As befits a capital city, there are heaps of great regional restaurants in Madrid, particularly in Chueca. This first one is my favourite.
Ribeira do Miño (Intermediate A+), 1 Calle Santa Brigada, Tel. 91 521 9854, Metro Tribunal, www.marisqueriaribeiradomino.com GEM ALERT!
If you only go to one of my recommendations, make it this Galician marisqueira, a superlative seafood experience I try not to miss whenever I’m in town. It’s very popular so it’s best to book ahead (specify the back room).
First impressions might not be good as it’s located on a dodgy-looking graffiti-daubed side street, which only makes the experience even more special as far as I’m concerned.
Walk through the heaving tapas bar at the front, past the bustling kitchen serving hatches and you’ll find more rooms at the back.
The walls are simply decorated with nets and floats on a nautical theme. Signs prohibit singing (‘prohibo cantar!’).
The first thing you will notice are the large silver trays of seafood being ferried around by the friendly, welcoming waiters. The biggest trays carry the house signature dish, the Mariscada Especial.
This involves several kinds of seafood stacked up high on top of each other. First there’s a top layer of langoustines followed by two kinds of prawns, both large and small varieties.
Also percebes (goose barnacles, an acquired taste for Brits but very tasty when persevered with) and two kinds of crab. The crab claws have been dismembered for you and so are easily dealt with using a nutcracker. However the head shells, filled with a murky soup of brawn, are only for the brave!
You can get the mariscada in two sizes, for two or four people, at a cost of around €15 per head. I like to order the smaller size even if there’s four of us, and then get an extra order of prawns as well.
On the table there is also a big bowl of allioli, lemon quarters and half a loaf of good white bread cut into hunks. I’m half Norwegian on my mum’s side and my family eat prawns with similar accompaniments.
Another good side dish is Almejas al Vapor. They also offer them ‘a la marinera’ (sailor’s style with onion, garlic, paprika and parsley) but I don’t think they’re quite as nice. The clams should be sucked straight from the shells and the delicious broth dabbed up with bread.
Other good side orders are their grilled Pimientos de Padron, smoky grilled green peppers which are famous all over Spain but are particularly good here. They’re usually quite mild although watch out for the odd spicy renegade!
The tuna salad and the patatas fritas are good choices too.
To drink, the Galician Albariño white is the natural choice to go with seafood. I recommend the wonderful Vina Sobreira from the Rias Baixas DO.
A spectacular end to the meal is the Quiemada, where a brass cauldron filled with burning Orujo (a Galician liquor made from pomace, like grappa) is placed on the table and you are given a metal ladle to stir in a big scoop of sugar.
The waiters can show you how to ladle the flaming liquid from on high so the blue flames shoot through the air on the way back to the bowl, only slightly singeing the table cloths if they splash over the edge. Couldn’t imagine Health & Safety allowing this in the UK!
After several minutes of ladling, a waiter pours a kettle of coffee into the bowl, the flames slowly go out and the concoction is ready to drink.
If you still have space, the assorted cream cake selection is the natural choice for a group but a good option for one, if your co-diners are wimping out, is the pancakes flambéed in orujo. Generally though the desserts are nice but not amazing.
You’ll also receive a complementary glass of Orujo des Hierbas, a tasty yellow herbal version of the aguardente, to go with your sweet.
Anyway, rest assured, you’re not going anywhere fast after this lot. Good food in a great atmosphere, please don’t miss it!
Extremadura (Intermediate A-), 13 Calle Libertad, Tel. 91 531 82 22
Being overexcited on my first night in Spain for a while, I made the mistake of having a plate of pork and dairy products elsewhere before I came here, so sadly I was too full to appreciate the good food properly.
After a complementary amuse bouche of duck pate with a tasty salad of cabbage, spring onion and oregano (oh why did I do it), I had the starter proper, Migas de Pastor, a dish invented by shepherds for using up old bread.
Here it’s a combination of breadcrumbs, capsicums and small chunks of chorizo, garnished with grape halves. Unfortunately, while the dish was totally delicious (B+) it would have fed several shepherds and was way too much for me.
The wine was great though, a 2009 Tempranillo/Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend called ‘Habla del Silencio’ from Bodegas Habla.
I was also given an acorn schnapps which had an interesting acorny taste but wasn’t something you’d want to drink a lot of.
The service was good. Ana the friendly sommelier even gave me some tickets to ‘Salón de Gourmets’ a food trade show at the Feria de Madrid. I also had a pleasant chat with the piano player who spoke English quite well.
I’d definitely go again but with an empty stomach next time.
Bocaito (Intermediate B), 6 Calle Libertad, Tel. 915 321 219, www.bocaito.com
A famous (since 1966) formal Andalucian restaurant mentioned in many guides and with a heavily bestickered front door (Michelin, Rough Guide etc).
The decor is quaint with lots of ceramics, bull fighting pictures and other trappings from Andalusia. The tapas bar is particularly attractive.
I had the Escalope de Ternera (veal a la Milanaise, or Wiener schnitzel depending on your affiliation), with chips.
To drink a Crianza Rioja called Añares.
For dessert a tasty flan (caramel pud).
And a glass of ‘Los Raigones’ Pedro Ximenez dessert wine.
The service was efficient but humourless, despite my strenuous attempts to get a smile out of them.
The food and drink was fine but I don’t think it’s good value for money. Nearby Casa Salvador is cheaper and more atmospheric (see previous post).
La Paella de la Reina, 39 Calle de la Reina, Tel. 91 531 1885, www.lapaelladelareina.com
‘The best place for authentic Paella Valenciana’ according to a travel guide that I’d read when I first came to Madrid in 2001. It’s still going so I’m sure its reputation is deserved.
I recall that the rabbit and snail version I had was very good but again too much for one, you really need to take a companion to help you.
Rabbit and snail was the original paella recipe as it used ingredients readily at hand for the workers in the rice fields.
More Chueca restaurants:
Traditional Madrileño restaurants here.
Modern Spanish restaurants here.
International restaurants here.
Bars and cafes here.
Food shops here.
Google map with everything on here.
Photos from April 2011.