Igniting the local food scene in the summer of 2013, TriCiclo launched at the tail end of a wave of new restaurant openings characterized by vintagy-cute-industrial decor, serving, more often than not, food that was down-right terrible. Founded by 3 cooks with their share of experience in star-studded kitchens, TriCiclo quickly racked up rave reviews from local chefs and earned recommendations from the prestigious Guía Repsol and the Michelin Guide.
While TriCiclo surely succeeded in bringing the techniques and flavor blending know-how of the alta cocina to Madrid’s offering of causal restaurants, unfortunately, it also brought a bit of snobbery from the luxury dining world, but left the 5-star service standards behind. While it wouldn’t surprise me if we get a lot of pushback for saying that, time and again, it has been our experience and the experience of others we know and trust. We suppose when esteemed chefs like Spain’s avant-garde darling, David Muñoz, are singing your praises, you could start to feel like you can act however you want and your tables will still be reserved weeks in advance, and so far, that has certainly been the case for TriCiclo.
Lousy, and even rude, service aside, we have absolutely no doubts about the quality of food at TriCiclo. We want to love TriCiclo. The folks working in their tiny kitchen are not afraid to do what their gut tells them, and what they turn out tastes seriously good. The dishes at TriCiclo range from humble to experimental; they aren’t extravagant in technique, but they are meticulous in execution.
The concept of the menu, offered both in the dining room and at the bar, is fantastic. Almost all of the dishes come in a full, 1/2 and 1/3 ración size – a format that is rather standard in southern Spain, but rarely encountered in Madrid. With the 1/3 ración size being akin to that of a tapa, this type of setup lends itself well to a make-your-own-tasting-menu sort of meal, which we love, and is also convenient if you aren’t that hungry, but still want a quality cooked dish or two. With regard to the pricing of the various sizes, we have tried the 1/2 and 1/3 ración portions, finding them a good value for the money, but have heard many complaints that the full ración size is rather scant.
The actual dishes on the menu are split into three styles as well, from which you can choose all from one category or mix and match as you see fit. The first grouping offered can best be described as “market fresh”, with an emphasis on natural flavors and simple preparations. The second section highlights traditional flavor combinations that recall Spanish home cooking, but with a more elaborate and refined preparation. The final grouping consists of internationally inspired dishes featuring surprising flavors created with exotic ingredients that aren’t often encountered in Spain. The menu changes regularly, reflecting the seasonal availability of local ingredients, there are always several off-menu items and, on Sundays, there is the addition of a rice-dish to the normal menu.
The interior of the restaurant is also split into, you guessed it, 3 sections: the bar, a long farm-style table for 12 and a traditional dining room. The ambience is casual with simple, industrial decor featuring rustic touches and a collection of tricycle sculptures spread throughout. In general, we like the space, but, as is the case with so many restaurants with this sort of style, there is not much to absorb sound and, as a result, it can be excessively loud.
The service, as mentioned before, is problematic. To be fair, we do know people who have been to TriCiclo and had no qualms with the service, but that does not strike us as the norm. Perhaps one of their strengths and one of their downfalls is that everyone who works at TriCiclo is a cook, including the people who serve your food. While this is useful in the sense that any questions you might have about the food should not go without answer, those who have worked in the service industry know that chefs can be rather egomaniacal. Confidence is basically a requirement for achieving greatness in the kitchen, but there is a fine line between being sure of yourself and being a jerk. Not to say that the cooks working at TriCiclo are jerks, the opposite is probably true, but judging by the, “you can have my attention when I’m ready,” sort of service we’ve received, I’m not sure they have any business running the front of the house in one of Madrid’s most popular restaurants.
That being said, if you want exceptional food for a reasonable price in central Madrid and don’t mind “relaxed” service, with the chance of it being taken a bit too far, TriCiclo should definitely be on your list. However, if attitude is something that gets under your skin, and you prefer a meal where the service and environment add to the dining experience, not distract from it, you’re better off heading down the street to Vinoteca Moratin.
What to Order
- Grilled calçots with romesco
- Prawns with shisho and mango
- Pil-pil style cod
- Bull’s tail ravioli with mushroom sauce
- Venison with wheatberry risotto