Madrid – Goya neighbourhood in Barrio Salamanca

Goya ward in central Salamanca, is where work puts us for logistical reasons, so this post is pitched more at my colleagues who generally keep to within a few blocks of the hotel.

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of this barrio which is the equivalent to somewhere like Kensington in London,. The principal streets, Calle Serrano and Calle Goya, have some of the most expensive real estate in Spain and the side streets are crammed with expensive boutiques that I can’t afford. As you might expect, its toffee-nosed inhabitants aren’t generally known for their friendliness and the over-priced restaurants leave me cold (skip to the bottom of this post for the places to avoid).

Much better I think to walk fifteen minutes or catch the metro to Chueca, in the old town, which is more down-to-earth, and being the LGBT area, a lot more fun, as well as having heaps of good restaurants and interesting shops.

On the more positive side, I have got to know the Goya quite well over the years and will concede that there are some okay places, and every year I go there’s always somewhere new to check out.

So here are some redeeming features…

Hotel Centro Catalonia, 49 C/Goya, Tel. 917 814 949, www.hoteles-catalonia.com

The Centro is one of my favourite work hotels, although if truth be known it’s starting to become a bit faded and worn. The front desk staff are friendly and efficient (Miguel is the man) although the restaurant can be overstretched at times. It has stylish suites (except for some dated modernist artwork), comfortable beds, fantastic walk-in showers (only in the rooms at the front) and free wi-fi (much improved in strength as of 2014).

The breakfast buffet is fairly comprehensive; cereals, fresh bread, lots of ham and cheese choices, fresh pineapple, kiwi, melon etc. The chefs will cook you a fresh omelette if you ask. The coffee situation has gone downhill however. Once you could get a proper cup made for you but now it’s a choice of the filter stuff or queuing at an often malfunctioning machine.

To avoid minibar prices on water, beer, snacks etc,  turn left out of the hotel and left again and there’s a Carrefour on the right which is open till 10pm, although don’t forget to support the small grocers shop over the road on the corner if it’s open.

Transport connections are great with a taxi rank and the entrance to Velasquez metro station right outside the front door, so you can hightail it into town for some better action in next to no time.

When you’re arriving at the hotel, the landmark to watch out for is this white church immediately opposite.

Church

After a hard day’s work and a long commute in the baking heat, I’m often too knackered to go anywhere and I just want somewhere that’s okay and near the hotel. These places are discussed with that in mind:

PICNICS:

For hotel room picnics, you should definitely check out the Mercado de La Paz, only about four blocks away from the Hotel Centro at 28 C/Ayala (also hard to see side entrances on C/Lagasca and C/Coello).

TIme Out says that La Boulette, the cheese store there, has the largest cheese selection in Spain with over 400 varieties. There are plenty of other fresh veg and charcuterie stalls, and good tapas bars where you can sit outside at the C/Ayala end of the market.

From the market head two blocks north to La Vinia at 16 C/Jose Ortega y Gasset which apparently has the biggest wine selection in Europe.

TAPAS:


Estay
(Intermediate B+), 46 C/Hermosilla, www.estayrestaurante.com

This well-reputed tapas bar is on the other side of the block from the Hotel Centro making it the easiest quality option for many of my work colleagues.

House selection
The decor is rather sterile and there is no atmosphere as such but the tapas are great and the wines are reasonably cheap.

Cabrales with almonds


Lateral 
at 57 C/Velasquez www.cadenalateral.com is one of a small chain of tapas bars with a good rep for quality, well-priced tapas. They have good salads too and you can sit outside if you time your arrival right.

Their Solorca Ribeira del Duero Reserva is excellent (A) if a bit pricey at €18.20 but I’d spend the extra rather than get the cheaper Finca Vieja La Mancha at €13 (C).

Solorca Ribeira

Also nearby are Taberna O’Caldino at 74 C/Lagasca or El Rincon de Goya at 46 C/Lagasca are good quality but rather posh, and consequently quite pricey. Reviews in Spanish here and here.

La Casa del Abuelo (Intermediate C+), 57 C/Goya (turn left out of the door of the Hotel Centro, it’s two half blocks, just before the green pharmacy sign on your side of the street) www.lacasadelabuelo.es

‘Grandfather’s House’ is another typical tiled ersatz tapas bar a stone’s throw from the Hotel Goya, making it a handy spot for me to meet my workmates at the end of the day for a few beers and snacks. It was a hefty €2.70 for a cana (in 2009, more now) and they don’t do small portions of tapas only media-raciones, which are ok but not the best. The staff can vary from being mildly pleasant to downright rude but just take it in your stride.


