Castellana is the northwesternmost ward in Salamanca, bordered by Paseo de Castellana to the west, Calle de Maria de Molina to the north, Calle Principe de Vegara to the east and Calle de Don Ramon de la Cruz to the south. There are heaps of good restaurants in the area. Please see my separate post for places to drink. Google map here.
Lavinia (High Intermediate B+), 16 Calle de José Ortega y Gasset, www.lavinia.es
Lavinia is principally a wine retail shop. They claim to have Europe’s largest selection of wines under one roof. This is the Madrid branch, they have a shop in Paris too.
The shop has its own restaurant on the mezzanine floor above the wine shop so you can taste the wines with the foods they go well with, and then buy the wines in the shop. This was perfect for me as I’m always on the lookout for wines to sell at my pop up restaurant, ClandesDine (see separate posts on Sheffield).
There are tasting menus of various sizes. I had the Menu Pequenos for €75; ten dishes and six wines from small producers (there’s also a €95 menu with premium wines.
My excellent young waiter was called Javi Jadraque.
We kicked off with Champagne Francis Boulard ‘Blanc de Blanc’, a virtually odourless and tasteless champagne (B).
To eat a piece of brittle deep-fried pig skin with some kind of crunchy fruit similar to christophene, a combination which didn’t work for me at all (C).
Next a glass of ‘Clos de Tuffiers’ by Domaine de Belliviere from the Jasnieres Appelation Controle (B).
This went well with the Ventresca de Lubina con Espuma de Jingebre Fermentado sobre Capuchina, which was unsightly but tasty (B). Javi described this as seabass on ‘frog leaf’ but I think he confused a nasturtium (edible) with a lily pad (which isn’t). Capuchina is nasturtium in Spanish.
After this something described to me as seaweed, which might have been in the puree, but sweet and purple potatoes seemed to be much more of a feature. It was really good though (A).
La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada (A) by Navazos in Jerez. Manzanilla is essentially the same as a Fino sherry but only produced and matured around Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Manzanilla Pasada is a richer, older Manzanilla, and this is perhaps the oldest on the market. I liked it so much that I included a bottle in the wine order I made after the meal.
This was followed by some fantastic Espárragos (A+) which Javi informed me was from Aranjuez, a town to the south of Madrid which is famous for asparagus.
Then a glass of Garnacha de Bernabeleva called Navherreros from the Vinos de Madrid (not a famous appellation) which grew on me the longer it was out of the bottle (B to B+) to the point that I later ordered a couple of bottles to take home.
We went on with some of my beloved Mollejas (sweetbreads) which were excellent (A).
Then a 2010 Ribera del Duero called Corimbo I which was ok (B).
Next some green beans with mushrooms which were really good (A).
The confit of bacalao didn’t do much for me unfortunately (C).
But the small square of Cochinillo Asado, roast baby piglet, transported me to heaven (A+).
Can’t remember what this pre-dessert was sorry. Membrillo quince jelly perhaps?
The Chocolate with Apricot was enjoyable (B).
I had this a glass of a 20 year old Pedro Ximenez called Don Guido by Williams Humbert which was so good (A) that I ordered a bottle to take home.
Javi informed me that PX is a mosto or a mostella (essentially unfiltered grape juice) because it’s not fermented and the alcohol is added later.
To finish, an excellent Oloroso Viejo brandy from Lepanto (B+).
We also debated the merits of drinking brandy with ice or in a warmed glass. I prefer the latter because for me the aroma adds to the taste but purists like Javi say the alcohol is being lost in the vapours.
So mixed results for both the food and the wine but I enjoyed myself and learned a lot at the same time, which is all I want really.
After thanking Javi for his great service I went down to the ground floor and ordered all the wines I’d enjoyed during the meal, and a few more from around the shop. That’s my kind of shopping! I’ll certainly be back next time I’m in Madrid.
In 2016 it cost about €3 a bottle to post to the UK, if you got 12 bottles, or around €2 each if you ordered 24.
They are open from Monday to Saturday for lunch and the bar is open for tapas, every day until 10pm. The schedule can vary but they are usually open Thursday and Friday for dinner.
Many of the places below are between ten and twenty blocks walk from the hotel. But then if you’re going to walk that far to eat then you may as well go to Chueca where, in my opinion, the restaurants are more interesting and the food is better value for money.
