This second establishment opened by the Grupo DeLuz & Cía in Madrid (La Carmencita was the first), is sure to hit the mark if you're going out in search of tapas and small plates to share. A designer tavern that's appeared in culinary magazines as well fashion and interior design/decorating publications, and where reservations are highly recommended the closer you get to the weekend.
Javi and Sega are the yin and yang of restaurant servers who keep everything aligned, including that delicate balance between taking their work seriously and being friendly with the customers. The staff is young yet experienced, keeping the time between the kitchen and the dining room well-coordinated, and the ambience lively and diverse.
The service maintains and reflects the constants of their culinary offering. The menu is the size of a British tabloid, and boasts about 80 dishes. It's impossible not to find something you'll want to sink your teeth into. Everything we tried on our visit was tasty, cooked to perfection, fresh and in decent portions – from the typically Spanish canned delicacies (very meaty anchovies) to the Cantabrian steak tacos, the fried calamari starter or the scrumptious desserts.
They know what they're doing when it comes to traditional dishes with a touch of sophistication, and noticeable attention to presentation. They've managed to take a tapa such as the 'ensaladilla rusa' (Russian salad) and make it into new classic, with four different versions. And in that raising of the bar on something so well-known is where their greatest virtue lies.
Their philosophy is beyond reproach. They're always looking for the organic component in their food as well as their wine cellar, keeping in mind what's in season, and going for the artesanal while still keeping the price down when the bill arrives at your table. They work with respect and commitment to their roots, having kept more than just the name of the owners before them – the striking bar still sands, and they still serve their 'slow fish'–certified cod.
You won't have to say 'I'll be back' about Celso y Manolo because you will go back at least two or three more times to keep sampling from their extensive menu, like the home-made paté, rice dishes or the menu item with the fun description 'affordable shellfish that won't give you a fright'.
|Venue name:||Celso y Manolo|
|Opening hours:||Daily 1pm-5pm, 8pm-midnight|
|Transport:||Gran vía (M: L1, L5), Banco de España (M: L2)|