Archive for the Centro Category

Shopping for Cheese in Spain

Posted in Centro, Goya, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Salamanca, Spain with tags , on February 17, 2019 by gannet39

I was recently asked for advice on shopping for cheese in Spain so I thought I’d share my thoughts on here as well.

Cheese sellers will offer you samples if they see you looking, or you could ask:

‘I’d like to try…’
‘Me gustaría probar…’

In the first place, Spanish cheese can be divided into three main groups:

Fresco: fresh cheese which has not been cured or aged
Semi curado: semi-cured cheese which has been aged for two or three months
Curado: cured cheese that has been cured for upwards of 4 months

A cheese board might feature all three ages of the same cheese in which case they are best eaten in the order of age, youngest first, strongest last.

They can also be divided according to the animal which produces the milk.

Queso de…

Oveja: sheep
Vaca: cow
Cabra: goat
Or a blend (mezcla) of two or three of the above

The most famous national cheese is Manchego, a sheep’s cheese from La Mancha, which is usually what you will get on your hotel breakfast buffet. Manchego Curado is the best stuff.

Other famous Spanish cheeses are:

Cabarales, a blue cheese from Asturias (often just cow but the best is a cow, sheep and goat milk mix)

Torta del Casar from Extremadura (sheep)
Mahon from Menorca (cow)
Idiazabal from Navarra and the Basque country (sheep)

Here’s a more exhaustive list with links.

When it comes to buying you could say:

‘I want to buy two hundred grams of Manchego Curado’.
‘Quiero comprar doscientos gramos de Manchego Curado’.

100g: cien gramos
250g: un cuarto de kilo

If it’s a segment of a wheel and you want to transport it you can ask for it to be vacuum packed or ‘envasado’.

Spanish people eat cheese as a tapa or as a starter, and also as a dessert with thin slices of ‘membrillo’ or quince jelly.

Grilled goat’s cheese is nice with some fig jam or ‘mermelada de higos’.

Toasted almonds, Marcona are the best, go well with matured cheese.

Connoisseurs say it’s best to drink white wine with cheese as it won’t dominate the flavour, but personally I prefer to drink red with more powerful curados. Dry Fino or Oloroso sherry goes well with it too and Pedro Jimenez sweet sherry can be an amazingly good match with blue cheeses like Cabrales.

The two best places to buy cheese in Madrid are:

La Boulette is a stall in Mercado de La Paz
El Poncelet, a shop between Alonso Martinez and Colon

The former is less than 10 mins walk from the Hotel Goya and the latter around 15 mins.

Both are proud to say they have over 200 varieties in stock, and they do have many Spanish cheeses but a fair amount of their stock will be from abroad.

If you want to find out the names of award-winning cheeses by looking at the yearly results in the World Cheese Awards

Please feel free to add tips and comments or to suggest other cheeses.

Happy cheese shopping 🙂


Madrid – Cortes – Las Huertas – two meals to remember at Triciclo

Posted in Centro, Las Huertas, Las Letras (Cortes), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags on February 15, 2019 by gannet39

Triciclo (High Intermediate A), 28 Calle Santa Maria,

As of Spring 2017 I’m very happy to say that Triciclo, located within my favourite tapas zone of Las Huertas (see my other post), is a new addition to my shortlist of essential places to eat in Madrid.

It was the place to be for the blogosphere when it opened in July 2013 but now things have calmed down it’s much easier to get in. You’ll still probably have to reserve at peak times though.

When I first came on a Thursday evening I had to squeeze into a tiny space at a raised table by the bar (my only gripe) but ended up liking the experience so much that I came back with a reservation for Saturday lunch and got a more comfortable seat in the pleasant dining room next door.

What made my experience so memorable was the superb service I received from Luis, the young sumelier (sommelier) who at only 26 is amazingly fluent in both English and wine.

On the first night I had the Menu Degustacion, seven dishes for €50, and the Maridaje (wine pairing); seven wines for €30, and it was worth every penny.

The bread and olives were excellent of course, as was the amuse bouche, whatever it was (A).

First off was a Fino from Bodega El Maestro Sierra which I really enjoyed (B+). In addition to producing great wine, the bodega is also notable for being run by a woman who took over thirty years ago when her husband died. Apparently this was very much frowned upon in traditional Andalucia.

I later procured a couple of bottles of this for my personal cellar.

The following descriptions are often incomplete as it was hard to keep up.

The first starter included some of the famous white prawns from Huelva which were paired with coconut milk, shichimi powder and trout eggs to superb effect.

This was paired with a stunning French white called Meursault. I later found out it costs around £40 a bottle but Luis had opened it for a table of the owner’s friends and very kindly given me a glass when he didn’t have to. I’ve since added one to my collection as it was superb (A+).

Whatever came next had a lot to compete with, but the mackerel did well (A).

It was matched with a Ribeiro called Finca Viñoa which had a subtle flavour and nose (B).

After this Alcachofas (B+); artichokes cooked on the plancha with a pil pil sauce, seaweed and Callos de Bacalao, the flotation bladders of cod, which are one of my favourite things to eat for their amazing flavour (A+).

Luis told me artichokes are usually best with sherry but he matched them with a favourite white of his called Artifice from Tenerife which had a very unusual petroleum-like taste(B).

After this; butter beans with clams and prawns (B).

This was matched with a Ribeira Sacra called Tolo do Xisto which had a medium nose and flavour (B+).

Next up, some Merluza (hake), which was very good (A).

The Gramona cava Luis served it with was also stunning (A) and I later bought some.

Apparently the bodega’s owner takes into consideration the astral biodynamic calendar to decide when he picks his grapes!

Then Mollejas; sweetbreads with beans (B+).

They went well with a glass of Scala dei Garnatxa from Priorat (B+), Spain’s finest red wine region.

To finish, Apple and Lychees (B+).

The best match for this was a slightly sweet wine; Moscatel de la Marina by Enrique Mendoza, which knocked my socks off (A). I later bought twelve bottles on the internet for my pop-up restaurant.

For a final digestif with my coffee I asked Luis for something special from the bar’s liqueur collection and I was given a glass of Don Papa; a new rum on the market from the Philippines. He advises cooling a drink with ice cubes but removing them with tongs before they start to melt too much.

Having loved my first experience so much, I came back for Saturday lunch, and Luis worked some more magic on me.

I’ve not graded them as I was too busy speaking to Luis but it was all superb again.

After an amuse bouche of I forget what…

…matched with a Manzanilla called Sacrista AB from Barbadillo…

… I restarted with the Tosta Atun.

And a rose called El Aprendiz from the DO Tierra de Leon.

Then a third portion of Ciervo (venison) decorated with salmon roe I think.

Matched with a glass of Llanos Negros ‘La Batista’; a Malvasia from La Palma.

Also a third of Esparragos, the season’s first crop of forced asparagus, arrived that day from Navarra.

And a glass of 2014 L’Equilibrista from Catalunya.

Then a third of Manitas; pig’s trotters, or as Luis called them pig’s hands.

The wine was called 30,000 Maravedies from Bodega Maranones near Madrid.

I don’t recall what was on the Taco Carri, sorry. Bet it was good though.

With this a 2013 Syrah called Toc Toc.

To finish, Nuestras Frutas, our fruits, which included kiwi, mandarin, red grape and cantaloupe melon was sublime.

And a final glass of 2012 MR Mountain Wine, a moscatel from Telmo Rodrigquez in Malaga.

This Maridaje of six wines only cost me €22, so I think Luis might have swung me a couple of favours, good egg that he is.

So the wheels came off my reviewing at the end but suffice to say I had two superb meals here and absolutely recommend Triciclo for lovers of fine food and wines.

Madrid – Chueca – Cocktail Bars

Posted in Centro, Chueca (Justicia), 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,

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,


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.


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


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 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,

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.


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.


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

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.


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.


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).


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.


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.

Madrid – Centro – Eating Cheaply in Las Letras

Posted in Centro, Las Letras (Cortes), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , on April 11, 2017 by gannet39

Barrio Las Letras is the easternmost barrio in the Centro. The Paseo del Prado is its border to the east and Barrio Chueca (Justicia) is to the north and Barrio Embajdores is to the south. Map of the barrio here, map of Madrid here.

