Aarde: this is the new restaurant of the creators of Amazónico that takes colonial Africa to the Puerta de Alcalá

The Umbrella Group In just over a decade he has become the blue prince of Madrid's gastronomy: restaurant that opens, restaurant that sweeps. Its formula has conquered people well in Madrid thanks to its effective interior design, its good public relations work and a combination of instagrammable food and cocktails that are served well into the early morning, while the volume of music rises.

Aarde is the sixth bet in Madrid of the Brazilian Sandro Silva and the Asturian Marta Dry, who run a company that has been supported by the Turkish group since 2017 Dogus group; and is perhaps the most ambitious.

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The restaurant, which opened last week, occupies the gigantic ground floor of one of the buildings of the Independence Square from Madrid, in front of the Puerta de Alcalá. The group thus moves out of its Jorge Juan's fief to be placed in the center, with a bet that at an aesthetic level is shocking: a restaurant of “African” and “jungle” influences, of exotic touch, but also colonial, something very accentuated by the uniform of the waiters, in white and with a Mao collar vest, which seem taken from a story of Rudyard Kipling Even the name of the establishment is taken from Afrikaans, the dialect of the Dutch spoken by the creators of the apartheid regime - "aarde" means "Earth" -. Let everyone draw their conclusions about these choices and what they represent.

The restaurant has several spacious rooms, in which the decoration changes.

Political issues (which we cannot ignore) apart, the space is simply impressive. There is no doubt that the group has enough muscle to invest in decoration and furniture of all kinds, which create several different spaces within the same restaurant. The bet is serious. When they add the terrace tables (which is not yet operational) and the adjacent premises - which will share the intention with Aarde, although it will have a different offer - the restaurant will have capacity for 450 people and will occupy 120 people.

But Not everything is a game of artifice. A lot of work has been invested in food, and although it is affected, it surprises for good.

Aloe Vera Ceviche.

A letter in which vegetables and cereals shine

Even though The whole concept of the restaurant is inspired by Africa, food has nothing to do with the cuisine of the continent. We could define the dishes as "exotic" style. Just like the music of the same name - that composers immortalized as Arthur Lyman-, It is a theatrical western interpretation of what, we imagine, could be African cuisine, understanding Africa for the entire developing world. And it is that the letter sneaks, without too many geographical details, ceviches, tandooris, curries ... All passed through a filter healthy most cuqui.

The most interesting thing about the letter is the wide selection of vegetable dishes. We tried dishes such as aloe vera ceviche, in which the plant is marinated with lime juice, sweet potato and cilantro, as in the traditional Peruvian dish (€ 17) or kale salad, baby spinach and crispy chickpeas (€ 16) . It was very good. We even liked the green gombó curry, the rich tropical fruit - this one genuinely African - accompanied by rice (€ 17).

Gombó green curry.

Special mention deserves the chingulugulu lasagna (€ 21), a huge mushroom of African origin that the restaurant imports from South Africa. The dish is still a conventional lasagna, with a very rich tomato sauce, but it earns many points thanks to the meatiness of this mushroom, which can even remind of meat. Required.

But the dish that surprised us most about the food was coming: wild type rice jollof, Especially popular in Nigeria and Ghana, which in Mediterranean cuisine is cooked in Aarde, with carabineros and roasted garlic emulsion (€ 24). The dish eliminates all reluctance to paella-style rice with rice that is not pump type. It was frankly spectacular.

Chingulugulu Lasagna

Great job of chef Ángel Junca

Aarde's letter is completed with some more traditional meat and fish dishes - How to please the most conservative customer, which the group has kicked, without offering tenderloins and beef tenderloins.

We tried some of the grilled fish (Yes, the kitchen has a charcoal grill), which were very well cooked, but the really interesting part of the bet is in the first part of the menu.

Aarde's chef, Ángel Junca.

The chef Angel Junca, so far responsible for Amazon, has put all the meat on the grill for this project, and it must be said that, despite the forced that some dishes seem at first glance, it was all great.

Better skip the meats and opt directly for desserts, where you also have to scratch. We tried an exquisite spicy chocolate drink, inspired by the drink that supposedly drove Moctezuma crazy (€ 9), a yucca and honey cake with chocolate ganache and gorilla sorbet, very good (€ 10) and a baklava - the well-known Turkish sweet- of pistachio and pear with pistachio ice cream, which aside from the latter did not kill (€ 10).

Cassava and honey cake with chocolate ganache and gorilla sorbet.

As happens in all the restaurants of the Umbrella Group the food can be completed with a Bulky wine and cocktail selection and, if you go at night, splice this with a few drinks. This for those who like it, but if what you care about is eating, Aarde is also worth a visit, and you don't have to leave a paste: for about 50 euros, the most affordable average ticket of the group, you can leave well eaten. Too bad they have chosen a name and an aesthetic with so many negative connotations, that they only remember one of the darkest episodes in recent history. It was not necessary.

What to ask for: Better to focus on vegetables and rice than meat and fish. We found the chingulugulu lasagna, the gombó curry and the carabineros jollof essential.

Practical Data
Where: Independence Square, 10. Madrid
Half price: 50/60 euros
Reservations: 910 88 93 30
Schedule: Opens every day.