Archive for the Madrid Comunidad Category

Comunidad de Madrid – Colloda Villalba

Posted in Colloda Villalba, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , on April 18, 2017 by gannet39

Colloda Villalba is a fair sized town to the north east of Madrid, within the Comunidad de Madrid. While there isn’t much to see or do in the town itself, there are a couple of attractions in the nearby area. A short train journey, or a €25 taxi ride, will get you to the neighbouring town of El Escorial and its famous royal palace (see next post). Google map here.

Also not far away (€12 in a taxi according to a cabbie in 2016) is the Valle de los Caídos (Valley of the Fallen), the last resting place of Francisco Franco; the leader of the fascist Falange Española party and former dictator of Spain.

It’s supposed to be quite a sight, especially the huge cross that towers above it which is the largest in the world. I didn’t have time to go but my father has been and says it’s a very eerie place, built as it was with the forced labour of Republican prisoners, many of whom died during the construction. Exact figures are hard to arrive at as there is still very little information available as to what happened here.

My colleague Mark and I stayed for six nights in the Hotel Galaico www.hotelgalaico.com, the only hotel in town. It was unexceptional but the reception staff were nice and the Wi-Fi worked fairly well. The breakfast table is pretty bare; cornflakes, bread, processed cheese and ham, and if you’re lucky, the occasional fresh tomato.

There are a few restaurants within walking distance which were okay, but again, nothing to write home, or a blog, about, but I will anyway for the benefit of my colleagues.

El Cortijo Casa Andaluz (Low Intermediate B), 1 Calle Cervantes, www.elcortijo.es

A plain space with portly unsmiling old male staff but with decent Andalucian food, albeit mostly fried. Their house wine, an Albarino with no label from Galicia, is very drinkable and a snip at only €8.64 a bottle.

All the raciones on the menu can be ordered as medias (halves). We had four ham croquetas (B), chopitos; aka baby squid (B), a parrillada (mixed grill) of vegetables (aubergine, onion, red and green peppers) which was good (B+).

Also deep fried Chanquetes, a quite rare tiny fish known in English as the transparent goby, which was something I hadn’t eaten before (B).

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All this food was perfectly good, and very reasonable. With two bottles of wine and a couple of chupitos of Orujo de Hierbas, the bill came to a paltry €44 for two.

La Pescantina (Low Intermediate B), 17 Calle Batalla de Bailén

This is a seafood specialist recommended by two different teachers. Mark and I had the Mariscada for €47.50 which involved scallops, small prawns, king prawns, huge ‘carabineros’ prawns, razor clams and crayfish (B+), along with an unspecial mixed tuna salad (C+).

Salma (Intermediate B), 10 Calle Batalia de Belen

This is a Middle Eastern restaurant that sells alcohol. It makes a nice change if you’re tired of just eating Spanish food.

I came twice and had their set menu. You get a starter of pita with Hummus, Aubergine Baba Ganoush, Couscous and flatbread (B+) . The main course for me was always lamb (B).

La Sueno de Laura (Low Intermediate B), 11 Avenida de Honorio Lozano, Madrid, Spain www.elsueñodelaura.es

This is essentially a handmade burger joint but they also sell salads and egg dishes and they have an okay choice of wines. It was the Tripadvisor #1 at the time of writing (May 2016) and also had the most reviews, which is the criterion I generally look for.

The décor is modern café style and quite quirky with a collection of old TVs and other bric-a-brac. The staff are very friendly and the food is okay.

I had the ‘Hamburguer Gourmet’ (B+) con Queso de Cabra a la Plancha, Cebolla Caramelizada, Champiñón a la Plancha y Salsa de Miel y Mostaza (with grilled goat cheese, caramelized onion, grilled mushroom and honey and mustard sauce.

So no culinary stars in this town, just a few average restaurants. If you want somewhere really good you should jump in a taxi to El Escorial (please see next post).

Madrid – Vallecas – Puente de Vallecas

Posted in Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Puente de Vallecas, Spain, Vallecas with tags , on April 17, 2017 by gannet39

Vallecas is a working class district just to the southeast of the centre, Puente de Vallecas is one of the six barrios within it.

Vallecas is home to Madrid’s third football team, Rayo Vallecano, who play in the second division. The club and its fans, the Bukaneros, are famous for their left leaning politics.

For example, in 2012 the squad decided to take one day off from training to join the anti-austerity demonstrations. In 2014 the club helped support an old lady facing eviction from her home. Numerous other examples of solidarity exist.