El Lacón (Intermediate B-) 8 Calle Manuel Fernández y González,

A pretty old tiled bar on a back street. It’s a good place to come if you’re on a budget and quantity is more important than quality.


The food is fine, all B/C, but it’s not a place for gourmets. Five of us came here one evening and ate and drank very reasonably.

Los Chanquetes (Intermediate B), 2 Calle de Moratin,

A bullfighting themed place which I was tipped off about by a colleague who recommended coming here for the Rabo de Toro. It was good (B+) but I’ve had better.


I tried a bottle of local Vinos de Madrid red, a Tagonius Roble (B+) For dessert Queso con Membrillo, manchego with quince, always finds favour with me (B+).

Especially with a glass of sweet Moscatel. This one was called Lagrimas del Jabalon (B).


I incurred a reasonable bill of €26.70. It was ok but there are other better places to go to.

And finally a place I’m less keen on:

Tierra Mundi (Elementary C), 32 Calle Lope de Vega

If you’re on a budget I can’t fault this pseudo-Galician place but if you want good quality food, I’d go elsewhere. It’s marked as inexpensive in the Eyewitness Guide so I tried it in the interests of research.

In the spirit of eating cheaply I went for the Menu Nocturna for €10.50

I had a mixed salad with tuna to start which is hard to get wrong although obviously the tuna was not the best (B).

For my main, an only slightly chewy but quite oily veal steak (C+), with a sometimes soggy, sometimes slightly raw portion of patatas fritas (C+) on the same plate.


After tasting a glass of the undrinkable (D) house red (a very young Ribeira Sacra) I thought I’d upgrade to the only half bottle of Rioja (Alta Rio) on the wine list which was marginally better but unfinishable (C+). This seemed to confirm the opinion of some that half bottles are often used to sell inferior wine.

Finally, a slice of apple pie which was mainly dough with a sniff of apple (C-). I opted out of the cream but it might taste better if you had some.


Even my most beloved Spanish digestif Orujo des Hierbas was the most sub-standard version I’ve ever had (C+).

The decor is brash and modern and the service is just ok.

There are lots of other much better places nearby but come here by all means if saving money is important to you. The empanadas and octopus are good according to Eyewitness.

Total cost €25.10, which is hard to beat in expensive Madrid.

Photos from April 2011, February 2014 and February 2016.

Madrid – Sol – Roast Meat Restaurants around Plaza Mayor

Posted in Centro, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Plaza Mayor, Sol, Spain with tags , on April 10, 2017 by gannet39

Please see my separate posts on ‘Tapas and churros around Plaza Mayor‘ and ‘Things to see around Plaza Mayor‘. Google map here.

I used to think that the British did the best roast dinner but you can’t fault the Spanish really. We do roast beef really well of course, and our lamb is pretty good too but when it comes to suckling pig, los españoles have pretty much nailed it. These next two places draw on centuries of tradition and will press all the right buttons. I think the first is my favourite of the two but it’s a close call.

Los Galayos (High Intermediate A), 5 Calle Botoneros and Plaza Mayor,

This famous old place (since 1894) has two entrances and two terraces. The terrace on Botoneros (Buttons Street) is usually quieter but the San Isidro festival was on when we went and these characters were causing a bit of a ruckus.


These old timers are known as Castizos, original Madrilenos, who wear their traditional dress for special occasions like this.


My friend Ethel and I fancied slightly quieter surroundings so we opted for a table on the Plaza Major terrace. The square was still pretty busy with the preparation for a big concert that evening with the occasional sound check interrupting our reverie.


We started with a media racion (half portion) of two kinds of croquetas; ham and also blue cheese and brie, served with blue potato chips (all A).


The came the main event, the speciality of the house; Cochinillo Asado, suckling pig slow roasted in their ancient wood-fired oven. It was incredible, quite possibly the best I’ve ever eaten (A++).


Traditionally this is accompanied by just a bit of lettuce tossed in salt and oil but we pushed the boat out with the Ensalada de la Casa con Lechugas Variadas, Rulo de Queso de Cabra Gratinado, Crujiente de Bacon, Pasas de Málaga y Almendras Tostadas (house salad with various lettuces, grilled goat’s cheese, crispy bacon, Malaga raisins and toasted almonds) which was excellent (A).


With this we drank a bottle of a good roble Ribera del Duero by Protos, a red wine both of us are big fans of (B+).


To finish I had Torrijas de Leche con Helado de Turron aka bread pudding with nougat ice cream (A) and a glass of PX to go with it.


Finally a complimentary flask of aguardente with apricots and cinnamon (B+).


This was as near as damn it a perfect meal. The final bill came to €102 between two which is excellent value given the quality of everything we had.

One of my top recommendations in Madrid, please go if you can.

Apologies for the quality of the photos in the next one. They date from 2011 when I didn’t have a very good camera on my phone.

El Sobrino de Botin (Advanced B+), 17 Calle Cuchilleros,. Tel. 913 663 026/668 494,

This is Europe’s oldest restaurant, founded in 1725, and inevitably full of tourists, but the food is good and the building is very photogenic.

The restaurant has many artistic connections. Apparently Goya was a waiter here for a while and Graeme Greene had one of his characters suggest that “before buying purple socks, we treat ourselves to a tasty lunch at Botín…”.

Ernest Hemingway described Botin as “one of the best restaurants in the world “ in his novel The Sun Also Rises. Ever the man of appetite, he wrote that “We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta”, in fact “three bottles of rioja alta.”

There are lots of nooks and crannies where you could sit. Perhaps the best spot is on the ground floor so you can see all the action in the kitchen, or one of the many seating areas on the upper floors by the windows.

Botin ground floor

On my visit in 2010 I was lucky to get in during a busy Saturday lunchtime (they don’t take reservations), so I accepted a chair down in the slightly musty cellar with its high brick-arched ceiling.

Botin cellar

The house specialities are garlic soup, clams, roast lamb and suckling pig. You can see the piglets on plates stacked up on shelves in a larder next to the bustling kitchen.

I started off with a breakfast of Sopa de Ajo con Huevo (garlic soup with egg, and also ham and bread) (B) before moving on to lunch proper.

garlic soup

I had Cordero Asado, two huge hunks of lamb sharing a plate with two small spuds in a pool of oil. It was exceptional (A).

roast lamb & potatoes

The lack of veg is due to the fact they should have been eaten as a first course.

As I didn’t feel like drinking the house red, I had a nice house rose (Gran Feudo ’09).

The Tarta Botin (B-) was a slightly boring yellow slice of cake with vanilla cream and baked egg white blancmange, but it served its purpose.

Botin is definitely worth a visit for the historical experience and the food is pretty good too. You even get to keep the menu as a memento.

Photos uploaded February 2017 and April 2011.

Madrid – Tapas Bars in Malasaña

Posted in Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Malasaña (Universidad), Spain with tags , , on February 27, 2016 by gannet39

Malasaña is my next favourite barrio in Madrid, after Chueca. It’s more studenty and hipster whereas Chueca is a mix of avant garde and traditional.

The two neighbourhoods are separated by Calle de Fuencarral. At 78 Calle de Fuencarral you can see the stunning doorway of the Museo de Historia de Madrid,

Barrio map here, Madrid map here.


Here are a couple of my favourite places to eat and drink:

Ojalá (Intermediate A), 1 Calle San Andres,

This is my favourite in the small group of five La Musa hipster bars. I like it because the service is good and the food and drinks are great (fashionable ‘cocina creativa’), plus the basement has been turned into a beach! You can take your shoes off and feel the sand under your feet if that is your inclination.

I had the Banh Mi for €6 which was excellent (A+) even if it was nothing like the original Vietnamese/French fusion sandwich as it was made with soft Chinese-style dumpling dough rather than a baguette.


Like many trendy places in Spain they have an extensive G&T menu. I had the Seagram G&T for €7 and the Martin Miller G&T with cinnamon sticks (pictured) for €9, both excellent (A) and served in glasses the size of goldfish bowls.


Definitely somewhere I will return.

Musa Malasaña (Intermediate A), 18 Calle de Manuela Malasaña,

Another member of the hipster La Musa group, darker, quieter and more romantic than the bustling Ojalá, but still another good spot for ‘cocina creativa’.

