Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – Posh Restaurants in Goya Neighbourhood

Goya is in the central southern part of Barrio Salamanca, bordered by Calle Principe de Vegara to the west (see my Recoletos posts), Calle de Don Ramón de la Cruz to the north (see my Lista post), Calle del Dr. Esquerdo to the east and Calle de O’Donnell to the south (see my Ibiza posts). There are heaps of good bars in the area. Please see my separate post for places to eat. Map of the barrio here, my Google map here. Please see my separate posts for bars, stuff to see and cheaper places to eat in Goya.

As befits this wealthy part of town, there are more high-end restaurants in Goya than you can shake a fist at. I’m not keen on most of them but there are a few places that are okay so I’ve put them in order of preference with the ones I like first. The end of this post turns into a bit of a slag fest but that’s one of the joys of blogging, you can vent your spleen at the places that have done you wrong!

So, beginning with my favourites:

Punto MX (Advanced A), 40 Calle General Pardinas (corner with Calle Ayala), puntomx.es

This is the world’s only Michelin starred Mexican restaurant. Two of us went without a reservation but they let us in as we arrived as soon as they opened. We were given the table by the kitchen door, which is probably kept for last minute customers like us, but it wasn’t so bad.

On my last trip to Mexico a few months before I discovered the Margarita Tamarindo. I’m not sure what they do to it here but it was the best one I’d ever had (A+).

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Of course we had to have the Guacamole. A trolley was wheeled up to our table and they made it in front of us to our specifications.

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We can definitely recommend it with pumpkin seeds (A).

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Panuchos de Cochinita Piblil con X’nipek de Cebollita Morada y Chile Habanero. Refried tortillas (panuchos) with roast piglet and a red onion and habanero salsa. Video recipe here.

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Pibil refers to roasting underground. X’nipek (dog nose) is a Mayan name, although it now made with some non-American ingredients such as vinegar. It’s usually used as an accompaniment to other Mexican dishes, often with other ‘Pico de Gallo’ sauces.

Taco de Atun Rojo, Salsa de Chile Serrano y Limon Verde, a taco with Bluefin tuna and a salsa of chilli Serrano and lime.

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Tamal Colado de Rabo de Toro, Frijoles Hayos, or maize flour tortillas with oxtail and kidney beans.

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We also had a 2011 red called Salia from the Manchuela DO in Castile-La Mancha (a new one on me)…

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…and a beautifully presented dessert involving sweet avocado cream, lemon jelly and coconut ice cream, but I was too busy chatting to grade them, apologies.

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Suffice to say it was all top notch.

The total came to €119 for two which isn’t bad for a Michelin starred restaurant.

Not to everyone’s taste this next one, but I love it…

La Tasqueria (Intermediate B+), 48 Duque de Sesto, www.latasqueria.com

Javi Estevez the chef/owner specialises in ‘fine offal’. The name is a play on ‘tasca’ (a boozer) and ‘casceria’ (an offal restaurant).

It’s very popular so it’s probably best to reserve, or arrive as soon as it opens on an evening in the week as I did.

I had their €38 Menu Tasqueria where you can choose one tarro (jar), three small plates, a second course and dessert. I added a cheese board and a bottle of Finca Elez to take it to €58.

Things kicked off with some complementary sliced Lengua (tongue).

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The following jar of Morcilla spread was tasteless (C). Too long in the fridge?

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Then a taco in a roof tile. Not sure what this was as it seemed complimentary but it tasted really good (A).

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The Lengua, Atun, Alcaparras (tongue, tuna, capers) was nice (B) but I’d have enjoyed it more on a plate rather than a slate which couldn’t stop the mayo from going everywhere.

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The Manitas, Alcachofa, Cigala (pigs trotters, artichoke, Norway lobster) was very good (B+).

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The Rabito, Anguila, Queso (piglet tail, eel and cheese) for the main was the star though (A).

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The label on the 2009 Finca Elez (B) told me that it was the first wine to be granted it’s own DO.

