In the rustic elegance of their restaurant, El Reloj, my husband and I sat down to chat with the father and daughter team, Juan and Maria who together have built their business into a roaring success.
Juan and Maria, relaxed and friendly tell us their story.
Although originally from Madrid, Juan and his wife, Susana, moved to Navacerrada to raise their family. They were drawn to this charming mountain village for the quiet, healthy and outdoorsy lifestyle it was able to offer their family.
While still in culinary school, Maria was working at a hamburger joint in her hometown of Navacerrada to get some practice and extra cash. Unexpectedly, the owners of the hamburger place told Maria they were closing and asked if she would be interested in taking over the restaurant. At the time Maria was only 21 years old.
That was in February 2013. Maria and her father opened in May 2013—and the Reloj is no hamburger joint—it has an elegant, refined atmosphere with rustic touches that match the mountain setting. Although the food is based on the ingredients from the area it can definitely be categorized as fusion with a modern twist.
Juan jokes that he knew how to drink a beer, but had no idea how to pour one, nor do anything else restaurant or food related.
And Maria knows food.
Together they make a extraordinary team.
When asked how she would best describe the food style of the restaurant, Maria quickly answered “market.” Clarifying, she explained that she bases her daily specials and dishes on what is available and fresh that day at the market. As an example she said that El Reloj serves more fish than is usual to find in a restaurant in the mountains of Madrid because when she buys from the market she takes what is fresh that day—even though Madrid is inland it gets a lot of the best catch from all over Spain shipped in daily.
She also brings an enthusiastic view to the table. She changes the menú constantly so that “we don’t get bored in the kitchen” and also so she can keep inventing new dishes. When you listen to her talk about food you can’t help but get hungry.
Another advantage that Maria says the restaurant has is the large brick fire oven they use to cook most of the meat and other grilled dishes. This taste can’t be achieved by a regular oven.
After taking a tour of the kitchen— and especially the brick oven fired up and ready for lunch—we headed back into the now buzzing dining room.
Juan and Maria head off to their usual daily lunch activities and now it is the food’s turn to talk. And, oh my, talk it did.
First we were brought a cod and potato cream soup in shot glasses as an appetizer. This was so amazing that even our 10-year old son loved it and was looking at my glass to see if there were any drops left.
Next came a plate with two different types of croquettes. This is one of the few things that is always on the menú as Maria says they are so popular with the guests that she always has to have them on hand. One was traditional of Jamon (ham) and the other cod.
Then came a big hit for our table, the hummus which artistically had breaded eggplant (aubergine), drizzled in honey from a oak tree placed within the hummus.
My son had cheeseburger sliders that were done to a perfection. The fries were shredded potatoes rather than thick fries with a garlic mayonnaise sauce in the centre.
Next came a specialty from the mountain region of Madrid—large white bean stew—a Spanish comfort food. As a dish, it rarely gets high marks for presentation, but here it came in its own individual little clay pot to the table which gave this humble stew more class. The beans were melt in your mouth tender.
Everything in the Reloj not only comes with a remarkable taste, but the design of each dish is unique and very artistic.
And then came my personal favourite dish of the day. The grilled sirloin steak. I was so thankful for the wonderful brick oven. This was a “I can die happy” experience. The steak was tender and yet had so much flavour, it was absolutely amazing.
But, we weren’t yet finished. There was still dessert. An apple cake and a brownie. Even though we thought we couldn’t eat another bite, these quickly disappeared as they were amazing. So as a word of warning, save room for dessert.
Overall the experience at the Reloj restaurant was exceptional. The food and presentation were top notch.
Want to make reservations at El Reloj?
If you are ever in Madrid, it is worth your while to head to the charming mountain village of Navacerrada for an experience at El Reloj restaurant. Be sure to visit the town while you are there as it is worth a look as well.