To begin I had the Jabali con Alioli de Miel y Sobrasada, or wild boar with honey alioli and raw pork sausage, for €6. It was good (B) but if the website is correct, it’s longer on the menu, perhaps because it’s not particularly pretty to look at.


I was intrigued to know what the Empanadillas Japonesas were (€6) so I took the plunge only to discover that they were normal Gyozas (A) which are fried dumplings filled with pork mince and spring onion.


I also had Berenjas Fritas con Melaza, or deep fried slices of aubergine drizzled with molasses (€3.25) presented in a ceramic chip cone. Love the concept (A+).


I continued my exploration of their G&T menu with a Bulldog G&T for €8 and Tanqueray G&T for €9 (both B).

The soundtrack was a fine selection of House music (A). Service was pleasant again. I’d love to go again, preferably with some company.

Madrid – Chueca – Architecture

Posted in Chueca (Justicia), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , , on February 26, 2016 by gannet39

There’s not that much to see in terms of Modernisme architecture in Madrid, except for Palacio Longoria on the corner of Calle Fernando VI and Calle Pelayo in Chueca.

It was built in 1902 by the Catalán architect José Grases Riera.


Casa X

I’ve read that it’s the best example of Modernisme in Madrid, a movement more associated with Gaudi and Barcelona.


It currently houses the Spanish General Society of Authors and Editors. Sadly I don’t think it’s open to the public but you can see photos from inside by clicking on this link.

Wall motif

Another building I like is the Casa de los Lagartos at 1 Calle de Mejía Lequerica. On the ground floor it houses the Patrimonio Communal Olivarero olive oil shop mentioned in my Chueca -Food Shops post.


It’s called the Lizard House for obvious reasons. If you look at it from the side you’ll notice that the building is only five metres wide so there are only two flats per floor.


It was designed by Benito González and it’s a very rare example of the Wiener Secession, an Austrian art movement (Klimt was a member), which is characterised by geometric simplicity and symmetrical decoration.

A couple of streets along from Palacio Longoria is Calle San Tome which has some nice residential blocks.


20160514_154925And nearby Teatro Infanta Isabel at 24 Calle del Barquillo has quite an unusual facade.


On the same street on the corner with Calle del Almirante is a nice house with big windows know as ‘balcones cerrados’, or enclosed balconies.


At 2 Calle del General Castaños is the Parroquia de Santa Bárbara although you get a better view of the front from Calle Barbara de Braganza.


And that’s about it for nice architecture in this barrio. I’ll keep looking though.


Madrid – Chueca – Food Shopping

Posted in Centro, Chueca (Justicia), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 25, 2016 by gannet39

I always like to take a full suitcase home with me and these are my favourite places to stock up on my Spanish ingredients…


The old Mercado de San Anton used to be really quiet with only a handful of unexciting vendors. Now there are several modern artisanal stalls including a fishmonger’s…

Eye eye

…a bacalao seller…

Salt Cod

…and a greengrocer’s.

Mushrooms & Tomatoes

And my favourite…

Octavio (Advanced A), Second Floor, Mercado de San Anton, Calle Augusto Figueroa 24, Tel. 91 593 0241,

They have fantastic Bellota (acorn fed) ham here, some of the best I’ve ever eaten (A+), along with some great Iberico (B), all vacuum packed (‘embassado’) and ready to travel.



From the same stall, I like to get a quarter wheel of Manchego Curado and some Membrillo (quince jelly) to go with it. A lot of other gourmet specialities are available too.

On the next level of the market there are several innovative tapas stalls which are filled with throngs of people every night, making it a great new place to go in the already vibrant Chuecan food scene.

Reserva y Cata, 13 Calle del Conde de Xiquena,

A wine shop specializing in top quality local wines. I’ve always found them very friendly and they’ll let you taste wines if there’s a bottle open.

I usually get a bottle of my favourite red; Juan Gil 12 meses, a Monastrell from the Jumilla DO.

Patrimonio Communal Olivarero, 1 Calle Mejia Lequerica,

A cooperative with a huge selection of olive oils from every region of Spain. Given that Spain is the biggest producer of olive oil in the world and produces more than second place Italy and third place Greece put together, there is a lot to choose from (over 150 brands).

A lot of the oil here is available in two or five litre cans but most of it comes in litre or half litre bottles, and there are also presentation packs with several varieties of strange shaped bottles which would make nice presents.

Most brands proclaim their oil is made using artisanal methods, in particular first cold pressed cold-extraction. Prices range from €3 to €30 for 500 ml.

The shelves in the shop correspond to the regions the oils are from, but you also need to know your olive varieties and which ones you like. Here are some of the most common types:

Arbequina is very common and is grown in Aragon and Catalonia. The olives are small and are also good for eating.
Cornicabra is from Toledo and makes up 12% of Spanish production.
Empeltre, grown in Aragon and the Balearics, is also good for eating.
Hojiblanca, my favourite, is from Cordoba and is famed for its slightly bitter taste.
Manzanillo or Manzanilla aka ‘little apples’, is from Seville. It’s a prolific bearer of larger fruit and is grown worldwide.
Picual from Jaen has strong but sweet fruit. It’s good for eating and is responsible for 50% of Spanish production and 20% worldwide.

I got some bitter cloudy (unfiltered) Hojiblanca ‘Cortijo la Muralla’ from Ruen in Cordoba which was delicious drizzled on good bread.

Cortijo la Muralla







The building it’s in is called the Casa de los Lagartos. If you look up at the roof you’ll see why. After you’ve seen this next place you could pop down the road to see Palacio Longoria on the corner of Calle Fernando VI and Calle Pelayo. Architecture post here.


La Duquesita, 2 Calle de Fernando VI,

This picturesque pasteleria is just a few doors down from the olive oil shop above.

La Duquesita shopfront


The Little Duchess

‘The Little Duchess’ has been selling great cakes and chocolates and other baked goods, since 1914.

La Duquesita display

The staff are very friendly and will let you take pictures inside when asked.

La Duquesita counter

Several scenes from Spanish period movies have been shot in here.

Horno San Onofre, 9 Calle de Hortaleza,

An old bakery famous for selling Roscón de Reyes, the traditional cake served on Epiphany (the twelfth day of Christmas.


Their window displays of unusual breads are quite photogenic.


La Vieja Castilla, 3 Calle Gravina,

A cool little deli where they often have food and wine samples for customers to try.

Cacao Sampaka, Calle Orellana,

This modern shop is a gourmet chocolateria with a big selection of flavor combinations that I find very difficult to resist. Their café is supposed to be good too according to Lonely Planet.

Poncelet, 27 Calle Argensola,

A cheese shop with more than 300 varieties of cheese, over 80 of which are Spanish. This is a rival for La Boulette in the Mercado de la Paz in Barrio Salamanca which also has over 300 cheeses in its range. Open from 10.30 Monday to Saturday.

Aldaba, 4 Calle Belén

A homewares shop with a big selection of kitchenalia. I always find something to add to my collection.

Isolée, 19 Calle Infantas,

This is a very cool deli, clothes and home wares shop. I have to stay away from here or I’ll blow all my wages.

Not food related I know but while we’re on clothes Calle Fuencarrel has lots of fashion stores. In particular I like Mercado de Fuencarrel, which has several great little shops stocking independent designers. I also drop in to Carhartt at 3 Calle Augusto Figueroa nearby.

Madrid – Chueca – International Restaurants

Posted in Centro, Chueca (Justicia), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , on February 24, 2016 by gannet39

Zara (Intermediate A), 8 Calle Barbieri,

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,

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,

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.

Madrid – Chueca – modern Spanish restaurants

Posted in Centro, Chueca (Justicia), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , , , , , on February 23, 2016 by gannet39

cociAs you’d expect in trendy Chueca, there are plenty of modern Spanish restaurants.

Olé Lola (Intermediate A), 28 Calle San Mateo,

This is the kind of place I’d open myself if I had the money.

The décor is best described as modern baroque. The vibe is classy meets casual. I love the dark reds used for the lightbox and the comfy velvet sofas. I have another existence as a party promoter and I use the same colours for my décor.

The soundtrack was pretty cool too; from Young Disciples to Purple Rain.

The service I received was friendly and efficient and the food was modern and tasty ‘cocina creativa’.

