Carlos Martín-Peñasco

The glaciers are melting, the ozone layer hole is an open gate for UV rays the size of the US and 2014 was the warmest year since 1880. With this outlook, it’s not out of the conversation to loudly announce the sea has reached Madrid. Fortunately, the reason is different and it’s got two names: Raw Bar and La Lonja.

Just over a month ago, in the monumental Plaza de Oriente, these two new gastronomic spaces opened their doors to delight the crowd with the best product in town, thanks to “half of the company being focused on the fishing business, owning fish markets across all of Spain and with direct access to top quality goods”, their chef tells us while working on shrimp and squid ceviches. The manager comes to say hello and bears out the information: “No fishfarms, ours is 100% wild fish”.

Raw Bar occupies the ground floor and is focused in the world of raw foods, with a live kitchen and an extensive cocktail offer   . In the foreground, the classic fish market crushed ice exhibitor filled with shrimp, oysters and crabs. Behind it is a long bar crowned with a massive central ventilation hood that reminds japanese clients of when the chef readies the dishes on one side while customers enjoy the meal on the opposite side. Decoration, the work of Nacho García Viñuesa, revolves around water and sand elements -blue and bronze- and is inspired by the underwater world combining fishing nets, coral clays, rainbow walls that suggest scales or tear lamps shaped as jellyfish.

Excellent equipment, top quality product and a prime location are the keys Raw Bar and La Lonja

Recommended dishes: start with the berry salad with minced red mullet and move on to a selection of smoked fish. Another delicacy  of this kitchen is the tuna tartar or the star of their menu: grilled scallops with artichoke emulsion. There’s no doubt with dessert: Dill sauteed pineapple, coconut foam and curry. Average bill per head is in the 25-30 euro range.

In the upper floor we find La Lonja, a restaurant with three more sophisticated dining rooms that doesn’t sacrifice comfort for style, besides being extremely bright thanks to it’s location. Naira, one of the waitresses that guides us through the place, says “at night the atmosphere turns more romantic”. Besides, she’s preparing a cellar to display their collection of over 150 wine brands. She walks us towards the guts of the restaurant, the kitchen, and assures us “it’s important to us to preserve the integrity of the goods, without hiding it”. We go back downstairs to the Raw Bar to learn that, besides the 20 cocktails listed in the menu, on Saturday nights they welcome a dj to liven up the party.

Before saying goodbye, we thank the warm reception of their team and promise to come back to the cave. We go out onto Plaza de Oriente and listen to the sound of the waves. What did they put in our cocktails?