After establishing a clientele in Cachivache (Serrano, 221), the Aparicio brothers set up a new place in the Retiro area. Opt for informal dining at the bar or book ahead to get a table in the small dining room. The interior design from Ping Pong Arquitectura, with its wood, exposed brick, marble and metal, is elegant yet relaxed, and makes good uses of the narrow space.
But the important thing is what comes out of the kitchen. We headed in without a reservation, so we sat happily at the bar. If you want wine by the glass, they've got a couple of Riojas, a couple of Ribera del Dueros, a local red, and several whites. That'll do you if you're just grabbing tapas, but if you want to order by the bottle to share, the wine list is full of 50 varieties and has some respectful showings (including some champagnes). The food menu moves between updated classics with a signature style and local favourite nibbles as well as several traditional stews that pay noticeable attention to good product.
We start off with some 'patatas bravas', the litmus test that shows how complicated it can be to make the simple remarkable. The sauce is a riff on a family recipe, and we could sit here for hours dipping our perfectly fried potatoes into it. These tapas are a must. As are their crisp and juicy 'torreznos' (gorgeous fried chunks of pork belly), which are cooked at a low temperature. The Russian salad, another national classic, is good enough though we didn't get that excited about this more compact version that didn't highlight each ingredient as we might prefer. From here we ask for advice, and we dare to try their oxtail with red curry, for something a bit different than usual, which turns out to be an excellent choice and speaks volumes to the breadth, versatility, and expertise La Raquetista's kitchen offers.