Their ‘Huerto Brasa’ grilled veg was very good (B+).


And I enjoyed their sliders, especially the Chicken and Foie in a black bun (A) but also the Wagyu beef burger in the white bun (B+), both of which tasted great when dipped in the German mustard dotted on the slate.


They even had one of my favourite Spanish reds; Habla del Silencio (A). It was as it they’d seen me coming.


A bit expensive (€3.50 for the glass of wine) but definitely a place I’d love to return to.

Gastromaquia (Intermediate A), 8 Calle Pelayo, Tel.91 522 64 13,

This is a great little place with bright modern decor and efficient service. The food is especially good value at lunch times.


For the €13.90 Menu del Dia I had the wonderful Sopa Fria de Remalacha (chilled beetroot soup) (A+)…

Chilled Beetroot soup

…followed by Tigres (mussel shells stuffed with breadcrumbs and fried) (A).


The final dessert option, Crema de Curry con Espuma de Chocolate y Helado de Vanilla, was vanilla ice cream with a swirl of chocolate mousse and a sauce of egg yolk and curry spices; inspiring and delicious (A+).

Paxaran & de & dessert

To drink I had two glasses of lovely Verdejo and a Patxaran with lots of ice with the dessert. Bliss.

On another occasion in the evening I had Papas (baby potatoes on skewers with a chilli dipping sauce), Ensalada di Entresca (belly tuna on a bed of radicchio and other salad dressed with a balsamic reduction) (A+) and Pincho de Secreto (a spit of small chunks of marinated pork) (B), three glasses wine and a dessert (forgotten!) for €33.35.

This is slightly pricey for tapas but their ideas are innovative and interesting and have very tasty results. Definitely somewhere to check out on a regular basis.

Celso y Manolo (Intermediate B+), 1 Calle Libertad,

A new place (in 2016) that gets lots of rave reviews. Ethel and I enjoyed it but felt it didn’t quite live up to the hype.

The table we we had reserved was quite small and generally the place felt a bit cramped when it was busy. Our service was a bit dim and not particularly friendly. Refreshingly though they open at 19.30  every evening. Video here.

If I remember correctly the standout was the Arroz Campero (A).


A dish they are very proud of is the Chuleton de Tomate de Huesca con 6 Cosas Ricas, or beefsteak tomatoes from Huesca with with six nice things (avocado, mango, papaya, cucumber, red onion, coriander) and olive oil (B+).


The Croquetas de Bacalao, cod croquettes with pine nuts and raisins are fine (B).



Another star dish is their Taquitos de Venado con Salsa de Frambuesas y Arándanos; discs of venison loin served with a raspberry and cranberry sauce and a potato puree which made a nice change (B+). The recipe is at 6.59 in this video.


To drink; the Ribera del Duero from Hacienda Solano was okay (B).


€60 for two was fair enough. Modern, bright, innovative. I’d go again.

La Cocina de San Antón (Intermediate B), 24 Calle Augusto Figeroa,

This is a restaurant on the top floor of Mercado de San Antón, the refurbished market in Chueca. It’s a good location with lots of seating inside and a coveted terrace overlooking the street.
I had the Menu del Dia for €14 which involved a spinach, orange and pork salad starter (B)…


… followed by some more pork steaks with potatoes (B).


I had glasses of the Señorío del Cid Roble for €3 and the Viña Monty Crianza €3.20 both of which were fine (B).

The bar manager and bartender outside find it hard to crack a smile but the rest of the staff were nice enough. Notwithstanding the average food and mediocre service, the terrace is a good spot to come on a sunny day or a warm evening.

Mercado San Ildefonso (Elementary B), 57 Calle Fuencarral,

This ‘street market’ is actually a trendy food court which is currently becoming the fashion in the UK as well. Basically there are about a dozen vendors in small stalls around a central area with tables and a bar at one end. The bar charges €3 for a doble of Mahou which is about average.

At La Croquetterie I tried the Langostino, Queso, Jamon and Pollo croquettes which were all fine if unexciting (B). However the Boletus was excellent (A) and this is now my favourite filling. Really need to learn how to make these. I paid €8 for six croquettes.


At Bovinus I had an excellent steak (B+) which was sliced up tagliata style. The vendor told me the meat was from the north of Italy rather than Spain, which is interesting because at the time of writing the UK is going mad for aged beef from Galicia. The grass is always greener…


And a place to avoid:

Bazaar (Intermediate C), 21 Calle Libertad, Tel. 91 523 1505,

A nice looking place that’s amazingly cheap but best avoided if you like good grub. I have eaten here and was impressed by how low the bill was but not the food. I still remember finding an alien item in one mouthful, which impresssed me in the wrong way. The same applies here as in my review for La Finca de Susana, another member of the same chain, in my Plaza de Canalejas post.

More Chueca restaurants:

Traditional Madrileño restaurants here.

Traditional Spanish regional restaurants here.

International restaurants here.

Tapas bars and cervecerias here.

Food shops here.

Google map with everything on here.

Photos from April 2011 and February 2016.

Madrid – Chueca – traditional regional restaurants

Posted in Centro, Chueca (Justicia), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , on February 22, 2016 by gannet39

As befits a capital city, there are heaps of great regional restaurants in Madrid, particularly in Chueca. This first one is my favourite.

Ribeira do Miño (Intermediate A+), 1 Calle Santa Brigada, Tel. 91 521 9854, Metro Tribunal, GEM ALERT!

If you only go to one of my recommendations, make it this Galician marisqueira, a superlative seafood experience I try not to miss whenever I’m in town. It’s very popular so it’s best to book ahead (specify the back room).

First impressions might not be good as it’s located on a dodgy-looking graffiti-daubed side street, which only makes the experience even more special as far as I’m concerned.

Walk through the heaving tapas bar at the front, past the bustling kitchen serving hatches and you’ll find more rooms at the back.

The walls are simply decorated with nets and floats on a nautical theme. Signs prohibit singing (‘prohibo cantar!’).

The first thing you will notice are the large silver trays of seafood being ferried around by the friendly, welcoming waiters. The biggest trays carry the house signature dish, the Mariscada Especial.


This involves several kinds of seafood stacked up high on top of each other. First there’s a top layer of langoustines followed by two kinds of prawns, both large and small varieties.

Also percebes (goose barnacles, an acquired taste for Brits but very tasty when persevered with) and two kinds of crab. The crab claws have been dismembered for you and so are easily dealt with using a nutcracker. However the head shells, filled with a murky soup of brawn, are only for the brave!

You can get the mariscada in two sizes, for two or four people, at a cost of around €15 per head. I like to order the smaller size even if there’s four of us, and then get an extra order of prawns as well.

Rack em up

On the table there is also a big bowl of allioli, lemon quarters and half a loaf of good white bread cut into hunks. I’m half Norwegian on my mum’s side and my family eat prawns with similar accompaniments.

Another good side dish is Almejas al Vapor. They also offer them ‘a la marinera’ (sailor’s style with onion, garlic, paprika and parsley) but I don’t think they’re quite as nice. The clams should be sucked straight from the shells and the delicious broth dabbed up with bread.


Other good side orders are their grilled Pimientos de Padron, smoky grilled green peppers which are famous all over Spain but are particularly good here. They’re usually quite mild although watch out for the odd spicy renegade!

Pimientos  de Guernika

The tuna salad and the patatas fritas are good choices too.

To drink, the Galician Albariño white is the natural choice to go with seafood. I recommend the wonderful Vina Sobreira from the Rias Baixas DO.

David and Nicky

A spectacular end to the meal is the Quiemada, where a brass cauldron filled with burning Orujo (a Galician liquor made from pomace, like grappa) is placed on the table and you are given a metal ladle to stir in a big scoop of sugar.


The waiters can show you how to ladle the flaming liquid from on high so the blue flames shoot through the air on the way back to the bowl, only slightly singeing the table cloths if they splash over the edge. Couldn’t imagine Health & Safety allowing this in the UK!

Fire Guy

After several minutes of ladling, a waiter pours a kettle of coffee into the bowl, the flames slowly go out and the concoction is ready to drink.

If you still have space, the assorted cream cake selection is the natural choice for a group but a good option for one, if your co-diners are wimping out, is the pancakes flambéed in orujo. Generally though the desserts are nice but not amazing.

