Seldom does a new project like Gran Clavel have so much character and personality. A vindication of the traditional as something cool (which I love) that surprises with its “old-time” dishes updated to 2018. Vermutería, wine bar and house of meals are the three legs on which this project is based, and it will exploit your prejudices about dishes from the eighties.
The Gran Vía is resisting the onslaught of the big surfaces, and little by little it’s reclaiming its best version. What could have been another shop or a restaurant without grace, has become the showcase of Madrid to the world.
It’s the restaurant of Iberostar Las Letras Hotel, and it wants to be a letter of introduction to Madrid for all, whether they stay there or not. Because Gran Clavel is a vermutería, a wine bar and a house of meals. That said, it looks a bit old, but just take a look at its decoration. It has that retro and modern air at the same time, reclaiming the best design of the Spanish 60s.
Chef Rafa Cordón is a real crack. He started working at the family food house learning to make stews full of flavor and his restlessness about the kitchen led him to work with Paco Morales. Now he has launched to lead a recovery of dishes that so far seemed a little crappy, like the “shrimp cocktail in pink sauce.” And it’s triumphing in style.
Gran Clavel at first glance may seem like another one of those openings of 2018 in Madrid that shine but then turns out not to be anything special. I loved its concept, but since I had not tried it, I could not review my own experience. Until now.
A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to eat at Gran Clavel. After the (almost) obligatory vermouth with chips in the vermouth bar, we went to the food house. We looked at the menu and all the names of the dishes sounded familiar, but we knew that there were hidden gems.
The “prawn cocktail with pink sauce” at Gran Clavel is anything but obvious. It arrives inside the shell of a crustacean and the pink sauce is delicious. Not one of those rare boat mixes from the beach bars of the Spanish Levante. After an incredulous first bite, there were fights over the remaining sauce ☺
The “crispy Russian salad” was an authentic delicacy. Like many of the dishes of Gran Clavel, the good raw materials and a modern touch left us open-mouthed. A soft salad, delicate and nothing pasty that I recommend you try.
Next, two other dishes to share before the grand finale. Both, a recovery of traditional Mediterranean dishes: “grilled leeks with bechamel” and “rabbit and pickled vegetables”. Both leeks and rabbits have really disappeared from the menus of restaurants, but if they manage to make such good dishes, their inclusion should be mandatory. And I don’t even like leeks nor rabbits!
Not everything is entrées in Gran Clavel, its main dishes are a real whiplash. I ordered some “tripe with chickpeas”, a traditional dish where you can honor this commitment to the cuisine of Madrid. I’m not going to cheat you: it’s not light, but it’s one of those dishes that you have to eat at least once in your life. Much flavor and many trips, with a touch of spicy pips and very soft chickpeas.
I tried a few of the dishes of my friends, because they also looked great. The “pigeon rice” seemed to be made by someone who had been cooking for 50 years, and the “steak tartar” is rightly one of the specialties of the house. As you can see, very different dishes but executed with mastery.
To not clash, we couldn’t think of anything better than to ask for “strawberries with cream” for dessert, another quintessential dish for excellence. A very refreshing ending for a copious and powerful meal, which makes a good single coffee essential. Both the food and the charm of Gran Clavel invite long after-hours, as do the armchairs of the wine bar, to watch life go by.
Gran Clavel has more than fulfilled my expectations. It is neither a “restaurant for elderly gentlemen” nor one that is worth only to take a selfie for Instagram. One of the new restaurants in 2018 in Madrid that will most likely be a hit among the foodies, and I’m glad. Long live the authentic bon vivants!
Translated by Story Of Madrid, the podcast about Madrid in English.
Phone: +34 915.24.23.05
Opening hours: everyday 8:00 to 0:00 h.
Address: Gran Vía, 11, Madrid.
Gran Clavel on our map