Monday, 12 April 2010

El Restorante Goya in the Hotel Ritz Madrid

The Hotel Ritz in Madrid is absolutely gorgeous and totally luxurious - and their flagship restaurant El Restorante Goya is no exception to this rule. Offering gourmet interpretations of traditional and classic Spanish cuisine, they pride themselves on their innovative menu and exceptional service.

We had a drink in the hotel lounge (pictured above) before our dinner. Unfortunately it was impossible to take photographs in the restaurant as the lighting was very low and anyway, it was not really the sort of place one would feel comfortable taking pictures! We had booked a table for 8.30 which is early for Spain. Most people do not eat their evening meal until 9.30 or 10 pm. Sadly I'm one of those folks who "get too hungry for dinner at 8" so even waiting till 8.30 felt like a stretch, particularly as we had been travelling all day! Still it was not long until we were seated comfortably at an intimate table for two in the plush surroundings of the restaurant.

I struggled a bit with the menu. Although I am not vegetarian, I am very careful about what I eat and am concerned that meat be ethically raised. I had expected suckling pig to be on the menu as it is a delicacy in Spain and when in Rome - or in this case Madrid - you do kind of have to accept what the locals eat - although I had no intention of eating it myself. Sadly, the main alternatives to suckling pig were suckling lamb and suckling veal. (I do eat Rose veal, which is ethically raised, but I really think that veal is in itself such a young meat that serving suckling veal really is a step too far). In fact, on the whole of the menu there was only one vegetarian option and it was a starter.

I opted for a salad to start, which featured asparagus and a poached egg. The asparagus was very good, as was the salad. I never did locate the poached egg, but I believe it may well have been incredibly lightly poached and perhaps formed part of the salad dressing. I did not like to think too much about this, but the salad was utterly delicious and I enjoyed every bite. My husband had a very nice fish ravioli starter which he thoroughly enjoyed.

Sadly he ordered the suckling pig for main course. A frequent visitor to Majorca as a child, he grew up eating it and has always seen it very much as pig - whereas all I can think about is piglet! I did taste a very small bite to keep the peace and it was delicious, but I could never actually order it for myself. The only main course I fancied was a scallop and lobster dish. I was a bit shocked when it arrived as while the suckling pig had side dishes with it, none came with my dish (nor were they offered separately on the menu), so all I had were a few small scallops and three tiny pieces of lobster dressed with a few leaves. I ate as slowly as I possibly could, cutting everything into very tiny pieces, but even that only gave me eight bites! And as the dish was priced at 39 euro, that meant each tiny bite cost nearly 5 Euro. Now I eat out a lot, and I often eat in expensive restaurants, but this was a step too far. I don't mind spending money on good food - nor do I mind paying for atmosphere, but I've eaten in other Ritz hotels and while they may be expensive, I've never experienced a dish that small and pricey. (They were only ordinary scallops and ordinary lobster, nothing special.)

Of course, being a Ritz hotel, the wine list was amazing - but it was so voluminous my husband simply opted for one of the recommended wines on the menu. (Seriously chaps, small print and low lighting make it impossible for anyone over the age of thirty-five to read anything easily in a restaurant!) The wine we ordered was a Spanish Voignier and it tasted really lovely. The bouquet was very strange though and never did improve even after the bottle had been open for some time. I thought it was an odd wine to recommend, but perhaps the bouquet was due to heavy oak aging, something many people really enjoy but that I am not keen on.

At 20 Euro a dessert, and after the experience of the tiniest main course I have ever seen in my life, I decided I did not want anything, and my husband agreed. To the credit of the Ristorante Goya, the coffee we did order was accompanied by the most beautiful plate of what in England would be called petit fours - several exquisite and delicious chocolates and delicate biscuits. They were beautifully presented and there was two of everything.

I'm glad to have had the experience of eating in El Restorante Goya, but I would struggle to recommend it. Although the service is wonderful and the food delicious, the menu is very limited and restrictive. It is also very, very overpriced. I felt we got good value for money in terms of our room at The Ritz, because although it was expensive, it was worth every cent. But the dinner at El Restorante Goya quite simply was not. I never mind paying high prices for really good food, but I insist on good value, and nothing about our dinner offered that.

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