You’ll also receive a complementary glass of Orujo des Hierbas, a tasty yellow herbal version of the aguardente, to go with your sweet.


Anyway, rest assured, you’re not going anywhere fast after this lot. Good food in a great atmosphere, please don’t miss it!

Extremadura (Intermediate A-), 13 Calle Libertad, Tel. 91 531 82 22

Being overexcited on my first night in Spain for a while, I made the mistake of having a plate of pork and dairy products elsewhere before I came here, so sadly I was too full to appreciate the good food properly.


After a complementary amuse bouche of duck pate with a tasty salad of cabbage, spring onion and oregano (oh why did I do it), I had the starter proper, Migas de Pastor, a dish invented by shepherds for using up old bread.

Here it’s a combination of breadcrumbs, capsicums and small chunks of chorizo, garnished with grape halves. Unfortunately, while the dish was totally delicious (B+) it would have fed several shepherds and was way too much for me.


For my main I had Sollomillo de Cerdo Iberico a la Torta del Cesar (fillet of acorn-fed pork with a small grilled sheep’s cheese) which again was way too much for me and I couldn’t make much headway.


The wine was great though, a 2009 Tempranillo/Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon blend called ‘Habla del Silencio’ from Bodegas Habla.

Habla del Silencio

I was also given an acorn schnapps which had an interesting acorny taste but wasn’t something you’d want to drink a lot of.

Acorn schnapps

The service was good. Ana the friendly sommelier even gave me some tickets to ‘Salón de Gourmets’ a food trade show at the Feria de Madrid. I also had a pleasant chat with the piano player who spoke English quite well.

I’d definitely go again but with an empty stomach next time.

Bocaito (Intermediate B), 6 Calle Libertad, Tel. 915 321 219,

A famous (since 1966) formal Andalucian restaurant mentioned in many guides and with a heavily bestickered front door (Michelin, Rough Guide etc).

The decor is quaint with lots of ceramics, bull fighting pictures and other trappings from Andalusia. The tapas bar is particularly attractive.


I had the Escalope de Ternera (veal a la Milanaise, or Wiener schnitzel depending on your affiliation), with chips.


To drink a Crianza Rioja called Añares.


For dessert a tasty flan (caramel pud).


And a glass of ‘Los Raigones’ Pedro Ximenez dessert wine.


The service was efficient but humourless, despite my strenuous attempts to get a smile out of them.

The food and drink was fine but I don’t think it’s good value for money. Nearby Casa Salvador is cheaper and more atmospheric (see previous post).

La Paella de la Reina, 39 Calle de la Reina, Tel. 91 531 1885,

‘The best place for authentic Paella Valenciana’ according to a travel guide that I’d read when I first came to Madrid in 2001. It’s still going so I’m sure its reputation is deserved.

I recall that the rabbit and snail version I had was very good but again too much for one, you really need to take a companion to help you.

Rabbit and snail was the original paella recipe as it used ingredients readily at hand for the workers in the rice fields.

More Chueca restaurants:

Traditional Madrileño restaurants here.

Modern Spanish restaurants here.

International restaurants here.

Bars and cafes here.

Food shops here.

Google map with everything on here.

Photos from April 2011.

Madrid – Chueca – traditional Madrileño restaurants

Posted in Centro, Chueca (Justicia), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , , on February 21, 2016 by gannet39

Chueca is my favourite barrio in Madrid. As well as being a vibrant restaurant and nightlife area with a long history of alternative cultures (bastion of the left wing, gay capital of Spain and the spiritual home of La Movida) it also has the feeling of being a real neighbourhood lived in by real people.

I’d quite happily live here myself if I could and indeed I do spend most of my time in the neighbourhood when I’m in town.

Chueca is absolutely heaving with great bars and restaurants. To make my reviews more accessible, I’ve grouped them into different posts:

This post is about traditional Madrileño restaurants.

Traditional Spanish regional restaurants are here.

Modern Spanish restaurants here.

International restaurants here.

Bars and cafes here.

Food shops here.

Google map with everything on here.

Tienda de Vinos (aka La Communista), (Elementary A+), 35 Calle Augusto Figueroa, Tel. 91 521 7012, GEM ALERT!

One of my favourite haunts, I come here as often as I can, especially on cold winter evenings when I need some good simple home cooking to warm my cockles.

The comedor got its lefty nickname during the Franco years when it was a meeting place for radicals. It’s still run by the two smiley great-grandsons of the original owner who give polite, efficient service.

Opening time used to be 9.30 but may be a bit earlier now. You will know when it’s shut by the huge forbidding red doors barricading the whole front of the building. When it’s open the warm light coming through the lace curtains is much more welcoming.

La Communista by day

The decor is very simple and probably hasn’t changed much since 1890 when it opened.

Angel Sierra from the kitchen

Pictures of long gone guitarists, actors and bullfighters adorn the white walls of the L-shaped room.

Angel Sierra corner

You sit with your back against high dark brown wood panelling on plain wooden benches and chairs at long tables with paper table cloths that always fall off when you squeeze into your seat.

Loaf and house red

Nearly all the dishes on the menu are in single figures and you can eat four courses with wine for €25 (though I usually spend less) which is fantastic value in pricey Madrid.

Cheap menu

Typical dishes I have eaten over the years include Lentejas (an overflowing bowl of muddy legumes).

Lentil soup

Also Albondigas en Salsa con Patatas (veal meatballs with chips and gravy).

Albondigas y patatas fritas

Other favourites include Sopa de Ajo (garlic soup with bread), Ternera con Salsa con Champinon (veal and mushroom stew with a handful of homemade chips) and Higado Ternera y Cebolla (liver and onions).

For dessert there are various flans or Queso y Membrillo (fresh manchego with quince jelly). The house red is young, and hence chilled, but still very drinkable, and the orujo is complementary if you ask for a digestif.

Pan de Calatrava

Ok, so the food isn’t the greatest; sometimes the fried mixed veg is mushy, overcooked and occasionally slightly burnt, and the meatballs glisten with grease. But this just reminds me of the cooking style of my own female English relatives, which I find comforting to experience again once in a while!

Mixed veg

In short; good honest value-for-money food with no pretensions in plain but atmospheric surroundings. A classic Madrileño comedor that needs to be experienced.

Casa Salvador, (Intermediate B), 12 Calle Barbieri, Tel. 91 521 4524,

Another old school institution (since 1941) that serves hearty, traditional Spanish food. It’s another Hemingway hangout and his friend Ava Gardner famously danced on the tables here.

It’s a good place to come for a value-for-money Menu del Dia (€22 in 2013).


The restaurant could double as a bull fighting museum as there are some amazing photos of airborne bulls in mid-flight and matadors in trouble.


El Bierzo (Elementary A), 16 Calle Barbieri, Tel. 915 319 110

A typical ‘casa de comida’ restaurant that’s been here since the 1970s. It’s run by an old couple who are originally from San Ciprian de Sanabria, a small village in Leon (i.e. Castilla y Leon, a province to the north of Madrid). They source their produce from their home town and some trustworthy local suppliers like Agustin’s fish shop and Barcelo market.

The philosophy at this casa de comida is to cater for the ‘mileuristas’ (people who earn less than €1000 a month) by offering affordable all day Menus del Dia for €10 or €12 (2012 prices).

I chose water for my bebida option, rather than a glass of wine and instead ‘upsized’ to a full bottle of red ‘Lameda’ Crianza 2008 from the Toro DOC (B+), a wine I hadn’t seen anywhere else before. It went well with their dressed green olives (A).


Whenever I see lentil soup on the menu I can’t help but order it and the Lentajas con Arroz was one of the best I’ve ever had (A+). It was all about the stock but sadly my Spanish wasn’t up to asking how they made it.


Bread in Spain can be awful but the small loaf they supplied was also one of the best I’ve had here (A), kind of like a small Ciabatta.

After this Rinones al Jerez, lightly grilled kidneys with sherry (B+).


To finish a jar of Cuajada, (Junket) with a jug of honey to sweeten it up (B).


I spotted an unusual old bottle called Calisay on their back bar and finished it off for them. The waiter didn’t know where it had come from but it went very well (A) with my pud as it seemed to contain honey as well. I found out later it’s a Catalan quinine and brandy based herb liqueur made with bark from the Calisaya tree.


