Puerta del Sol on Calle Mayor is the geographical centre of Spain which is the reason why the capital is located where it is.
The eastern gate of the city used to be here, hence ‘Gate of the Sun’.
Spaniards come here on New Year’s eve to eat twelve grapes as the square’s clock chimes twelve times (not easy!), a custom that is broadcast live on TV to the rest of Spain.
There are some good places for eating around here, and also around nearby Plaza Mayor (see next post).
Casa Labra (Elementary A+), 12 C/Tetuan (behind El Corte Ingles at Puerta del Sol), Metro Sol, www.casalabra.es
This is yet another local institution steeped in history. They opened in 1860 and the Spanish Socialist Party was founded here in 1879.
They have a good range of tapas but they’re particularly famous for their salt cod croquetas. They are the best I’ve ever eaten hands down (A+).
Their Tajada de Bacalao (battered cod, at the back in the picture) is very good too (A).
It’s always very busy so the service can be a bit gruff, but not always.
There’s plenty of room to stand on the street outside while you’re waiting to snag a table.
La Mallorquina (High Intermediate B+), entrances at 8 Plaza Puerta del Sol and 2 Calle Mayor
A famous pastry shop (founded in 1894) on the western side of Plaza Puerta del Sol. I had a Pinono custard tart (B).
And a glass of Lágrimas del Jabalón Moscatel, not a favourite but it’s okay (B).
Casino de Madrid (Advanced A), 15 Calle de Alcala, www.casinodemadrid.es
In 2014 my area manager invited me for dinner at his private club; Casino de Madrid. Located at a very well-appointed address on Calle de Alcala, this institution has a lot of history.
Despite the name there has never been any gambling here. When it opened in 1836 it was conceived as a gentleman’s club, modelled on the elite aristocratic clubs of London.
They can count the Spanish king as a member, although it’s unlikely you’d see him as he apparently has his own entrance around the side.
I’m not an elitist by any means, however I was excited by the chance to see the neo-classical interior.
I wasn’t disappointed by the beautiful staircase and stunning objets d’art in every nook and cranny.
Such as these amazing statues.
Nowadays NH hotels have taken over the running of the club and there is a restaurant open to members of the public. On the website it looks quite modern and garish but I’m sure it must still be a good experience just for the chance to be in these surroundings, although I’m sure it costs an arm and a leg.
We ate in the more restrained private members salon which retains its dark traditional charm.
I decided to stick to the classics as would befit such a setting. White bean soup with chorizo and morcilla is something I will never get tired of eating.
And you can’t go wrong with Rabo di Toro (oxtail) which was very nicely presented here. Usually it’s not this photogenic.
With these strong flavours, an excellent 2011 Tempranillo/Merlot roble from Bodega Montevannos in the Ribera del Duero DOC went very well. It also suited the chocolate pudding I finished with.
After dinner I was shown the ancient writing room and library.
I got to sit in one of the leather chairs. A massive Cuban cigar would have been appropriate at this point.
In short a very interesting and enjoyable experience. Many thanks Carlos!
This impressive building is just over the street, on the corner where Calle Sevilla meets Calle de Alcala.
Photos posted March 2014 and Feb 2016.