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Passion for Spanish wine

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Surtopía is a sort of gastroembassy of Spain’s south in Madrid, the perfect spot for nostalgics of Andalusian tapas and dishes that chef and owner José Calleja have personalized with generous doses of creativity.

Trained at classy restaurants like Pedro Larumbe or Goizeko Kabi, Calleja has made his southern utopia come true in a cosy space in Madrid’s smart Barrio de Salamanca. Informal lunches are served at the counter whereas formal but relaxed dinners are served at two small dining rooms decorated with large photographs depicting traditional scenes from his native Sanlúcar de Barrameda, an easy-going town on the Cádiz coast famous for manzanilla, prawns and horse races on the beach.

The menu features Andalusia’s classics like tortillitas de camarones —crunchy and grease-free shrimp omelettes— or a refined and juicy manzanilla-infused version of cazón en adobo —marinated fried fish—, but Calleja intends to prove that the region’s cuisine goes well beyond dishes in batter. He works with excellent produce and is true to the essence of tradition but Calleja has added a fresh avant-garde style to dishes like his country-style shredded meat with red pepper ice-cream, hearty offerings like giant broad beans with cuttlefish, urta Rota-style —a fish which is difficult to find in restaurants outside Cádiz— and a delicious sea bass with mashed potatoes and garlic.

Although the food is delicious, what’s really special about this restaurant is its wine list, specialised in the Sherry Triangle. Almost 20 manzanillas and finos, available both by the bottle or glass, from popular brands like Solear, La Gitana or Inocente to more complex offerings like La Panesa by Emilio Hidalgo, Almacenista Cuevas Jurado by Lustau or 11540, a special bottling by Barbadillo for Surtopía whose name refers to the postal code of the winery in Sanlúcar. Wine prices are competitive and range from €2.50 to €5 per glass, with no bottle over €30.

Olorosos, amontillados, palos cortados and sweet PX styles are also available by the glass, something really hard to find in the majority of Spain’s restaurants, even the Michelin starred. The wine list also includes reds and whites, with some interesting finds —especially from Cádiz province— like Niepoort Navazos, a white wine aged under flor but with no added alcohol, or Encrucijado, an artisanal young palo cortado made from 50% Palomino and some obscure local varieties of which only a few hundred bottles are marketed.

The staff at Surtopía are helpful and solicitous, as is Calleja, who has managed to bring a small piece of Andalusia to the Spanish capital with well-prepared dishes and great wines are reasonable prices. Y.O.A.

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