Next time I’d like to try their Calamari (apparently favoured by a government minister) and their fruit flavoured Gazpacho.

Service is indifferent and the decor is very plain but I have no problem with any of that if the food’s good. They have a small library of old books, including a few on food, which you can peruse between courses.

Total bill €33.50, just inside my daily allowance.

The way I see it, these places offering traditional home cooking won’t be around one day as the more modern trendy places take over.

Casa Manolo (Intermediate B+), 17 Calle Orellana, Tel. 91 308 7378 NOW CLOSED

A nice place with a lovely atmosphere now sadly closed. It’d be worth checking to see who has taken it over.

The building has an old wooden front and frosted glass windows. Inside there was soft lighting, more wood panelling and lovely tiled floors with an antique dresser for displaying the wines. It all felt very relaxing.

I went for the Piquillos o Tomates (I negotiated both) con Ventresca y Cebolla; delicious top quality tuna overlaying caramelised onions, marinated red peppers with good tomatoes and olive oil could (B+).

To drink I had a half bottle of ‘Portos’ 2008 from Ribeira del Duero (A) and to finish the Pudding de Manzana (A), a layered slice of apple sponge drizzled with caramel. The final wonderfully scented Orujo des Hierbas I requested did not show up on the bill.

Photos from April 2011 and February 2014.

Madrid – Chueca – Tapas Bars

Posted in Centro, Chueca (Justicia), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , , , , , on February 16, 2016 by gannet39

Chueca has heaps of  great tapas bars. Here are a few favourites:

Taberna Ángel Sierra, (Intermediate A+), 11 Calle Gravina, open 12.30pm-2am,, GEM ALERT!

Take the metro to Placa Chueca you will see Ángel Sierra straight in front of you at the end of the square as you come out of the exit (see photo).

Chueca square

This is my favourite bar in Chueca for pre-dinner drinks and tapas.

Angel Sierra

It was once a popular spot to meet or stand outside to watch local life pass by, but sadly you can no longer take your glasses out the door, or indeed smoke inside (tobacco stained ceiling notwithstanding).

Bodegas Angel Sierra

It’s a beautiful old tiled bar (since 1917) with an ancient zinc counter in the front section where everyone stands sipping cañas or glasses of spicy draught vermut whilst picking at small dishes of delicious boquerones and olives.

Cold doble with olives

You can order other tapas from the display case, or if you need a seat you can sit in the mock British pub room at the back (entrance around the side).

This room has an impressive collection of old photos and advertising signs for drinks on the walls. Click on them to get a better view.

You should come just to breath in the history.


La Piazzetta (Intermediate B), 8 Plaza Chueca, Tel. 91 523 8322

The Plaza Chueca experience is all about sitting outside with a cold drink at one of the bars. However for dining I think you’re better off going somewhere on the side streets around it, but if you must eat in the square, this place selling Italian food is ok.

I had four kinds of grilled veg, some Ravioli Pecorino y Pera (a nice combination but too much of it) and a good bottle of Mesoneros Ribera del Duero for €33.10

Café Comercial, 7 Glorieta de Bilbao (on the corner with Calle Fuencarrel),

Stop press! This place was undergoing renovations in 2016, but I revisited in February 2018 and am happy to report that the facelift has been completed and is very sympathetic to the original.

From 2011:

A classic Madrid cafe, founded in 1887 but I’m guessing they had a refit sometime in the 50’s.

It’s a huge place with a big bustling downstairs area with an ancient revolving door, brown leather seats, lots of mirrors and worn marble.


In the evening I like to sit outside with a copa of cognac (maybe after going to Ribeira do Mino which is nearby (see my post on regional restaurants in Chueca.

In the mornings I prefer the quieter upstairs where you can sit on one of the red mock-leather sofas by the windows to do the crossword with a plate of hot Churros and a Cafe con Leche by your side. Some days there will be groups of old guys gathered round a chess board but it’s usually very peaceful.

Cafe Commercial upstairs

The coffee machine is constantly on the go as are the tiny oompaloompa waiters. They will attend to you eventually, so you can start the crossword while you wait. If you need a newspaper there’s a stand right outside the cafe that sells UK papers. The cafe also has free wi-fi (‘wee fee’).

Stop Madrid (Intermediate B), 11 Calle Horteleza,

Stop Madrid

A seemingly unremarkable bar except that in 1929 it was the first bar in Madrid to start selling charcuterie.


Great care is still taken to source the best ingredients and over fifty wines are available by the glass.


I had a glass of decent red Somontano (B) with…


… a canape with a slice of grilled goats cheese made even more delicious with a splodge of fig jam on top (A).

Goats cheese

I love black pudding and I love smoked food but sadly the Smoked Morcilla didn’t work for me (C).


Sidreria El Tigre (Elementary B), 30 Calle de las Infantas,,closed Sunday

A legendary bar, due to all the free tapas they give away with every drink. The clientele are a combination of a few locals and lots of tourists, particularly Americans it seems, and the atmosphere is always buzzing.

I went on a Sunday night when they weren’t as busy as usual. If you can’t get in the original place, they have two other locations at 23 Calle de las Infantas (open every day) and 23 Calle Horteleza (closed Monday).
For me, a large glass of red (C) was accompanied by several canapés topped with slices of serrano ham (B), cooked ham (C), chorizo (B-), all spotted with a gloopy (salmorejo?) sauce (C), a garlic mushroom (C) and croquettas (B-).


It’s unarguably great value if you don’t mind mediocre grub and battling to get in in the first place. Personally though I prefer to have better food and more elbow room.

El Respiro (Elementary B), 34 Calle Infanti

Another rough and ready cheap tapas bar that’s always very lively with a studenty crowd in the evening. The wine isn’t the best and the complementary tapas are a bit too greasy (lots of potatoes and sausage), but there’s something about the place that keeps bringing me back.

And there are plenty more!

More places to eat and drink in Chueca:

Traditional Madrileño restaurants here.

Traditional Spanish regional restaurants here.

Modern Spanish restaurants here.

International restaurants here.

Food shops here.

Google map with everything on here.

Photos from April 2011 and February 2016.

Madrid – Sol – Eating and Staying on Gran Via

Posted in Centro, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Sol, Spain with tags , , on February 15, 2016 by gannet39

This is a post primarily for my work colleagues.

My employer usually puts us up at the Hotel Catalonia in Barrio Salamanca but when it’s full we are sent to the Gran Via branch instead (7-9 Gran Via,

The hotel is fine (breakfast, staff, wi-fi all good) and the rooms at the back (such as 632) have private balconies with high walls.

I much prefer being here as you’re right next to Chueca on one side of Gran Via and the barrio of Puerta del Sol on the other, so there’s lots to see and do on your doorstep.

However be warned that some of my older colleagues have been mugged on the back streets around here so our managers would rather place us in boring but safe Salamanca. The area is also associated with prostitution, especially at the Gran Via end of Calle de La Montera and on Calle de la Ballesta and its side streets (known as Tri Ball).

Gourmet Experience Gran Vía (High Intermediate B), Floor 9, El Corte Inglés department store, 2 Plaza de Callao,

When it opened in 2014 there was a lot of hype about this gourmet food court on the top floor of the Callao branch of El Corte Inglés (the Spanish equivalent to John Lewis).

There are two reasons people come here; the food and the view.

Plaza del Callao

I can’t say I’m particularly enamoured with either. I’m sure there are good things to eat if you know what to order but nothing I saw on display grabbed me, so I settled for a boring old salad from La Maquina (B-). I paid €8.50 for the Ensalada La Maquina and €3.50 for a large beer which is a bit pricey.


The view is okay (better at sunset) but I prefer the views from the rooftop of the Hotel Emperador (see my other Gran Via post) or Círculo de Bellas Artes on Calle Alcala. I’d come here if I was shopping in the department store below but I don’t think it’s worth making a special journey.

The restaurant over the street from the hotel is okay albeit rather bland and generic.

Natura (Intermediate C+), 16 Gran Via

I went for a quick lunch one day and had the Menu Quilombo (their Menu del Dia) for €10.90. For this I got a plate of couscous mixed with grapes (B).


