Madrid Fusion is an annual highlight of the Spanish gastronomic calendar and is now in its 16th year. Rupert Parker goes along to see what’s new
In the years I’ve been coming to this festival, I’ve always looked forward to the wild and the wacky, but this time I’m sadly disappointed. Apart from Angel Leon from 3* Aponiente in Cadiz demonstrating that he can make fish skin, prawn shells and even scales edible, there was more emphasis on technique and just plain hard work. Maybe that’s just a sign of how our tastes have matured, both as eaters and as chefs.
Of course, fermentation is something that’s now part of the mainstream, as is sourcing locally and cooking seasonally. The wild boys have matured and their heirs are consolidating their culinary philosophy. They’re hailed as the “Fourth Generation, those who consolidate the future” which seems to be stretching the point a little, as a generation is usually longer than 20 years. Still, there’s little doubt that the young guns are worthy successors.
Most impressive is Sebastian Frank, the Austrian chef from the 2* Horvath, in Berlin, and crowned European chef of 2018 at the conference. One of his techniques is to concentrate the flavour of celeriac by baking it in salt and then leaving it for a year. He cracks it open and displays the shrunken dehydrated remains, ready to be shaved onto his dishes.
He joins a strong international presence with the Philippines, Israel, Russia, Germany, Japan and Portugal all here in force. And it’s three young Portuguese chefs, all with Michelin starred restaurants in Lisbon that make me want to get on the bus and eat there.
Joao Rodrigues of Feitoria limits himself to just three ingredients for each dish but with the quality of local fish and seafood that’s not a problem. Alexandre Silva, of tiny Loco, with only 20 covers, serves 80% fish and makes his own fish sauce from oysters and fish cleanings. Brining and pickling is another element of his cooking with some sort of escabeche always on his menu. Henrique Sa Pessoa, of Alma, is bringing traditional bacalhau (salt cod), into high end dining, coating it in olive powder and cooking it sous-vide.
Further away is Manila, and Jordy Navarra, from Toyo Eatery, demonstrates why Filipino flavours are so unique. He’s constantly exploring the different regions of his huge country, discovering new ingredients and techniques. Fermentation is something that happens naturally in the Philippines because it’s so hot and humid. Buro is from the province of Pampanga and is a condiment made from salted shrimp and cooked rice and left to ferment for days. It’s a tasty addition to Jordy’s pork with dried shrimps, which he wraps in mustard leaves.
On the last evening I’m invited to eat at the 2* Coque, the new home for Chef Mario Sandoval, right in the centre of Madrid. The restaurant has been open for less than six months so it’s an opportunity to catch up on the latest developments in Spanish gastronomy. I start in the bar with a special cocktail and three amuse-bouches. Then it’s down into the cellar with a glass of Fino sherry and two more bites.
Next I’m in the kitchen where his team of over 20 are operating like a well-drilled team, preparing my next umpteen courses. I get a wheat beer with a couple more tapas, suckling pig and partridge before settling down in the dining room. 11 courses arrive, all with matching wines. Standouts include prawns in a succulent bisque, tuna fish cheek with tree tomato stew and the house speciality – slow cooked and lacquered suckling pig on a bed of charred lettuce.
This has been an astounding gastronomic tour but I can’t help thinking of a presentation in the main auditorium earlier in the day. Juan Roca of 3* El Celler de Can Roca has brought his 80 year old mother, Montserrat Fontanet, all the way from Girona to cook her mint soup. It’s a simple combination of water, oil, salt, bread, egg and mint, which she’s been serving in her restaurant, Can Roca, for the last 50 years. Her set menu costs just 11 euros, so who says Spanish gastronomy has to be expensive?
The 17th Edition of the Madrid Fusion International Gastronomy Summit will take place in early 2019 in Madrid, Spain.
Madrid Fusion Manila will take place between 19-21 April in the Philippines.
The Novotel Madrid Campo de las Naciones Hotel is walking distance from the conference centre.
Visit Madrid has information about the city.
Spain Info has information about the country