Review: La Taberna Alhambra, Madrid

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It took me over 35 hours to reach Madrid from Tokyo and three flights. The plus side was I got to hunt down noodles and night markets in China en route. But despite these indulgences I was starving by the time I arrived.

To make matters worse, little sister who kindly came to meet me at the airport was brain addled due her “sleep is for the weak” campaign. It took her nearly 25 minutes and several wrong transfer buses and escalators later to meet me at arrivals.

Fortunately, she had done some research (by research, I mean, looked up some decent restaurants) and she ushered me promptly into La Taberna Alhambra on the way home.

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It resembled the typical Spanish eatery burned into my mind from trips in my childhood. High ceilings, wooden panelling, tiled floors and a perfect mix of rustic and functional, a space that somehow seems to invite you to call out to the tables next to you.

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Even better, chicken in a delicious sauce is plonked on the table in front of you, clearly as “thinking food” to help you decide what to order. My sister complained as she deftly separated meat from bone that she wished she could drink the sauce. I merely tried to lick the plate when no-one was looking.

We deliberated severely over the menu, finally settling on dishes we could see other diners tucking heartily into: the special of the day – a slow-cooked kid leg (of the baby goat rather than baby human variety) and a beautifully pink steak.

My sister is unfortunately gluten, dairy and egg intolerant, which somewhat limits the options. Since I hate wasting, I was worried this would limit my ordering options.

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No, it did not. It merely stretched my stomach. Not only did I devour the entire bread basket alone (I strongly feel Spanish bread is much neglected and I actually prefer it to French bread), I also ordered this DEEP FRIED GOAT’S CHEESE WITH BLUEBERRY SAUCE. I had been in Spain less than two hours and I was weeping with a mixture of ecstasy and sheer horror that I had accidentally dedicated my life to a land of sushi, when I couldn’t actually give two hoots about sushi. Give me deep fried goat’s cheese any day.

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Although I was worried that I was already quite full by this point, the waiter brought what resembled a limb from a small dinosaur and set it down in front of us, and a sizzling steak.

The kid leg was divine. Like a lighter version of lamb, it fell away from the bone in juicy morsels. We could barely speak as we shovelled mouthful after mouthful of simple meaty bliss into our mouths, dunking the chips in the light gravy as we went.

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The steak, however, was a mistake. Although flavoursome, it was so chewy that I am sure it would challenge even the most seasoned of masticators. We sent it back and got some pork with mustard sauce on order.

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This was a much better choice as pork/mustard is a combination that never disappoints. The only thing was that it came with crispy onions on top – which my sister says are alarmingly popular in Spain – whereas caramelised onions would have been a far tastier choice (in my humble opinion).

On completing our meal, the waiter offered us coffee and drinks, which we refused on account of being ready to burst. However, he brought us some kind of milk-based liqueur on the house – which my sister says is pretty standard. Again, I live in a land where there is often a butter shortage so getting a free dairy-based item was amazing.

There remained only one problem: how to actually drag ourselves out the restaurant back to her apartment.

La Taberna Alhambra 4/5 – Comforting cooking at the right price point and friendly service. Portions fit for kings. Or queens. Maybe even emperors/empresses.

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