And ternera (veal) with mushrooms in a modern presentation (B-).


The price included a rice pudding and a bottle of water, which is pretty reasonable for the amount you pay. However, the service was rather abrupt and lacking in motivation.

Should you have more time, there are plenty of good places just a short walk away. For unbelievably cheap (actually free) tapas you could go to the legendary El Tigre in Chueca which is very near (see separate post).

There are other places around Gran Via and Tri Ball. Las Cortes also has heaps of options. Click on the names to see my reviews.

Immediately opposite the hotel is Museo Chicote, Madrid’s most famous cocktail bar. Hemingway spent a lot of time here sheltering from the civil war. Nowadays you need to be dressed quite smartly to get in (i.e. no jeans, trainers). The Mercado de la Reina tapas bar and restaurant next door is an associated business but I haven’t tried it.

Please also see my separate post on swimming and architecture on Gran Via.

Madrid – Las Cortes – Plaza de Canalejas

Posted in Centro, Las Letras (Cortes), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , , , on February 13, 2016 by gannet39

This ‘square’, on the border between the barrios of Las Cortes and Puerta de la Sol, is really a junction of five streets. There are some impressive buildings around the square.





There are some interesting and quite different eateries on each of the roads coming out of the plaza:

Lhardy (Advanced A), 8 Carrera de San Jerónimo,

At only 175 years of age Lhardy isn’t the oldest restaurant in town (see Botin in my Placa Major post) but it’s definitely one of the most historical. Frenchman Emilio Lhardy opened the restaurant in 1839 with a view to bringing Parisian haute cuisine to the Spanish capital and it has remained one of the most famous and refined restaurants in Madrid ever since.


There’s a deli and tapas bar on the ground floor (a caña and a croquette costs €2.50 here) and a formal restaurant on the first floor.


Besides the main dining room there are several private rooms where many political intrigues and plots have been hatched over the centuries.

The opulent belle époque decoration oozes old world charm and transports you back in time.


I came for Sunday lunch in June 2015 and was welcomed by a brace of waiters at the dining room door. They seated me in the main room and fussed around unfolding napkins, laying cutlery and pouring water while I perused the hefty menu. The formal atmosphere was alleviated slightly when one of the snootier waiters, after taking my order, snapped the menu shut on my finger and tried to walk off with it!

Really I’d only come for one thing, their highly refined Cocido Madrileño (the famous local stew) but I started off with some excellent chicken and ham croquettes (A). Probably a mistake given what was to come.


One of the older and more personable waiters recommended the house red to go with my food; a full bodied Rioja Crianza (A).


Cocido is eaten in two stages. First a soup made of the broth from the stew with the addition of short noodles (fideos). Again top notch (A).

Then comes the stew itself. The ingredients were more numerous than any I’d had in a cocido before; chick peas, cabbage, leek, carrot, potato, chicken, beef shank, beef skirt, morcilla, chorizo, sausage, bacon, marrow bone and tomato sauce if memory serves correctly.


The addition of some of their wonderful house olive oil (A) took it to the next level.


Overall it was great (B+) but not quite as good as the one at La Taberna de Daniella where the bacon lard is even more delicious for some reason.

This was a belly busting experience as you can imagine and I turned down a dessert but somehow still ended up with some petits fours and chocolate of which I have no memory. After this I staggered back to my hotel for a lie down!

A good experience that I’m glad I had and I’d go again with a friend but probably not by myself. It wasn’t very busy and it’s more for posh tourists than locals in my opinion. Go to Daniella’s or La Bola Taberna for a more authentic Sunday lunch experience.

Calle de la Cruz, running south west off Plaza de las Canalejas, is a good street for a tapeo (tapas crawl). Although I haven’t eaten there, Fatigas de Querer at 17 Calle de la Cruz is a good choice according to the Guardian.


It has a lovely tiled façade as you can see.


Casa Toni (Low Intermediate B+), 14 Calle de la Cruz

Another Guardian tip, this is a down-to-earth place with friendly service. I came here for their offal menu which also seems to attract a few Chinese tourists.

I had Mollejas (lamb sweetbreads aka thymus glands) which were very good (B+) but I’ve had better (see my Argentina posts).


Also Zarajo which are lambs intestines would round a vine branch and deep-fried, a local speciality. They were okay but not out of this world (B).


Also some Chiperones (actually Chopitos) which were the best ever for Guardian reviewer but were B+ for me.


These plates cost €3 and €6 respectively and a jarra (big beer) is €2.70 (2015 prices) so good value overall. The service was pleasant so I’d definitely come back here to try some other things on their menu.

El Patio (Intermediate B+) 1 Calle Arlaban (off Calle Sevilla off Plaza de las Canalejas), Metro Sevilla

Yet another lovely old tiled bar with a bullfighting theme, specialising in Cocina Andaluza.

I first came here at the start of a pleasant evening with my friend Ethel and her husband Nick, who recommended it. As a former editor of Time Out Madrid he definitely knows the good places.

They have excellent tapas and draught vermouth on tap so it’s a good place for a pre-dinner aperitif.

The Spanish Parliament, the Congreso de los Diputados (Congress of Deputies), is just a couple of blocks east of here in Plaza de las Cortes.

La Finca de Susana (Intermediate C), 10 Calle Principe (NEW LOCATION), Tel. 91 429 7678 (reservations recommended), Metro Sevilla

On the same night out with Ethel and Nick in 2011 I remember this place being relatively ok so I was pleasantly surprised to rediscover it in 2013 (although not for long) through a local teacher’s recommendation.

It’s part of a chain, originally from Barcelona I think, predominantly staffed and presumably owned by Filipinos.

It’s an interesting concept: give people the pretence they are eating in an opulent restaurant (modern decor, Corinthian columns, potted palms, waiters all in black) and feed them incredibly cheap food, cooked really badly, and with terrible service. It obviously works because they are always rammed to the rafters!

I’m sure you can find okish things on the menu but my semi-adventurous choices turned out to be pretty poor.

The Canalones a la Madrileno (€6.50) were ok after salting but absolutely swimming in cheese (C+).

On the other hand, the Olla Arroz Marniera (€6.45) was just brackish rice with a couple of overcooked prawns and a lonely langoustine on top (D/C).

I had coveted my neighbours Arroz Negro but didn’t want to copy them, and unlike me they finished their main course with gusto.

The pud, Torrijas Concha (€3.41), was soggy French toast with a scoop of vanilla, edible (C) but not something I’d like to repeat.

Again my neighbour’s choices looked far more attractive, although their coffees looked horrible.

All the dishes were begrudgingly pushed onto the edge of the table with a mumbled ‘gracias’ by my surly server who proceeded to ignore all her customers, although personally I found this more amusing than irritating.

The Conde Caralt Rosado (A), only €6.52, came to the rescue however and meant I left in good humour.

I promptly went back over the road to El Patio to spend what would have been the staff tips on a final digestif!

You can’t complain too much really because it’s dirt cheap (the prices are to the nearest cent). Let me know if you find anything good on the menu!

They have since moved to a new location on Calle Principe which I haven’t been to. Doubt if things have changed much though.

Other branches to avoid:

1) Public, 11 C/Desengano, parallel to Gran Via, Tel. 91 701 0176
2) Bazaar, 21 C/Libertad, Chueca, Tel. 91 523 1505
3) La Gloria de Montera, 10 C/Caballerdo de Gracia, Metro Gran Via Tel. 91 521 6701 (Slated by Time Out).

Madrid – Las Letras – Huertas tapas crawl

Posted in Centro, Las Huertas, Las Letras (Cortes), Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , , , , , on February 11, 2016 by gannet39

Barrio Las Letras (aka Las Cortes) is the area south of the bottom ends of Calle Gran Via and Calle de Alcala. It’s bordered by Paseo del Prado to the east, Calle de la Cruz to the west and Calle de Atocha to the south. Barrio map here. General map here.

The barrio contains Calle de las Huertas, one of the main tapeo strips, and Plaza de Santa Anna, a pleasant square containing many restaurants (separate post here). The southern half around Huertas is also known as Barrio de las Letras. Personally I like to start my tapeo on Calle de Jesus at the bottom of the hill and head up Huertas to Plaza Santa Ana.

