Madrid – Las Cortes – Plaza de Canalejas

This ‘square’, on the border between the barrios of Las Cortes and Puerta de la Sol, is really a junction of five streets. There are some impressive buildings around the square.

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There are some interesting and quite different eateries on each of the roads coming out of the plaza:

Lhardy (Advanced A), 8 Carrera de San Jerónimo, lhardy.com

At only 175 years of age Lhardy isn’t the oldest restaurant in town (see Botin in my Placa Major post) but it’s definitely one of the most historical. Frenchman Emilio Lhardy opened the restaurant in 1839 with a view to bringing Parisian haute cuisine to the Spanish capital and it has remained one of the most famous and refined restaurants in Madrid ever since.

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There’s a deli and tapas bar on the ground floor (a caña and a croquette costs €2.50 here) and a formal restaurant on the first floor.

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Besides the main dining room there are several private rooms where many political intrigues and plots have been hatched over the centuries.

The opulent belle époque decoration oozes old world charm and transports you back in time.

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I came for Sunday lunch in June 2015 and was welcomed by a brace of waiters at the dining room door. They seated me in the main room and fussed around unfolding napkins, laying cutlery and pouring water while I perused the hefty menu. The formal atmosphere was alleviated slightly when one of the snootier waiters, after taking my order, snapped the menu shut on my finger and tried to walk off with it!

Really I’d only come for one thing, their highly refined Cocido Madrileño (the famous local stew) but I started off with some excellent chicken and ham croquettes (A). Probably a mistake given what was to come.

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One of the older and more personable waiters recommended the house red to go with my food; a full bodied Rioja Crianza (A).

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Cocido is eaten in two stages. First a soup made of the broth from the stew with the addition of short noodles (fideos). Again top notch (A).

Then comes the stew itself. The ingredients were more numerous than any I’d had in a cocido before; chick peas, cabbage, leek, carrot, potato, chicken, beef shank, beef skirt, morcilla, chorizo, sausage, bacon, marrow bone and tomato sauce if memory serves correctly.

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The addition of some of their wonderful house olive oil (A) took it to the next level.

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Overall it was great (B+) but not quite as good as the one at La Taberna de Daniella where the bacon lard is even more delicious for some reason.

This was a belly busting experience as you can imagine and I turned down a dessert but somehow still ended up with some petits fours and chocolate of which I have no memory. After this I staggered back to my hotel for a lie down!

A good experience that I’m glad I had and I’d go again with a friend but probably not by myself. It wasn’t very busy and it’s more for posh tourists than locals in my opinion. Go to Daniella’s or La Bola Taberna for a more authentic Sunday lunch experience.

Calle de la Cruz, running south west off Plaza de las Canalejas, is a good street for a tapeo (tapas crawl). Although I haven’t eaten there, Fatigas de Querer at 17 Calle de la Cruz is a good choice according to the Guardian.

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It has a lovely tiled façade as you can see.

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Casa Toni (Low Intermediate B+), 14 Calle de la Cruz

Another Guardian tip, this is a down-to-earth place with friendly service. I came here for their offal menu which also seems to attract a few Chinese tourists.

I had Mollejas (lamb sweetbreads aka thymus glands) which were very good (B+) but I’ve had better (see my Argentina posts).

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Also Zarajo which are lambs intestines would round a vine branch and deep-fried, a local speciality. They were okay but not out of this world (B).

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Also some Chiperones (actually Chopitos) which were the best ever for Guardian reviewer but were B+ for me.

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These plates cost €3 and €6 respectively and a jarra (big beer) is €2.70 (2015 prices) so good value overall. The service was pleasant so I’d definitely come back here to try some other things on their menu.

El Patio (Intermediate B+) 1 Calle Arlaban (off Calle Sevilla off Plaza de las Canalejas), Metro Sevilla

Yet another lovely old tiled bar with a bullfighting theme, specialising in Cocina Andaluza.

I first came here at the start of a pleasant evening with my friend Ethel and her husband Nick, who recommended it. As a former editor of Time Out Madrid he definitely knows the good places.

They have excellent tapas and draught vermouth on tap so it’s a good place for a pre-dinner aperitif.

La Finca de Susana (Intermediate C), 10 Calle Principe (NEW LOCATION), Tel. 91 429 7678 (reservations recommended), Metro Sevilla

On the same night out with Ethel and Nick in 2011 I remember this place being relatively ok so I was pleasantly surprised to rediscover it in 2013 (although not for long) through a local teacher’s recommendation.

It’s part of a chain, originally from Barcelona I think, staffed and presumably owned by Phillipinos.

It’s an interesting concept: give people the pretence they are eating in an opulent restaurant (modern decor, Corinthian columns, potted palms, waiters all in black) and feed them incredibly cheap food, cooked really badly, and with terrible service. It obviously works because they are always rammed to the rafters!

I’m sure you can find okish things on the menu but my semi-adventurous choices turned out to be pretty poor.

The Canalones a la Madrileno (€6.50) were ok after salting but absolutely swimming in cheese (C+).

On the other hand, the Olla Arroz Marniera (€6.45) was just brackish rice with a couple of overcooked prawns and a lonely langoustine on top (D/C).

I had coveted my neighbours Arroz Negro but didn’t want to copy them, and unlike me they finished their main course with gusto.

The pud, Torrijas Concha (€3.41), was soggy French toast with a scoop of vanilla, edible (C) but not something I’d like to repeat.

Again my neighbour’s choices looked far more attractive, although their coffees looked horrible.

All the dishes were begrudgingly pushed onto the edge of the table with a mumbled ‘gracias’ by my surly server who proceeded to ignore all her customers, although personally I found this more amusing than irritating.

The Conde Caralt Rosado (A), only €6.52, came to the rescue however and meant I left in good humour.

I promptly went back over the road to El Patio to spend what would have been the staff tips on a final digestif!

You can’t complain too much really because it’s dirt cheap (the prices are to the nearest cent). Let me know if you find anything good on the menu!

They have since moved to a new location on Calle Principe which I haven’t been to. Doubt if things have changed much though.

Other branches to avoid:

1) Public, 11 C/Desengano, parallel to Gran Via, Tel. 91 701 0176
2) Bazaar, 21 C/Libertad, Chueca, Tel. 91 523 1505
3) La Gloria de Montera, 10 C/Caballerdo de Gracia, Metro Gran Via Tel. 91 521 6701 (Slated by Time Out).

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