Santa Barbara
, (Intermediate B+), C/Goya, on the corner where it meets C/ Alcala. www.cerveceriasantabarbara.com

This is a famous spot (since 1815, although the building is ersatz) due to its location on a major crossroads and proximity to El Corte Ingles department store.

It’s famous for seafood; the prawns are great and the salpicon is pretty good too, and you can sit outside in an oasis of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of two major streets.

A rack of eight Gambas a la Plancha and two dobles of cerveza will set two people back about €20, not something I can afford every day but a nice treat now and then when I need my prawn fix.

BARS:

I try to avoid drinking in the bar of the Hotel Centro. Canas are a hefty €3 and a Cuba Libre costs nearly €12, and I had to teach them how to make it!

A much cheaper and very nearby option is the Barley Bar (turn left out of the Hotel Centro and it’s on the first corner). Plain and simple, it looks small but there’s an upstairs seating area with a telly if you want to watch the match. The decor is on an English pub theme although the old couple who run it don’t speak a word of the language.

For an alternative to brandy, I find a glass of Anis La Castellana (the best stuff comes from Chinchon) to be a nice way to end the evening.

GOOD MEDIUM RANGE RESTAURANTS:


Taberna de la Daniela 
(Intermediate B+), 21 General Pardinas, Tel. 91 575 2329, www.tabernaladaniela.com

Just a few minutes walk from the Hotel Catalonia Goya, this is part of a chain of Danielas dotted around town. It looks like a good choice with its tiled walls, crowded tapas bar and constantly busy restaurant. I come here a lot with my colleagues because it’s convenient and friendly.

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And most importantly it is one of the best places in Madrid to eat Cocido Madrileno, a hearty chickpea stew that I adore.

Once eaten in winter, people now eat it at any time, especially for Sunday lunch, which is when I have it at Daniellas. It’s served in three parts. First the stock is used to make a tasty noodle soup.

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Next you would traditionally get the veg course (mainly chickpeas, cabbage and carrot) and finally the meat, thus saving the best for last in poverty stricken homes. In these more affluent times though the veg and meat usually come together.

At Daniela’s you get a chicken drumstick, a lump of bacon, a chunk of marrow bone, slices of black pudding and chorizo and some other hunk of meat (veal?) and a square of quivering gelatinous lard. The lard doesn’t look very appetizing but trust me, it is actually the most flavoursome ingredient in the whole stew, just cut it very thinly and eat it in small slices.

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Couple this with a few glasses of decent red and you’ll quickly find it’s siesta time! You’re going nowhere after that lot.

Total cost before wine €26.50, worth every penny.

I’ve had tapas here a few times and they are ok ( usually B) and the portions are generous (especially the morcilla!) but I’d avoid the Ternera con Castada y Puree de Manzana (C). Tapas are a euro cheaper if you eat in the bar.

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The servers in the restaurant, especially Paula, are lovely and have a good sense of humour. If you ask for a digestif they will leave the bottle on the table and it won’t appear on the bill.

Micota www.micota.com grill house (Intermediate C+) at C/Costello 18

This place is very near the Hotel Centro and serves ok food, although some dishes are better than others.

My options from the extensive Menu del Dia were grilled chicken with gravy (B), baked potato (C), coco de pastel aka coconut tart (B).

The waiting staff are very nice if a bit over efficient at times (different ones ask you the same questions all the time). It’s €2 extra to eat outside.

POSH RESTAURANTS BEST AVOIDED:

There are a few places to steer clear of in this moneyed part of town…

El Fogon de Trifon (High Intermediate A), 144 Calle Ayala elfogondetrifon.com/restaurante

I actually like the food and service in this small place but it’s just a bit too pricey.

Recommended in ‘Where Chef’s Eat’ I felt I had to give it a try, and might do again if I’m feeling flush.

I had the complimentary gazpacho (A), entrecote and chips (B+). a half bottle of Emilio Moro 2010 Ribera (B+) and pastel manzana (B+) for €52.50.

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There’s a tapas bar out front and a small dining room out the back, both quite popular so it might be hard to get in without a reservation.

El Buey (Advanced D), 9 C/General Diaz Polier, restauranteelbuey.com

The sister restaurant in Placa de la Marina Espanola has a great rep for its sizzling steaks, cooked on a hotplate on your table. Here, I found the meat tough and expensive for it was.

