Hotel Zurbano, Madrid, March 28, 2013—
IN YEARS PAST, here in Madrid, we've liked La Fuencisla, on the Calle San Mateo, no. 4. Naturally I looked it up yesterday, our first day here, only to find it was in some question, with only a one reference on the Internet — dated July 4, 2007. The glowing description corresponded with what I remembered of the place, but was followed by three troubling and enigmatic comments:
Gerardo, 12:34 pm: There was a time I wanted to reserve, but no one answered the telephone. Is it still open?Now that last entry is ambiguous, No esta muerta could conceivably refer to either Señora Teresa or the establishment itself, if you stretch a grammatical point. So today we simply stopped by to see for ourselves.
Anonymous, 1:21 am: It's closed Señora Teresa died and it closes
Anonymous, 12:53 pm: She isn't dead and functions perfectly
Well, not so simply; I had described the location imperfectly in my book Mostly Spain, which I was ill-advisedly using as a source. Down one street and across to another we went, asking in at shops and apartment-house doorways, finally closing in on the location, where we found a hot-dog-and-hamburger joint-cum-cocktail-lounge, where a young man was perched on a ladder at the front door, washing the transom.
Is this La Fuencisla, I asked, doubtfully. Yes and no, he answered, La Fuencisla was here, but it changed four years ago. It changed, I said, did it change a lot?
Go in and have a look, he said, it's not the same. I peered inside. No, it was not the same at all. No old men playing cards at dusty tables, a bottle of wine at the elbow; no promising dining room beyond. No Señora Teresa of the delicious eponymous soup. Oh well: there was a perfectly acceptable place not far away, at the Center for Asturian Culture…
There we found the capacious and rather sleek dining rooms completely booked — no surprise; this is a holiday, Holy Thursday. We were given a nice table in the bar, though, with a plate of soft blue sheep's-milk Cabrale already at the center for us to dip hunks from a nicely-textured couronne of bread into.
We consulted the quirky English-language menu, featuring such things as mixted salad and seaworthy clams, and then compared it with the Spanish original, and ordered: a mixted salad, the house tortilla; a couple of ham tortillas, a bowl of soup for Mel, and — since I was hungry — ventresca, tuna belly. And expeditiously everything was brought at once, family-style, the tuna last, after we'd had a chance to do justice to the rest.
The Spanish tortilla is nothing like the Mexican one: it is an omelet. The house tortilla, though, was something else again: a huge wedge of what looked rather like a pink somewhat grainy angel cake: raw tomato purée folded into the beaten eggs, which are then cooked slowly, I'd guess, covered, in a casserole. The result is surprisingly delicate.
Mel's soup arrived in a big tureen, and the mixted salad was easily enough for the four of us, some of us twice. The ham tortillas were apparently quite good; I didn't get a taste. And my tuna was delicious: poached, perhaps, in olive oil; innocent of lemon or parsley or any such distraction; moist and succulent, and accompanied only by a few pleasant French fries.
We skipped dessert, but I had a very good espresso with my limoncello-like licor. Not quite up to La Fuencisla, but we live in the present…
Albariño, Mar de Frades, 2011: soft, present, nice finish—• Casa Hortensia, C/Farmacia 2, 2a Planta, Madrid; 915 390 000
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