Zara (Intermediate A), 8 Calle Barbieri, www.restaurantezara.com
This longstanding Cuban restaurant is another favourite of mine. It’s quite kitsch with gingham tablecloths and dated decor but don’t let this put you off, the food is great. The proprietor is a lovely woman who speaks some English and will give you good recommendations.
The three of us shared a plain avocado and raw onion salad to start, along with runner beans and ham (B+).
We had our starters with daiquiris, of which the plain and banana flavours were great (A), though not really the synthetic tasting strawberry (C+).
My roast pork with black beans and rice was really good as was my friend’s ‘ropa viejo’ (which translates as ‘old clothes’) aka shredded beef, also with beans and rice (both B+).
The winner however was the calves liver and onions (A).
Roast banana sounds like it could be dessert but it’s actually a side dish. It tasted really nice too (A).
Our Valdepenas red ‘Senorio de los Llanos’ (A) made a nice change from rioja.
The bill came to about €25 each, great value. You shouldn’t need to reserve if you get there early but it will be full by 10pm.
This review was written in 2011 at the old Calle Infantas address. I haven’t been to the new location on Calle Barbieri yet.
Al Jayma – Cocina del Desierto (Intermediate A-), 1 Calle Barbieri, Tel. 91 523 1142, www.facebook.com/Cocina-del-desierto
Very popular and good value-for-money Moroccan restaurant with a nice ambience. You can sit on floor cushions or around tray topped tables. The service is ok although the woman who runs it could try to smile a bit more.
To start we had an unmixed carrot and yogurt salad which was quite plain but very generous (B) and tabule (A) which was great.
There are several couscous dishes on the menu but we went for the tajin selection. My Tayin de Pollo con Limon was excellent (A) but my companion was a little disappointed with her Tayin de Cordero (B) which had too many prunes and no dried apricots.
The Montepardo Tempranillo red we had was also very good (B+) at only €8.40 a bottle.
Our bill came to a paltry €18 each. Perhaps for this reason they are always busy so make sure you reserve to avoid disappointment, or get there at exactly 8.30 when they open and you may be lucky.
Baco y Beto (Intermediate C), 24 Calle Pelayo, www.baco-beto.com
Suggested by the Guardian for their internationally (Cuban, Costa Rican, Catalonian, Canarian and Italian) influenced cocina creativa, but I was sadly disappointed.
The recommended patacónes (green plantain puff pastry tarts filled with avocado and served with mashed beans and cheese) that had attracted me were no longer on the menu, at least when I went at lunchtime.
Media of Setas Rebozadas con Salsa de Trufa, breaded wild mushrooms with truffle sauce. The mushrooms were tasteless and the sauce did nothing for me (C).
Cordero Confitado Sobre con Patacón banado con una Crema de Cilantro y Curry, or confit of lamb with fried green plantain and ‘bathed’ with coriander and curry sauce, was equally uninspiring (C).
Glass of Ribera del Duero and one of Madrid brought it to €25.
Maybe I made bad choices, or maybe the kitchen had a bad day, either way I won’t be back.
Visited 2016, pics uploaded Feb 2017.
The Taj Mahal (Intermediate B), 12 Calle Belen
This Indian restaurant is okay if you really need a change, although I dislike the seeds they put in their papads, and their Chicken Madras lacks depth of flavour.
There must be somewhere better for spice lovers…
More Chueca restaurants:
Traditional Madrileno restaurants here.
Traditional Spanish regional restaurants here.
Modern Spanish restaurants here.
Bars and cafes here.
Food shops here.
Google map with everything on here.