Madrid – Las Cortes – Huertas tapas crawl
Barrio Las Cortes is the area south of the bottom ends of Calle Gran Via and Calle de Alcala. It’s bordered by Paseo del Prado to the east, Calle de la Cruz to the west and Calle de Atocha to the south. Barrio map here. General map here.
The barrio contains Calle de las Huertas, one of the main tapeo strips, and Plaza de Santa Anna, a pleasant square containing many restaurants (separate post here). The southern half around Huertas is also known as Barrio de las Letras. Personally I like to start my tapeo on Calle de Jesus at the bottom of the hill and head up Huertas to Plaza Santa Ana.
Los Gatos (Intermediate A), 2 Calle de Jesus Los Gatos bar
Madrilènos are known as “los gatos” (the cats) because they like to stay out so late.
Despite being accused of being a tourist trap, with prices to match, this is my favourite tapas bar on this street, just for the bizarre decoration which covers every inch of the ceilings and walls.
Bull fighting paraphernalia fights for space with classical and pop art treasures
I love the eccentricity of it all.
The tapas are top quality too, which makes it a good place to start a night on the tiles.
Beers and canapés are €2.50 each and a racion of Salpicon de Maris is €11 (in 2015).
La Fabrica (Intermediate B+), 2 Calle de Jesus (next door to Los Gatos above), www.cervezaslafabrica.com
Loved the Roquefort canapé (although the waitress told me it was Cabrales) with a salted anchovy (B+).
The Bacala over tomato pulp and topped with a mild chilli is also good (B).
With two creamy cervezas this came to €5, which isn’t too bad at all. Cheaper than their more famous neighbours I think.
El Diario (Intermediate A), Calle de Jesus (no number but a couple of doors down from the above, on the corner with Calle Cervantes).
This Andalucian tapas bar is my second favourite place on the strip, due to the friendliness of the staff (unlike others along this street) and the quality of the food.
Their Calamares a la Andaluza are very good, especially with their sublime honey alioli, although I wish they’d remove the beaks as they can be a bit off putting (A-).
And, in summer, their tuna salad is also one of the best I’ve ever tasted (A) but not quite as good in winter (B).
When you’ve finished, complementary chupitos (shots) of Orujo des Hierbas come as standard.
Los Dolores (Intermediate A), 4 Placa Jesus (just along the street from Los Gatos above).
This is a classic 1920’s place with a beautiful tiled exterior and an atmospheric old wood bar inside.
The tapas are very good but quite traditional and a bit expensive. Cañas are €1.50
I love the boquerones (A).
Casa Alberto (Advanced B), 18 Calle Huertas, www.casaalberto.es
This is another beautiful old place with a classic zinc bar.
You can have tapas in the busy bar or sit down in the restaurant at the back.
Service is brusque but efficient because they’re busy.
Vermout Grigio (B+), from the tap, is €2 a glass here.
With that I got a complimentary plate of pork scratchings (B+).
With a second vermouth, I had a canapé with Solomillo Iberico con Cebolla Caramelizada al PX y Queso de Cabra for €4.75, which was heaven on bread (A).
Los Chanquetes (Intermediate B), 2 Calle de Moratin, www.tabernaloschanquetes.es
A bullfighting themed place which I was tipped off about by a colleague who recommended coming here for the Rabo de Toro. It was good (B+) but I’ve had better.
I tried a bottle of local Vinos de Madrid red, a Tagonius Roble (B+) For dessert Queso con Membrillo, manchego with quince, always finds favour with me (B+).
Especially with a glass of sweet Moscatel. This one was called Lagrimas del Jabalon (B).
I incurred a reasonable bill of €26.70. It was ok but there are other better places to go to.
And finally a place I’m less keen on:
Tierra Mundi (Elementary C), 32 Calle Lope de Vega
If you’re on a budget I can’t fault this pseudo-Galician place but if you want good quality food, I’d go elsewhere. It’s marked as inexpensive in the Eyewitness Guide so I tried it in the interests of research. In the spirit of eating cheaply I went for the Menu Nocturna for €10.50
I had a mixed salad with tuna to start which is hard to get wrong although obviously the tuna was not the best (B).
For my main, an only slightly chewy but quite oily veal steak (C+), with a sometimes soggy, sometimes slightly raw portion of patatas fritas (C+) on the same plate.
After tasting a glass of the undrinkable (D) house red (a very young Ribeira Sacra) I thought I’d upgrade to the only half bottle of Rioja (Alta Rio) on the wine list which was marginally better but unfinishable (C+). Beware half bottles is the lesson.
Finally, a slice of apple pie which was mainly dough with a sniff of apple (C-). I opted out of the cream but it might taste better if you had some.
Even my most beloved Spanish digestif Orujo des Hierbas was the most sub-standard version I’ve ever had (C+).
The decor is brash and modern and the service is just ok.
There are lots of other much better places nearby but come here by all means if saving money is important to you. The empanadas and octopus are good according to Eyewitness.
Total cost €25.10, which is hard to beat in expensive Madrid.
Photos from April 2011, February 2014 and February 2016.