Wednesday 28 May 2014

DiverXO, Madrid.

I'm not a very good food blogger. Tell us something we don't know, you're saying. What I mean is that I just find it difficult to review and describe every single course on an immense taster menu like the one we had at DiverXO recently. It's enough to photograph everything, and of course drinking wine throughout the meal makes it all a bit of a blur anyway. If you want a beautifully written fully detailed review check out Elizabeth on Food's recent post here. Hopefully though I can add our own personal experience to the mix.
I've been trying to make sense of our meal at DiverXO for a few weeks now. It was probably the most similar experience to El Bulli 10 years ago. It was shocking, confusing and incredibly intense. It blew our minds, it was all a bit much frankly. We left thinking, what just happened? We also spoilt our 'preparation' which is most annoying. We can only really afford just one three star meal like this in a year. After previous mistakes, we pride ourselves on getting ready for these things like Olympic athletes for the 100metre finals. (Or perhaps the marathon may be more appropriate). But we made our first mistake when we went to Street-Xo and La Gabinoteca for lunch. It was a rather large lunch, we were only in Madrid for a few days but I thought that if we finish eating at 3pm and are not having dinner until 9pm that'd be enough time. For any other meal then yes, probably. But this is epic, and nothing could quite prepare us for what lay ahead.
DiverXO is quite unassuming from the outside, our taxi driver didn't spot it, it's moving location soon anyway. We were shown through the preparation area and onto a lovely corner table with a fabulous view over to the kitchen. Just being here was a miracle in itself, we made the reservation several months previously and we were very lucky even then. The interior is stark and modern with cute model pigs with wings everywhere and black butterfly patterns stuck to the walls.
A beautiful Albarino the sommelier recommended.
We went for the full 11 course menu for €170. This was called the 'Peter Pan & Wendy Menu'. Indeed. It started off with a playful "It's showtime" A beautiful little corn, popcorn and "sour spicy explosions, umami, sweet and acids". This essentially involved us throwing little sweets making them splat on the 'canvas'. The food is served on white canvas like boards. All this is a fair indication that we were not in any conventional Michelin Star restaurant. 
The first proper course was a Coconut soup with clams, scallops and beans served in a half coconut. It was pleasant enough though it didn't blow us away. Then we were told you can eat the coconut 'flesh', it was plastic gel like with very little flavour. 
We really enjoyed the Sardines course. It is quite confusing though as all too often, they'd add extra bits, occasionally telling you; don't eat the bit yet!' In this case, they sprinkled tiny little crispy sardines over it at the table.
Kokotxas pil-pil was a stunner of a dish. I asked on twitter the other day if you could get Kokotxas (hake or cod throats) in the UK, it seems difficult but not impossible. It's another one of those things that the Spanish tend to keep to themselves. This had foie-gras in it, and the texture of the creamy fish was simply excellent.
The next course I think was a very rich Sheep's tongue.
Quite honestly, when they're telling me what the dish is I'm exactly the same as when listening to directions. I simply don't take it all in. 
To follow was one our favourites. It started off as a little joke. A tiny beautifully prepared dish of baby Prawns. They asked; did you enjoy it? 
Then they told us, 'no this is the actual course!' The full size version appeared but with huge juicy prawns. Probably the finest I've ever eaten too. We sucked the juice out the red head with real relish.
A super baby Iberico rib followed. Stunning.
Cod a la Bilbaina.
Cod tripe, spider crab, bacon, chives, soffrito sauce
Olive emulsion, bone marrow, papaya.
Rabbit served three ways.
We were starting to flag a bit now. This food is very rich with bold, punchy, intense flavours and it keeps coming! Mrs Bacon reluctantly threw in the towel and I followed with just one dish to go. We were absolutely gutted and saw it as a personal failure on our part. However we were able to finish with two superb desserts. The one I remember most of all is the one with Coconut Snow on it, as there are two little secret holes in the canvas. 
After paying the eye watering bill I made a go for the exit, I was half way out when Mrs Bacon shouted me back. Chef David Muñoz wants to meet you! She shouted as she was hugging the man! It was such a lovely touch. He'd seen my tweets in the day and knew we were making a big mistake eating that much at lunchtime! If I could do it all again, I would, but I'd starve myself all day as nothing is quite like this, it's almost an overwhelming experience.
The food David Muñoz is creating is completely idiosyncratic. An analogy that comes to mind is punk in music, kicking the door down in 1976, and like that, it appears to come from nowhere. (Appropriate as he has a mohican).
DiverXO is completely unique, unconventional, surprising, intense, and bewildering, quite unlike any other we've been to. But the most important bit is that it simply works. This may sound overblown but that can't be helped, it's how I feel about it. Eating here and StreetXo changed our view on food just little bit, just as El Bulli did, and that's priceless.

To see David Muñoz and the team at Diverxo in hi res click here.

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