For me this is truly a club to be inspired by, much more so than Athletico or Real.They have a new fan in me.

Casa Doli (Intermediate B+), 96 Avenida de San Diego, casadoli.com

I came here with my friends Ethel and Nick and we were joined by their friend Paloma who lives locally. The owner of the restaurant was very warm and welcoming.

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We had lots of good food here, mainly meat, including…

Torreznos de Soria (A); deep-fried panceta for which the town of Soria in the province of Castile y León is famous.

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And some lovely Chuletas de Cordero, lamb chops (A).

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My favourite was the Pluma de Iberico (A), sorry no photo. Plumas or ‘feathers’ are a cut from just behind the neck of the Iberico pig and are very tender.

To drink, a few ‘Cruzial’ beers by Cruzcampo, a new one on me (B).

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And with dessert a sweet 2012 Moscatel from Gran Fuedo (B+).

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A nice neighbourhood place I’d be happy to go to again.

Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – Recoletos – Stuff to See in Plaza de Colón

Posted in Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Plaza de Colón, Recoletos, Salamanca, Spain with tags , , , , , , on April 16, 2017 by gannet39

At the bottom of Calle Goya, where is meets the Paseo de Recoletos and Paseo de la Castellana is Plaza de Colón, now a very busy road intersection.

At the centre of the intersection is a Neogothic monument to Cristóbal Colón in white Italian marble. The Monumento a Colón was erected between 1881 and 1885.

The statue, along with the fountains further down Paseo de Recoletos, is a favourite spot for celebrating football fans.

I was fortunate enough to be in town when Spain won the world cup in July 2010. The scenes of rapturous joy were pretty wild as you can imagine!

A rather unattractive but quirky building known as the Torres de Colón towers over the square where it meets Calle de Genoa. Constructed in 1976, it was designed by the architect Antonio Lamela.

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My favourite feature of the square however is below the Torres de Colón on the traffic island in the middle of Calle de Genoa.

The statue, dating from 1987, is called ‘Woman with Mirror’ by Fernando Botero.

It’s very easy to walk right by and totally miss it.

In the paved area of the square by Calle de Goya is the Jardines del Descubrimiento.

This part of the square is dominated by a huge brutalist monument, the Monumento al Descubrimiento de América,, which is decorated with with reliefs and inscriptions dedicated to the discovery of America.

It’s formed by three statues known respectively as Las profecías, La génesis y El Descubrimiento (The Prophecies, The Genesis and The Discovery).

It was erected in 1977 and is the work of sculptor Joaquín Vaquero Turcios. I have no idea what he was thinking when he created these concrete beasts, but I admire him for it!

Click on a picture to go to full-screen slideshow mode.

A huge Spanish flag flies above this part of the square which is beloved by skateboarders and BMX bike riders.

On the other side of Calle de Goya, in front of the Hard Rock Cafe, is a small ignominious square suitably named Plaza Margaret Thatcher. There are no statues here thankfully!

However this statue on the crossing of Paseo de Recoletas could be considered to be a younger likeness of the former British Prime Minister. I think she might have lost her keys in this depiction.

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Photos uploaded April 2011 and February and April 2017.

Madrid – Chamberi – traditional cuisine in Arapiles

Posted in Arapiles, Chamberi, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , on April 15, 2017 by gannet39

A new part of town for me but I’m always happy to travel for good food. Nicky and I started with a glass of wine and a quick tapa sitting outside a nice old bar called La Nueva at 7 Calle de Arapiles, just around the corner from Quevado metro station. Google map here.

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Casa Ricardo (Intermediate B+), 31 Fernando el Catolico

Listed in ‘1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die’ this is an old school restaurant with bullfighting connections.

They are especially famous for ‘criadillas’ (bull’s testicles) but they didn’t seem to be on the menu when we were there. They are best in the bullfighting season which is from April to September.

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As usual when I’m with friends I was too busy talking to mark the dishes, but it was all really good. I’ve included links to recipes which look quite similar.

Menestra de Verduras; vegetable soup

Habitas Fritas con Jamon; fried broad beans with cured ham.

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Alcahofas Naturales Rehogados con Ajo; fresh artichokes sautéed with garlic and served here with green beans, carrot, peas and Swiss chard.

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Media racion de Rinones de Cordero Lechal al Jerez; a half portion of lambs kidneys cooked in sherry.

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Gallina en Pepitoria, similar to chicken fricassee but made with an almond sauce rather than mushrooms.

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Rabo de Toro; stewed oxtail with chips.