Los Gatos (Intermediate A), 2 Calle de Jesus Los Gatos bar

Madrilènos are known as “los gatos” (the cats) because they like to stay out so late.

mas Gatos

Despite being accused of being a tourist trap, with prices to match, this is my favourite tapas bar on this street, just for the bizarre decoration which covers every inch of the ceilings and walls.

Los Gatos bar

Bull fighting paraphernalia fights for space with classical and pop art treasures

Los Gatos

I love the eccentricity of it all.


Los Gatos back room

The tapas are top quality too, which makes it a good place to start a night on the tiles.

Beers and canapés are €2.50 each and a racion of Salpicon de Maris is €11 (in 2015).


La Fabrica (Intermediate B+), 2 Calle de Jesus (next door to Los Gatos above),

Loved the Roquefort canapé (although the waitress told me it was Cabrales) with a salted anchovy (B+).


The Bacala over tomato pulp and topped with a mild chilli is also good (B).


With two creamy cervezas this came to €5, which isn’t too bad at all. Cheaper than their more famous neighbours I think.

El Diario (Intermediate A), Calle de Jesus (no number but a couple of doors down from the above, on the corner with Calle Cervantes).

This Andalucian tapas bar is my second favourite place on the strip, due to the friendliness of the staff (unlike others along this street) and the quality of the food.


Their Calamares a la Andaluza are very good, especially with their sublime honey alioli, although I wish they’d remove the beaks as they can be a bit off putting (A-).


And, in summer, their tuna salad is also one of the best I’ve ever tasted (A) but not quite as good in winter (B).


When you’ve finished, complementary chupitos (shots) of Orujo des Hierbas come as standard.


Los Dolores (Intermediate A), 4 Placa Jesus (just along the street from Los Gatos above).

Taberna la Dolores

This is a classic 1920’s place with a beautiful tiled exterior and an atmospheric old wood bar inside.


The tapas are very good but quite traditional and a bit expensive. Cañas are €1.50

I love the boquerones (A).

great boquerones

Casa Alberto (Advanced B), 18 Calle Huertas,

Casa Alberto

This is another beautiful old place with a classic zinc bar.

Days gone by

You can have tapas in the busy bar or sit down in the restaurant at the back.

Service is brusque but efficient because they’re busy.

Vermout Grigio (B+), from the tap, is €2 a glass here.

With that I got a complimentary plate of pork scratchings (B+).


With a second vermouth, I had a canapé with Solomillo Iberico con Cebolla Caramelizada al PX y Queso de Cabra for €4.75, which was heaven on bread (A).20130618_210330

Madrid – Malasaña – Hooked on TriBall

Posted in Centro, Madrid Comunidad, Malasaña (Universidad), Spain, Tri Ball on April 15, 2011 by gannet39

TriBall (Calle Ballesta and the two parallel streets next to it) is the red light district off Gran Via which has been rebranded. The regeneration of the area is being spearheaded by new artists and designers.

From 2010:

Casa Perico, (Intermediate A), 18 Calle Ballesta, Tel. 91 532 8176

Great place in a dodgy area, enter from the other end of the street from Gran Via if you want to avoid the hissing hookers on Calle Desengano. Supposedly open at 9 but they weren’t ready for me and I had to come back at twenty past. Only two other customers (Monday after San Isidro) but expect it to be rammed at weekends, people travel a long way for the food here.

They have a four course Menu Degustacion for €36 but there needs to be two of you. The first course component changes every day. Sadly I was by myself so couldn’t take advantage of this bargain. Instead I had the Reuvuelto de Morcilla de Pinones con Trigueros, scrambled eggs with black pudding and wild spinach which was wonderful (A). Next were the Filetes de Tapilla de Cebo, two very tender and rare (poco hecho) fillets of beef (A) accompanied by the best chips so far on this tour (A+). My only complaint was the plate was cold.

To finish Natillas Caseras (B), custard with cinnamon. A wonderful half bottle of Rioja Crianza ‘Vina Salcida’ ’05 (for only €5?!) and a fragrant orujo des hierbas provided the liquid refreshment. Pleasant service and bizarre decor: collections of soda bottles, wire baskets, castizo  (a word used in Madrid to mean the rough local equivalent of a cockney) outfits on the wall. Will definitely come here again when I’m in town next.

L’Ardosa, 13 Calle Colon, Metro Tribunal

A beautiful old tiled taverna (since 1882) with great atmosphere just up the hill from the Perico above. The front room is decorated with old lithographs and shelves of dusty bottles and there is a secret back room which can only be accessed by ducking under the bar, although you will probably be beaten to it by a romantic couple, the place was full of several of them when I went.


A chupito (shot) of orujo costs €2 and they have draught beers, including Guinness.

Anthony Bourdain shot a video about Tortilla here apparently so that might be something to try.

There are many other good drinking spots along nearby Calle Paz including one of my favourites, El Pez Gordo at #6 which is a chilled jazz bar. They have great olives!


From 2012:

Taberna Agrado, (Intermediate C), Calle Ballesta 1, Tel: 91 521 6346

Really don’t understand all the fuss is about this place. The fact the chef is British and cooking Spanish food seems to have caused something of a stir in the food press, especially Time Out who pile on the praise in their 2012 guide.

There were a few people there when I arrived, mainly British tourists who, like me, were clutching their TO guides. You’d think with so many Brit customers that they’d start serving food a little earlier to feed them, but nope you have to wait till 9pm for the kitchen to open, despite most Spanish places opening at 8.

The bare unadorned underground room had nothing attractive about it so I sat outside on the street terrace waiting for the waiter to finish his cigarette and stop texting his friends. Twenty minutes later I was starting to get a bit hungry and thirsty so I went inside to see if I could get some service.

When he finally came I ordered their famous Hamburguesa de Buey Corta made with Iberico ham and overlaid with cheeses, as recommended by my adoring travel guide. It was too greasy for me to finish more than half of it (C) and the slightly overdone fries it came with seemed to have a strange after taste (C). It took me a while to realise it was the house ketchup, seemingly laced with turmeric and other spices that was causing this (D).

For the pleasure of eating this in a plss-stained alley surrounded by middle-aged hookers, I was charged an extra 20%, taking the total to €18 for a burger and chips. My fault, I should have looked at the small print in the menu, but as far as I’m concerned this place is extortionate and crap. You can go elsewhere and easily have a much better experience for your money.

Public at 11 Calle Desengano is probably best avoided. For reasons why, see my review for La Finca de Susana here.

Madrid – Centro – swimming and architecture on Gran Via

Posted in Centro, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain on April 15, 2011 by gannet39

Gran Via is one of the main arteries in central Madrid, connecting Calle Alcala with Plaza de Espana. Its a lively shopping area with lots of restaurants on the side streets leading off it.


Hotel Emperador 53 Gran Via,

Get off at Metro Santo Domingo on the red line. Come out of the Gran Via exit and look for the yellow sign of the Emperador on the corner behind you.

Temperatures can soar in Madrid and in mid-summer on my day off I usually head to the outdoor pools at Casa de Campo. Entrance there is €5 in the week and €6 at the weekend and it can get very busy. Once though I couldn’t be bothered with the hassle of catching the metro out to Lago so I came to the rooftop pool at the Hotel Emperador instead.

I bit the bullet and shelled out €33. It’s €44 at the weekend but I was fortunate to have Friday off so I could get the cheaper rate. I was told by a friend that it could be standing room only on a Saturday and I can imagine it’s a popular hangout for party people to chill after a hard night on the town. There’s a soundtrack of chilled house music in the area away from the pool and not too many noisy kids.

For your money you get a sun bed and a towel which you wouldn’t get at Casa de Campo. Also the views are better; on one side there is the Palacio Real and on the other a couple of rooftop art deco statues you wouldn’t see if you were looking up from Gran Via. Also, because you are ten floors up you can catch the cool breezes too. No swimming caps seem to be necessary here either.

A G&T costs €11 but you the measures are stiff. Mahou beers are about €3. I had the Emperador burger with goats cheese which was ok (B). In short, a good spot for a bit of pampering.20130614_153737


As befits a street called Gran Via, there are lots of grand buildings along its length.








And some slightly smaller ones on the side streets off it. I’d love to have access to the roof garden of this one.


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