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The Rhubarb & Cheesecake was excellent (A).

I had it with a PX that was new to me called Monteagudo (B).

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I also had their Cheese Selection which was disappointingly small (B-) and the waitress couldn’t tell me what they were. In fact the dour service from her and her male colleague scored a C overall.

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On the plus side I received a free glass of Torres 5 Anos Brandy to finish. A great spot! If you like that sort of thing…

La Cocina de Maria Luisa (Intermediate B-), 42 Calle Jorge Juan, www.lacocinademarialuisa.es

This mushroom specialist is recommended by the Guia Repsol and also a local headmistress. I so wanted it to be good but I can’t say we (my friend Ethel and I) were particularly impressed. They specialise in wild mushrooms but we visited in early May so they would probably have more to offer if you went in the autumn.

We were the first customers to arrive but were left unattended for such a long time that we had to go and remind the waiters that we existed. However Maria Luisa the chef and owner was lovely and very welcoming (unlike her staff) when she came out to tell us about the tasting menu (€54).

Everyone in the restaurant got an amuse bouche of cheese croquettes (A) and a big bowl of asparagus and tomato soup (B+).

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Our menu kicked off with a carpaccio of boletus (ceps)which were nice but Maria Luisa had been a bit heavy-handed with the vinegar (B).

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This was followed by two big spears of white asparagus (B+) with mayo and salad and served with a shot glass of the cooking water which was remarkably tasty (A).

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After this we had some Colmenillas, which translates as ‘little beehives’ (morels I think). They were wonderfully meaty but a bit over salted (A-) and didn’t go very well with the strawberry and mushroom juices sauce they were served with (C+).

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Next , two overcooked monkfish fritters (C) with a sauce reminiscent of Campbells mushroom soup (B); a rather strange combination we couldn’t get our heads round.

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Then I had stuffed the pig’s trotters, a staple of Spanish cuisine that I was interested to try but that did little for me (C-).

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We had all this with an excellent Priorat red (B+) which was very good good value.

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Ethel had venison (B) served with dollops of four rather unpleasant sweet sauces (C-) including one of very sweet chocolate.

To finish, a slice of blamange type cake (C) with some blackberry ice cream which Ethel liked but I didn’t (B/C). I had this with a glass of average Pedro Ximenez to finish (B).

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So a couple of highlights but otherwise quite middling scores. I would give it another try in the Autumn though.

There are also a few places to steer clear of in this moneyed part of town…

El Fogon de Trifon (High Intermediate A-), 144 Calle Ayala, elfogondetrifon.com

I actually like the food and service in this small place but it’s just a bit too pricey.

Recommended in ‘Where Chef’s Eat’ I felt I had to give it a try, and might do again if I’m feeling flush.

I had the complimentary gazpacho (A), entrecote and chips (B+). a half bottle of Emilio Moro 2010 Ribera (B+) and pastel manzana (B+) for €52.50.

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There’s a tapas bar out front and a small dining room in the back, both quite popular so it might be hard to get in without a reservation.

Teatriz (Advanced B-), C/Hermosilla 14, Tel.915 775 379, www.teatriz.com

As the name suggests, this place is in an old theatre which has been redesigned by Phillipe Starck. I sat were the stalls used to be but you can sit on the stage too, or upstairs in the circle if you just want drinks. I was quite disappointed by the plain decor with little evidence of Starck’s amazing imagination in comparison to his efforts in Beijing (see my 2010 post).

The front entrance area looks more like a cafe but it gets a bit better inside. The lighting very theatre like but a bit too dim for a restaurant, although it does add to the hushed atmosphere as you wait for the food performance to start.

This was a lunch time trip for relatively cheap menu-del-dia as I couldn’t afford the a-la-carte offerings. To start Gazpacho Burata which was a lump of ordinary mozzarella (not burata as it should be with buffalo cream injected into the centre) floating in the middle. Although the texture was interesting, I thought both main ingredients would have been fine by themselves but spoiled each other in combination (C+).