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The house red was okay but we upgraded to a 2011 Rioja Crianza from Martinez Lacuesta which is what the food deserved.

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For dessert; Filloas; A Galician pancake similar to a crepe but made most typically, I think, with pork lard rather than butter.

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And a glass of a good PX crianza.

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With two brandies the bill came to €98 for the two of us which seemed fair. Definitely a place I’d recommend for delicious and very authentic Spanish cuisine.

Madrid – Chamartin – Market Cuisine in Hispanoamérica

Posted in Chamartin, Hispanoamérica, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , on April 14, 2017 by gannet39

My first time in Chamberi, one of the northern districts of central Madrid. Barrio Hispanoamérica is one of its central wards. Google map here.

First stop was the excellent Mercado de Chamartín at 9 Calle Bolivia, www.mercadodechamartin.es which has some fantastic ingredients on display.

The fungus stall was pretty amazing. Some things I’d never seen before were Criadillas de Tierra, a type of fungus also known as the Desert Truffle. Usually criadillas are bull testicles!

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Then I went to this wonderful place nearby…

De la Riva (Advanced B+), 13 Calle Cochabamba, restaurantedelariva.com

Listed in 1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die this classic taberna is a very popular lunch place for the well-heeled Chamberi set (not a tourist in sight) so you must definitely reserve. They are only open for lunch (1 till 5pm).

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The cuisine is ‘cocina de mercado’; all top quality ingredients from the market nearby. There is no menu, the owner will come round and tell you what there is and help you make your decisions, so some knowledge of Spanish is required.

The media racion of Esparragos Blancos; white forced asaparagus, I began with was pretty huge (B+).

As was the one of Mollejas; sweetbreads (B+). But no problem, I was here to eat.

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For my first main, Pecho de Ternera; veal breast, which is very typical. It looked overdone but this is normal and it was very tasty (B+). Their recipe here.

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With this a side order of Alubias; haricot beans with chunks of chorizo (B+).

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With some pickled chillis on the side (B).

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To drink, a half-litre of 2011 Vina Eizaga Cosecha; the house rioja, poured from a big jeraboam (B+).

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I had an appetite so I also ordered the Rabo de Toro served with rice (B+).

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For dessert, Cuajada aka junket with honey and pine nuts (B).

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To finish, a large Duque de Alba brandy (one of my favourites) which was topped up by the waiter who also gave me, bizarrely, a couple of choccy biccys for good measure.

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The macho owner owner is a Real Madrid fan and quite unexpectedly in the middle of our meal a few bars of one of their signature songs was played over the sound system! This took the atmosphere up another notch as most of the customers joined in the song, except for my friendly neighbours who were Athletico supporters.

The final bill was just under €70, which was fine for what I had.

Everything was very simply presented, nothing fancy, just good, plain ingredients. My marks seem harsh in retrospect but they are only reflecting the lack of finesse, not the flavours.

This is one of the best traditional restaurants in Madrid, a definite recommend from me.

Madrid – Chueca – Cocktail Bars

Posted in Centro, Justicia (Chueca), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , , on April 13, 2017 by gannet39

In Spain I tend to be a G&T drinker, partly because that’s what the weather calls for and partly because they do them so well. Some places have as many as a dozen different G&Ts on the menu with a wide selection of gins and garnishes. Of course all these bars do other cocktails as well.

So, here are a few favourites…

La Cocina de San Antón (Intermediate B), top floor, Mercado San Antón, 24 Calle Augusto Figueroa, mercadosananton.com

I’ve reviewed this restaurant elsewhere and it’s okay, but I much prefer to come to their roof top bar for a drink rather than to eat. It can be hard to find a seat, and the service can be frustratingly slow, but otherwise it’s a good place to be on a sultry summer evening in Chueca.

La Terraza (Advanced B+), sixth floor, Hotel Principal, 1 Calle Marqués de Valdeiglesias, theprincipalmadridhotel.com

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The tiny reception area gives little clue as to the wide expanse of the rooftop terrace of this newly opened hotel (in 2016). The neo-Renaissance building is much older of course, built in 1907.

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You get great views of Gran Via including the Circulo de Bellas Artes opposite which also has a great roof top bar.

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It was the weekend of San Isidro when my friend Ethel and I went so we got to watch the fantastic firework display in El Retiro park from the comfort of our chairs.

Food is also available by famous Michelin Chef Ramón Freixa, but it ain’t cheap. Bear in mind most roof top bars will be more expensive than elsewhere. eg €19+ for a G&T.