The above was written in 2016, the below in 2012.
Jose Luis (Advanced A-), 89 Calle Serrano, www.joseluis.es
One of the most famous tapas bars in Madrid. As the flagship of a national chain owned by a famous Basque chef, this is a good place if you like to rub shoulders with the well-heeled and be attended to by waiters in tunics with silver buttons. There is a restaurant too but the brightly lit tapas bar next door is far more vibrant.
The canapés include caviar, smoked salmon, crab and a myriad of other delicacies. Think I upset the perky young guy behind the bar a bit (though he wasn’t averse to my blonde female companion) by turning down the house special of various croquettes, fried brie and other calorific goblets in favour of a more healthy tapa of salpicon (prawns with diced onion and green pepper in oil) which was much better than elsewhere (B).
We enjoyed a glass of Galician dry white with it too but only wanted a snack so the bill was relatively low. It can get very expensive here though if you’re not careful. It’s at the far end of Calle Serrano and not worth the walk from the hotel as far as I’m concerned, although it is opposite the interesting Museo Lazaro Galdiano ww.flg.es (free on Sundays). Generally though I’d rather go somewhere a bit more down to earth.
I came back here in 2012 when somewhere else I was going to was closed and ate in the restaurant. I had some standard Pimientos de Guernika (B)…
…followed by the mediocre Hamburguesas Jose Luis (C+).
To drink an absolutely stunning Protos Ribera del Duero Crianza 2004 (A+).
To finish Tocina de Cielo, a very sweet version of flan from Jerez.
In short, a bit poncey but worth checking out if you’re passing.
Pics uploaded again Feb 2017.
El Séptimo (Intermediate A-), 7 Calle Diego de Leon now moved to 29 Calle de Alonso Cano, www.elseptimo.com
Overly romantic decor (hence the minus) but they have several tables out on the pavement where you can sit and watch the world go by. There are lots of veggie options on the menu, including several kinds of salads that are supposed to be very good.
After a free entree of raw carrots and some rather tasteless cream cheese (C), I had the ‘starter’ of apple croquetas which were great (B) but sizable (you get two so good for sharing) and seemed more appropriate as a dessert as they are quite sweet and come with a splodge of squirty cream.
The star of the meal was the Tournedo Iberico which is fantastic (A). Four slivers of lightly seared top quality pork overlaying a mound of tasty mash and decorated with swirls of raspberry sauce; a delight to the tastebuds and well worth the €15 price tag.
The house red, Cune Crianza starts off well but seems to lose its attraction towards the end of the bottle.
Pics uploaded May 2012.
Flash Flash Tortilleria (Intermediate A-), 75 Nunez de Balbao, Tel. 91 575 1010
Very popular with the locals, queues at peak times despite seating for 100+ upstairs, more downstairs and a terrace outside when it’s warm. The walls, banquettes and most of the decor is blinding white with silhouettes of a female model wielding a camera, the room lights replacing the flashbulb. It’s not so bad; the waiters are friendly and the food, although very plainly presented, somehow makes up for the brash surroundings.
To start, the three of us had Ensalada de Gulas (elvers with caramelised onion on a deliciously dressed salad of green leaves) (A), the good house Gazpacho (B+) and excellent Parmentier potato and leek soup (A). The mains were Albondigas con Arroz en Salsa (A), the Monty Burger which was very similar to steak tartar with fresh veg (A) and a disappointingly ironic ham and potato tortilla (C). The accompanying Taurus Tempranillo from Toro was great (A) and took the bill to about €25 each which is pretty reasonable for the area. There’s a big salad bar too. I’d definitely go back but not for the tortilla. Open Sunday.
And one to avoid from 2012…
Meson Cinco Jotas (Intermediate C/D), 118 Calle Serrano
We came here on the spur of the moment as the Menu-del-Dia on the blackboard outside looked good. However we took the plunge only to find they had stopped serving it! After this disappointment we only ordered starters fortunately namely the Foie con Jamon (took a while to find the foie under the huge pile of rocket) and Queso de Cabra con Espinacas which was a whole soft cheese in a deep-fried crispy pancake with raw spinach, not a good combo (D). The Montecillo Crianza 2006 Rioja was good (A) but not at €17. Avoid!