I chose a nice Verdejo to go with this which was probably the best part of the meal (B+).

Next a mushroom paella (looking quite moist like a risotto) which was very rich and tasty, if anything a bit too flavoursome (B+), certainly for my choice of wine (memo to self, buy by the glass for each course).

Finally, my unmemorable dessert came unexpectedly in the form of a milkshake and although it tasted fine, was a bit of a visual let down (C+).

The best thing was the glass of ten-year-old Pedro Ximenez sherry from Osborne (A).

In short, a poncey place to see and be seen, good for business lunches if you have them. Personally I won’t be going back.

El Buey (Advanced D), 9 C/General Diaz Polier, restauranteelbuey.com

The sister restaurant in Placa de la Marina Espanola has a great rep for its sizzling steaks, cooked on a hotplate on your table. Here, I found the meat tough and expensive for it was.

The worst thing though was the inedible seafood and some kind of vegetable ‘special’ they were offering that day which I have obliterated from my memory and don’t want to write about. Don’t go.

La Trainera, C/Lagasca 60, (Advanced D), Tel . 915 768 035, www.latrainera.es

A very posh seafood and champagne place, beloved by cabinet ministers and captains of industry with large expense accounts. It’s just opposite the side entrance to Mercado de la Paz, which boded well for the quality and freshness of the mariscos sold here. It’s a warren of rooms (I know because I turned the first two tables down and got a tour of the place). The decor of ‘The Drifter’ is lots of varnished wood with ship wheels in every alcove to hammer home the seafaring theme.

There are two ranks of waiters, lowly plate bearers in white and section bosses in blue. The chap who greeted me was fine but from then on the service was brusque and unsmiling in the extreme. Not sure if it was because I was a scruffy English sod in trainers and shorts or whether they’re like that to everyone who they don’t know (probably the latter given the negative reviews on TripAdvisor). The manager came in to our four table room and asked the Spanish diners if everything was ok but ignored myself and an English couple on another table which said it all really. I’d always thought that posh Spaniards could be awful snobs and this just hammered it home.

I asked whether all six of the Rueda whites where Verdejo’s (probably a stupid question) but just had the wine list read out to me in order by way of reply. The recommendation when it came was for the most expensive one (Marques de Riscal 2011) and I can’t say I was too impressed (C+). I’ve had some wonderfully fragrant bottles of this grape in the past but, although very dry, this one just didn’t satisfy.

I started with the Canapes de Gambas which were small slices of white bread with the crusts cut off and a slice of persimmon topped with a couple of shelled prawns and doused with what looked like Thousand Island dressing, but I was too scared to ask. They were very good though (A).

To follow a plate of Almejas al Natural, uncooked shucked clams in their shells, served on a bed of ice with wedges of lemon, again very good (A). I toyed with the idea of a main dish but by this time I was already pretty pissed off with the treatment I had been getting and thought better of it.

I was even toying with the idea of a negative review on Trip Advisor, not something I have ever done before but this place deserved every word of bile I could muster. And then the bill came. They wanted €56 for the clams!! The waiter had not even bothered to listen to me when I had ordered 200g, not a lot I admit, but I had only wanted to try them. I remonstrated with the manager and got it reduced to just over €20.

I calculate that in the last 12 years, I have eaten in over 300 hundred restaurants in Spain, and this was the worse treatment I have ever received in all that time. Looking at Trip Advisor I can see that I was not the only one to have been treated this way by “el Camarero de la pena de muerte”. Go to Marisqueria Ribeira do Mino in Chueca instead and notice the difference.

And on that cheery note I shall curtail this discussion on the love/hate relationship I have with this part of Madrid!

For other neighbourhoods in Salamanca that adjoin Goya please see the separate posts for El Retiro and the Lista, Castellana, Recoletos and Ibiza barrios.

Pics uploaded Feb 2014 and May 2012.

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