Bar Cock (Advanced A), 16 Calle Reina

The name sounds like it should be a gay bar, especially as it’s in Chueca, and indeed the venue was once a brothel, but in fact this is a venerable old cocktail bar which first opened its doors in 1925. Ernest Hemingway, Ava Gardner, Frank Sinatra, Audrey Hepburn, John Wayne, George Clooney and Pedro Almovadar have all drunk here.

It’s most famous proprietor was Perico Chicote who also owned the equally famous Museo Chicote www.museo-chicote.com around the other side of the block at 12 Calle Gran Vía.

Cock can be hard to get in… so don’t arrive looking too scruffy or wearing trainers. There’s a nice chilled vibe though once you’re there though.

Diurno (Intermediate B+), 37 Calle San Marcos, www.diurno.com

This is a very cool, modern, low-lit bar with lots of seating. A favourite spot of mine for a nightcap.

I had a great G&T made with Puerto de Indias gin and served with strawberries and a cinnamon stick for €6.

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D’Mystic, (Intermediate B), 5 Calle Gravina

A friendly gay bar a couple of doors up from Taberna Angel Sierra (see my Chueca – Tapas Bars post). Great mojitos for only €6.50. You get free hugs from the staff when you enter!

Madrid – Centro – Cheap Places to Eat in Embajadores

Posted in Centro, Embajadores, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , on April 12, 2017 by gannet39

This next place is just over the road from Atocha station so a good spot for a snack if you’re getting on or off a train. Google map here.

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El Brillante (High Elementary A), 8 Gta Carlos V and 7 Calle Doctor Drumen, www.barelbrillante.es

This is a famous place (listed in ‘1001 Restaurants You Must Experience Before You Die’, amongst others) where you can try another Madrileno classic; the Bocadillo de Calamares, aka the fried squid sandwich.

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El Brillante claim to sell ‘los mejores calamares de Madrid’. No doubt there are others who claim to be the best but this one is certainly very good (not too greasy) and fills a large hole (B+). It’s pretty cheap at only €6.

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Of course they sell many other things such as sandwiches, salads, meatballs, churros etc. I also tried their Café Asiatico, a coffee made with Licor 43, coffee beans, lemon peel, cinnamon and foamy milk (B).

Café Asiatico was invented in Cartagena, the home of Licor 43, Spain’s most popular liqueur. The recipe for Licor 43 has forty three ingredients mainly fruit and herbs although the principal flavour is vanilla. The recipe comes from a 1,000 year old formula dating back to Roman times.

Freiduria de Gallinejas (Elementary B+), 84 Calle Embajadores

When it comes to offal I’ll give most things a go at least once because I hate to think I’m missing out on something. For instance I’ve tried  Callos a la Madrilena a few times, which most Madrileno’s would cite as their city’s signature dish, but it wasn’t until the third attempt that I actually enjoyed it (at Bodegas Ricla to be exact, see my ‘Tapas and churros around Plaza Mayor’ post).

This next place has been serving up lambs innards for more than 100 years so I figured if I was going to try other Madrileno offal dishes, this would be the best place.

Freiduria de Gallinejas

Freiduria de Gallinejas represents the last of a longstanding local tradition, the only survivor of sixty shops selling various kinds of innards that used to surround the local abattoir in Embajadores.

The friendly young guy who served me was very helpful in explaining what everything was on the menu and even gave me a mixed racion of Gallinjas (slices of lambs small intestine) and Entresijos (more of the same but with spleen and pancreas still attached).

Menu

Both are fried in the fat from the animal and served with chips. Once you get past the frilly tubular appearance it’s just like eating any other kind of deep-fried fritter, a pleasant crunchy texture with no particularly strong taste. I put them to bed no probs.

Entresijos y Gallinejas

My man’s next recommendation was a bit harder to finish. Mollejas Blancas are tender, juicy nuggets of ‘neck sweetbreads’ aka thymus glands. They looked good, hot and glistening in oil, and tasted fine, but I couldn’t finish more than ten, about a third of the plate. They have two other kinds of mollejas on the menu which would be interesting to compare.

Mollejas

According to my waiter, the best drink to go with this is Tinto de Verano. They give you a chilled bottle of cheap red wine, and another of lemonade to mix together yourself.

Baked apple but not as we know it

All this, along with a mixed salad and a large piece of French stick and a baked (actually burnt but still tasty) apple, came to a mere €21.20. All in all a very cheap and enjoyable experience.  Eat first ask questions later.

Pics uploaded Feb 2017 and April 2011.

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