Madrid – Chueca – traditional Madrileño restaurants

Chueca is my favourite barrio in Madrid. As well as being a vibrant restaurant and nightlife area with a long history of alternative cultures (bastion of the left wing, gay capital of Spain and the spiritual home of La Movida) it also has the feeling of being a real neighbourhood lived in by real people.

I’d quite happily live here myself if I could and indeed I do spend most of my time in the neighbourhood when I’m in town.

Chueca is absolutely heaving with great bars and restaurants. To make my reviews more accessible, I’ve grouped them into different posts:

This post is about traditional Madrileño restaurants.

Traditional Spanish regional restaurants are here.

Modern Spanish restaurants here.

International restaurants here.

Bars and cafes here.

Food shops here.

Google map with everything on here.

Tienda de Vinos (aka La Communista), (Elementary A+), 35 Calle Augusto Figueroa, Tel. 91 521 7012, GEM ALERT!

One of my favourite haunts, I come here as often as I can, especially on cold winter evenings when I need some good simple home cooking to warm my cockles.

The comedor got its lefty nickname during the Franco years when it was a meeting place for radicals. It’s still run by the two smiley great-grandsons of the original owner who give polite, efficient service.

Opening time used to be 9.30 but may be a bit earlier now. You will know when it’s shut by the huge forbidding red doors barricading the whole front of the building. When it’s open the warm light coming through the lace curtains is much more welcoming.

La Communista by day

The decor is very simple and probably hasn’t changed much since 1890 when it opened.

Angel Sierra from the kitchen

Pictures of long gone guitarists, actors and bullfighters adorn the white walls of the L-shaped room.

Angel Sierra corner

You sit with your back against high dark brown wood panelling on plain wooden benches and chairs at long tables with paper table cloths that always fall off when you squeeze into your seat.

Loaf and house red

Nearly all the dishes on the menu are in single figures and you can eat four courses with wine for €25 (though I usually spend less) which is fantastic value in pricey Madrid.

Cheap menu

Typical dishes I have eaten over the years include Lentejas (an overflowing bowl of muddy legumes).

Lentil soup

Also Albondigas en Salsa con Patatas (veal meatballs with chips and gravy).

Albondigas y patatas fritas

Other favourites include Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup with bread), Ternera con Salsa con Champinon (veal and mushroom stew with a handful of homemade chips) and Higado Ternera y Cebolla (liver and onions).

For dessert there are various flans or Queso y Membrillo (fresh manchego with quince jelly). The house red is young, and hence chilled, but still very drinkable, and the orujo is complementary if you ask for a digestif.

Pan de Calatrava

Ok, so the food isn’t the greatest; sometimes the fried mixed veg is mushy, overcooked and occasionally slightly burnt, and the meatballs glisten with grease. But this just reminds me of the cooking style of my own female English relatives, which I find comforting to experience again once in a while!

Mixed veg

In short; good honest value-for-money food with no pretensions in plain but atmospheric surroundings. A classic Madrileño comedor that needs to be experienced.

Casa Salvador, (Intermediate B), 12 Calle Barbieri, Tel. 91 521 4524, www.casasalvadormadrid.com

Another old school institution (since 1941) that serves hearty, traditional Spanish food. It’s another Hemingway hangout and his friend Ava Gardner famously danced on the tables here.

It’s a good place to come for a value-for-money Menu del Dia (€22 in 2013).

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The restaurant could double as a bull fighting museum as there are some amazing photos of airborne bulls in mid-flight and matadors in trouble.

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El Bierzo (Elementary A), 16 Calle Barbieri, Tel. 915 319 110

A typical ‘casa de comida’ restaurant that’s been here since the 1970s. It’s run by an old couple who are originally from San Ciprian de Sanabria, a small village in Leon (i.e. Castilla y Leon, a province to the north of Madrid). They source their produce from their home town and some trustworthy local suppliers like Agustin’s fish shop and Barcelo market.

The philosophy at this casa de comida is to cater for the ‘mileuristas’ (people who earn less than €1000 a month) by offering affordable all day Menus del Dia for €10 or €12 (2012 prices).

I chose water for my bebida option, rather than a glass of wine and instead ‘upsized’ to a full bottle of red ‘Lameda’ Crianza 2008 from the Toro DOC (B+), a wine I hadn’t seen anywhere else before. It went well with their dressed green olives (A).

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Whenever I see lentil soup on the menu I can’t help but order it and the Lentajas con Arroz was one of the best I’ve ever had (A+). It was all about the stock but sadly my Spanish wasn’t up to asking how they made it.

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Bread in Spain can be awful but the small loaf they supplied was also one of the best I’ve had here (A), kind of like a small Ciabatta.

After this Rinones al Jerez, lightly grilled kidneys with sherry (B+).

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To finish a jar of Cuajada, (Junket) with a jug of honey to sweeten it up (B).

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I spotted an unusual old bottle called Calisay on their back bar and finished it off for them. The waiter didn’t know where it had come from but it went very well (A) with my pud as it seemed to contain honey as well. I found out later it’s a Catalan quinine and brandy based herb liqueur made with bark from the Calisaya tree.

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Next time I’d like to try their Calamari (apparently favoured by a government minister) and their fruit flavoured Gazpacho.

Service is indifferent and the decor is very plain but I have no problem with any of that if the food’s good. They have a small library of old books, including a few on food, which you can peruse between courses.

Total bill €33.50, just inside my daily allowance.

The way I see it, these places offering traditional home cooking won’t be around one day as the more modern trendy places take over.

Casa Manolo (Intermediate B+), 17 Calle Orellana, Tel. 91 308 7378 NOW CLOSED

A nice place with a lovely atmosphere now sadly closed. It’d be worth checking to see who has taken it over.

The building has an old wooden front and frosted glass windows. Inside there was soft lighting, more wood panelling and lovely tiled floors with an antique dresser for displaying the wines. It all felt very relaxing.

I went for the Piquillos o Tomates (I negotiated both) con Ventresca y Cebolla; delicious top quality tuna overlaying caramelised onions, marinated red peppers with good tomatoes and olive oil could (B+).

To drink I had a half bottle of ‘Portos’ 2008 from Ribeira del Duero (A) and to finish the Pudding de Manzana (A), a layered slice of apple sponge drizzled with caramel. The final wonderfully scented Orujo des Hierbas I requested did not show up on the bill.

Photos from April 2011 and February 2014.

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