The worst thing though was the inedible seafood and some kind of vegetable ‘special’ they were offering that day which I have obliterated from my memory and don’t want to write about any more. Don’t go.

Teatriz (Advanced B-), C/Hermosilla 14, Tel.915 775 379, www.teatriz.com

As the name suggests, this place is in an old theatre which has been redesigned by Phillipe Starck. I sat were the stalls used to be but you can sit on the stage too, or upstairs in the circle if you just want drinks.  I was quite disappointed by the plain decor with little evidence of Starck’s amazing imagination in comparison to his efforts in Beijing (see my 2010 post).

The front entrance area looks more like a cafe but it gets a bit better inside. The lighting very theatre like but a bit too dim for a restaurant, although it does add to the hushed atmosphere as you wait for the food performance to start.

This was a lunch time trip for relatively cheap menu-del-dia as I couldn’t afford the a-la-carte offerings. To start Gazpacho Burata  which was a lump of ordinary mozzarella (not burata as it should be with buffalo cream injected into the centre) floating in the middle. Although the texture was interesting, I thought both main ingredients would have been fine by themselves but spoiled each other in combination (C+).

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I chose a nice Verdejo to go with this which was probably the best part of the meal (B+).

Next a mushroom paella (looking quite moist like a risotto) which was very rich and tasty, if anything a bit too  flavoursome (B+), certainly for my choice of wine (memo to self, buy by the glass for each course).

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Finally, my unmemorable dessert came unexpectedly in the form of a milkshake and although it tasted fine, was a bit of a visual let down (C+).

The best thing was the glass of ten-year-old Pedro Ximenez sherry from Osborne (A).

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In short, a poncey place to see and be seen, good for business lunches if you have them. Personally I won’t be going back.

La Trainera, C/Lagasca 60, (Advanced D), Tel . 915 768 035, www.latrainera.es

A very posh seafood and champagne place, beloved by cabinet ministers and captains of industry with large expense accounts. It’s just opposite the side entrance to Mercado de Paz, which boded well for the quality and freshness of the mariscos sold here. It’s a warren of rooms (I know because I turned the first two tables down and got a tour of the place). The decor of ‘The Drifter’ is lots of varnished wood with ship wheels in every alcove to hammer home the seafaring theme.

There are two ranks of waiters, lowly plate bearers in white and section bosses in blue. The chap who greeted me was fine but from then on the service was brusque and unsmiling in the extreme. Not sure if it was because I was a scruffy English sod in trainers and shorts or whether they’re like that to everyone who they don’t know (actually the latter). The manager came in  to our four table room and asked the Spanish diners if everything was ok but ignored myself and an English couple on another table which said it all really. I’d always thought that posh Spaniards could be awful snobs and this just hammered it home.

I asked whether all six of the Rueda whites where Verdejo’s (probably a stupid question) but just had the wine list read out to me in order by way of reply. The recommendation when it came was for the most expensive one (Marques de Riscal 2011) and I can’t say I was too impressed (C+). I’ve had some wonderfully fragrant bottles of this grape in the past but, although very dry, this one just didn’t satisfy.

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I started with the Canapes de Gambas which were small slices of white bread with the crusts cut off and a slice of persimmon topped with a couple of shelled prawns and doused with what looked like Thousand Island dressing, but I was too scared to ask. They were very good though (A).

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To follow a plate of Almejas al Natural, uncooked shucked clams in their shells, served on a bed of ice with wedges of lemon, again very good (A). I toyed with the idea of a main dish but by this time I was already pretty pissed off with the treatment I had been getting and thought better of it.

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I was even toying  with the idea of a negative review on Trip Advisor, not something I have ever done before but this place deserved every word of bile I could muster. And then the bill came. They wanted €56 for the clams!! The waiter had not even bothered to listen to me when I had ordered 200g, not a lot I admit, but I had only wanted to try them. I remonstrated with the manager and got it reduced to just over €20.

I calculate that in the last 12 years, I have eaten in over 300 hundred restaurants in Spain, and this was the worse treatment I have ever received in all that time. Looking at Trip Advisor I can see that I was not the only one to have been treated this way by “el Camarero de la pena de muerte”. Go to Marisqueria Ribeira do Mino in Chueca instead and notice the difference.

And on that cheery note I shall curtail this discussion on the love/hate relationship I have with this part of Madrid!

For other neighbourhoods in Salamanca that adjoin Goya please see the separate posts for El Retiro and the ListaCastellana, Recoletos and Ibiza barrios.

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