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Coque in Humanes de Madrid - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 92.
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Restaurante Coque in Humanes de Madrid, some 18 miles south of Madrid, is a third-generation family restaurant, currently run by three brothers. Mario Sandoval is the executive chef, Diego Sandoval the restaurant manager, and Rafael Sandoval serves as sommelier. The restaurant is named after the Sandoval brothers' grandfather, who opened the establishment (then a cafe) in 1949. Mario Sandoval succeeded his mother in the kitchen in 1999 and in 2003 (2004 guide) the restaurant was awarded a Michelin star. In November 2015 (2016 guide) Michelin promoted the restaurant to two stars.

Coque is open for lunch Tuesday through Sunday and for dinner on Friday and Saturday and you can chose between two multi-course tasting menus. There's the 11-course "Max Wood Menu" for €100 (excluding 10% VAT) and there's the 14-course "Archeology Menu" for €140 (excluding 10% VAT). I had lunch with my husband at Coque on Saturday 30 January 2016 and we both ordered the Max Wood Menu.


(courtesy of Coque)
 


Lunch at Coque starts with an aperitif or cocktail in the restaurant's swanky wine cellar, accompanied by 5 appetisers. First up was a so-called "sour grape" with a crisp casing and a liquid Sauvignon Blanc filling, quickly followed by a fabulous black garlic and goat's cheese macaron. The next two were potato blini topped with mushroom mousse and strips of Iberian ham seasoned with paprika, and a wonderfully crisp and intensely flavoured red wine meringue with a beetroot foam centre. Finally there was a delicious, crisp carrot sandwich with a Pedro Ximénez ice cream filling. Five splendid appetisers with attractive and detailed flavours, each as satisfying as the one before. But there was more.






 
Next we were taken into the kitchen where we were greeted by chef Mario Sandoval and his team (¡Hola!). In a space just outside the kitchen, near the restaurant's ancient wood-burning oven, we were served two more appetisers. A creamy almond soup was served with a delicately flavoured peanut ice cream and some olive oil, but best of all was a dish of crisp Batavia lettuce with beef and tomato stew, served under a dome filled with smoke, which added a nice smoke-kissed touch. We also got a quick look inside the oven, where a suckling pig was roasting away gently.


 



Once seated in the dining room, which is on the first floor of the restaurant, we were served a lovely intense "brew" of mushrooms, juniper, coffee, and Armagnac, brewed tableside in a coffee maker. A nice and original touch.


The first course of the tasting menu was a hare stew bao brushed with spicy mustard. A simple but pleasing dish, the hare stew being nice and refined, and the mustard delivering a lovely spicy finish. The second course was comprised of two flavoursome bites: a sweet tomato "bonbon" with a houmous and braised pork collar filling, served with smoked tomato juice, and a spoon with houmous and tomato mousse mildly seasoned with mint. 



Next up was a dish, described on the menu as "Gastronomic seeds on 5 different continents". Aubergine seeds represented Asia, courgette Africa, tomato the Americas, cucumber Oceania, and once more tomato for Europe, all exceptionally flavoursome. Each "continent" also had its own seasoning, such as oregano for the Americas and poppy seeds for Europe. Also on the plate was a light passion fruit sauce that worked surprisingly well.


On to the fourth course, a combination of two classic escabeche dishes, seabass and partridge, served with strips of carrot, apple vinegar and olive oil. A lovely marriage of flavours and the vinegar packed a real punch. 


Fifth course was perfectly tender squid coated with a rich and flavoursome Callos a la Madrileña sauce (a traditional Madrid-style tripe stew) mixed with squid ink, and succesfully paired with trompette de la mort mushrooms, and mushroom crunch. An exquisite dish with incredibly rich and deep flavours, the briny flavours of the squid still coming through beautifully.


Equally rich and fabulous was a dish based on "Polle en Pepitoria", a classic Spanish chicken stew with an egg and almond-thickened sauce. Here the egg was just the yolk, which was soft and runny, and accompanied by little cubes of moist chicken, chopped juicy mushrooms, and a Pepitoria sauce (in this case just thickened with almonds, I believe), and finally some freshly grated black truffle. A very clever and refined take on a Spanish classic with deliciously warm and rich flavours, the chicken adding a touch of lightness and texture.


The next dish reached 10 on the scale of richness. A raviolo was filled with an incredibly rich filling of oxtail and shin, and served with an even richer pork sauce and topped with two slices of hare fillet. A rib-sticking affair of big, bold flavours, to be savoured in all their glory.


Eighth course was Cochinillo (suckling pig), one the restaurant's most celebrated and prized dishes. The suckling pig is slow-roasted in a wood-burning oven that's over half a century old (the one we got to see at the beginning of the meal), and simply served with two small cubes of roasted pear, topped with roasted pear puree and garnished with dill. A stupendously delicious suckling pig, with the most magnificent, deeply bronzed crackling.


 

The meal ended with three desserts. First to arrive was a smooth blood orange sorbet placed on top of a little sponge cake, and served with Pedro Ximénez (jelly, cream and a sticky paste) and orange juice. I liked the sweet and tangy citrus flavours, but the Pedro Ximénez flavours could have been more profound. There was certainly no lack of flavour in the next dessert of wonderfully creamy and salty Idiazabal cheese ice cream nicely paired with cream and blackcurrants. A lovely flavour marriage, that in a way reminded me of cheesecake, but then a really powerful one. The dessert was accompanied by a dry ice cinnamon fog/aroma, which did add an extra dimension to the dish. Last in line was expertly made chocolate ice cream covered with a beautifully shiny chocolate glaze, and served with raspberry, pistachio crumbs, and a chocolate "leaf". A fantastic dessert with a well-judged use of sugar.


 

 

Restaurant experiences are very much about first impressions. How are you greeted? Do they seem happy that you're there? And there's always a lot to take in, figuratively and literally, at the beginning of the meal. There's the menu, the wine list. Do you want an aperitif? And often, whilst you're still deciding, the first nibbles start to arrive. At Coque they handle this process very smoothly. The start of the meal in the restaurant's wine cellar was a very relaxing affair. The first 15 minutes or so, were all about sipping on my cocktail and enjoying some amazing appetizers. Upstairs the meal was every bit as enjoyable. Today's menu had a high degree of originality with innovative flavour combinations, but most of all Mario Sandoval's cooking demonstrates a great interplay between tradition and modernity. This is done by incorporating a classic sauce like Callos a la Madrileña or a doing modern makeover of Polle en Pepitoria, but sometimes it's just a traditional technique, with no better example of this than the suckling pig. According to Michelin, two Michelin stars is "worth the detour", and Coque is certainly worth the half-hour trip from Madrid.





Restaurante Coque
Calle de Francisco Encinas 8

Humanes de Madrid, Spain

Posted 27-02-2016




 
 
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