Barrio Palacio is the westernmost ward in the Cento. Please also see my posts for Barrio Sol which is nearby.
La Bola Taberna (Advanced B), 5 Calle Bola, (a backstreet off the top of Gran Via, Metro Santo Domingo) Tel. 91 547 6930
Run by the same family for well over a hundred years, many locals consider this classic restaurant to be the spiritual home of Cocido a la Madrilena, the famous local stew.
In 2011 I went on the weekend of the San Isidro festival and was lucky to get in at 2pm. When I left just before 4, there were forty people waiting outside. Many were middle-aged women wearing colourful traditional dresses with roses in their headscarves who had been walking around town singing songs to the Saint, and they were very hungry! There must be seating for 150+ inside, but every seat was full as I walked through the smoke-free interior. I ended up in the rather drab, but still packed, third room, but I was there for the food first and foremost and was happy just to get a seat.
Cocido is a stew of chickpeas and chunks of meat (usually chorizo, chicken, veal, fatty bacon, chops of beef and gammon but it can vary) cooked here traditionally in earthenware pots over a wood fire. The first course is the stew stock poured into a bowl of short vermicelli noodles and eaten as a soup. Then the remaining stew is served as the second course, so save some room! On the side you get a bowl of chilli sauce, raw white onion and pickled green chillies, as well as a big plate of boiled cabbage with whole cloves of garlic mashed in with their skins on.
I passed on dessert to do my waistline a favour, but the orange with orujo looked interesting. The food is fine but I only scored it a B because I’m sure someone cooks a meaner one at home. It only cost €19 which is pretty good value in Madrid. A half litre of just about drinkable house red (C) and a hard bread bun brought the total to €27.60 (this place is so old-school it still puts the equivalent in pesetas on the bill!) The service is infamously surly but my waiters were only slightly sour on this occasion so I left a happy man. From here it’s a short but slow walk up a gentle incline to Metro Santo Domingo.