Archive for the Madrid Comunidad Category

Comunidad de Madrid – San Lorenzo de El Escorial

Posted in El Escorial, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , on October 8, 2017 by gannet39

On my free day, faced with a choice between visiting a royal monastery or the tomb of a dictator, I chose the one with the best restaurant…

San Lorenzo de El Escorial is a small town a short drive from Colloda Villalba (20€ in a taxi).

You’ll find everywhere mentioned in this post, and more, on this map.

The town grew up around the Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, a royal monastery and palace founded by King Phillip in 1563, now a UNESCO world heritage site. It has been the burial site for all the Spanish monarchs ever since.

Personally I’m not a fan of its bleak Catholic style of architecture. I can empathise with a friend who mistook it for a prison as they drove up the hill towards it.

The floor plan of the monastery takes the form of a gridiron which legend sats was intended to honour the memory of Saint Laurence who achieved martyrdom after being roasted on a grill, which pretty much captures the mood of the place.

To my eye there is little of beauty to see. There are some statues on the roof in the internal courtyards.

The long austere corridors have some frescoes in their niches…

…and there’s some precise topiary in the gardens at the front, but no flowers.

The best thing I saw was a tapestry version of one of my favourite paintings The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch.

The original, which hangs in the Prado, was probably painted around 1503 whereas this copy, one of many, was made in 1566.

The rest of the town is nice enough…

…mid-eighteenth century architecture I would guess…

…and there is the odd architectural quirk.

For me the nicest things were the views.

Montia (Advanced A-), 4 Calle Calvario, San Lorenzo de El Escorial, www.montia.es

This is an excellent restaurant with a Michelin star. Generally I’m wary of fine dining places but the food here is great. It would cost three times as much at home in the UK.

For a treat I had the longer of the three tasting menus (40€, 60€ or 65€) with matching wines. Everything came so thick and fast that I didn’t always have time to grade and photograph everything, apologies.

Things kicked off with a trio of starters (all A); Baby Squid in its Ink, Black Olive Spheres and a Rabbit Croquette.

The first glass of wine was a Riesling from Granada called ‘Ring Ring’ (B+).

Then ‘Marinated Mussels, Beans and Mushrooms’ garnished with geranium leaves and a local herb called Montia after which the restaurant is named.

This was accompanied by a glass of Macabeu Penedes ‘L’Ermot’ (La Salada 2015) which wasn’t particularly aromatic but had good depth of flavour (B+).

Next, white ‘Asparagus from Tudela with Tartar’.

Then; a ‘Low Temperature Egg with Iberian Pork Tongue and Asparagus’ (A).

This was followed by a ‘Mousse of Foie and Turtledove with Hazlenut’. There was some chocolate in there which is a popular match with the local game but it’s not a favourite combo of mine (C).

My notes tell me I next had a local Orange Wine, but my photo says it’s Zerberos Vino Precioso. Whatever it was, I liked it (B+).

After this, ‘Sautéed Mackerel with Borage and Thyme Infused Consommé’, latter was served from a Japanese teapot.

I love mackerel but strangely I wasn’t too keen on this version (C).

Next a glass of very fruity ‘Groove’ 2014 Garnacha by Rubor (B+).

Then their ‘Buffalo Grill with Small Radish and Purple Carrot’ (A).

I had this with a glass of ‘Chat Zen’ Sauvignon Blanc from Languedoc in France (B+).

‘Goulash of Veal Beef Cheeks with Acidic Goat’s Cheese’.

I loved the ‘Chicken marinated in Beer with Crayfish’ (A).

With this, my favourite wine so far. ‘Passio’ by Cosmic Vintayers (A). It’s made with 94% Marcelan and 6% Sumoll grapes which give it an unusual dark purple colour.

‘Callos a la Madrilèna’, aka Tripe with Smoked Chorizo and Black Pudding, a dish I’ve had a half dozen times and only enjoyed once before. This was stunningly good (A+).

I remember liking the effervescent Festejar 2014 from La Boheme (B) for the cheese course.

The Degustación de Quesos included; Sheep’s Curd (Torremocha del Jarama), Cow’s Cheese (Rio Pradillo from Cerecedilla), Goat’s Cheese (El Barraco from Avila), Sheep’s Cheese (Miraflores de la Sierra), Goat’s Blue Cheese (Colmenar Viejo), Goat’s Cheese (Fresnedillas de la Oliva).

Each cheese was highly individual and very good (B+/A) but arranged in order of age and strength of flavour, from left to right, so they didn’t conflict. A bottle of a prickly pear cordial was also to hand for palate cleansing purposes.

To drink with the desserts an excellent Muscat by Julian Ruiz called De Sol A Sol Dulce 2012 (A).

The first dessert was the visually spectacular ‘Mandarin Cold Soup with Fennel Ice Cream and Peppermint Sponges’ (A)…

…followed by a ‘Blue Cheese Cornetto with Pear and Violet Cotton Candy’ (A)…

…and finally a ‘Rice Pudding and Watercress with a Potato Stick’ (A).

To drink I finished with a Licor Jengribre (Cueva 2014) which I loved (A).

After a slug of good Costa Rican coffee (A) I was also introduced to a new Pacharan called Baines, which I now think is the best commercially available version of this Basque sloe and aniseed digestif (A).

So a couple of misfires but lots of top scores too. The already dated modern décor didn’t do much for me but I enjoyed the Smiths soundtrack and the service was friendly and super-efficient. I definitely recommend it.

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!

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