of your misery if I must – IT WAS FISH SKIN. And not just one piece of fish skin, it was layers and layers of fish skin; it was akin to a fish skin lasagne and it was about as good as it sounds, which is disgusting, let’s be frank.

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The fish skin course over, it moved along much more pleasantly for the rest of the meal, meaning there was nothing I wanted to spit out. Even if I didn’t like every single course, I can appreciate the amount of effort that had gone into it. I had my meal with the wine pairing, which I think is worth it, but do be prepared for a bit of a bank breaker with this one, it was not cheap.

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Someone looks pleased with their candy floss…

We head back over to watch some more tennis. It’s obscenely hot sitting in the sun today and I’m concerned that I’m going to sweat myself down to 0% water content. We meet up with one of the tennis players’ father’s and spent a good chunk of the day with him and end up heading back to the hotel the players are staying at for a drink or two. I must admit, that when I say ‘we’, it is the royal ‘we’ in every sense, because I absolutely do not know a single tennis player and I’m 100% riding the wave of other people’s successes in life here.

We have another terrifying journey back to the apartment we are staying in. One of the cars put on to ferry the players about is arranged to take us back and we hop in. The guy has pretty limited English and we pull away and nearly smash into the back of a parked car. Close shave. It turns out that he has no real idea where he’s going and is jabbering at us in Spanish we aren’t really getting the gist of, until the hand signals come clear to me and I realise he wants us to put the directions on Google maps for him. This would have been fine, but he drove the whole way one handed with the phone in his hand, constantly turning around to try and speak to us, which is less than conducive to a smooth and un-hair-raising journey. We manage to make it back in one piece, but it was another journey resulting in some fairly jellied legs.

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The following day and it’s time to go home. We’ve got some time to kill in the morning, so we go for a wander around the shops in the area. We’ve been staying in Plaza de las Salesas; a square right in the middle of what I guess you would refer to of the ‘hipster’ quarter of Madrid. There are loads of vintage shops around there (I’m a big fan of second hand things) so cases in tow, we browse the retro clothes shops of Madrid. This area is well worth a visit – there’s SO much stuff in these shops and there are so many of them – you’d be hard pressed to come away without buying something (obvs I bought something). We took the opportunity to have an ice cream and make use of the instant camera I carted all the way here with me (an Instax Mini 90 if you’re interested), which returned a pretty cute result I feel, despite my hand looking completely weird.

Bonnie

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