Archive for the Centro Category

Madrid – Chueca – Cocktail Bars

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

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

So, here are a few favourites…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bar Cock (Advanced A), 16 Calle Reina

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Madrid – Centro – Cheap Places to Eat in Embajadores

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

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

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

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

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

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Of course they sell many other things such as sandwiches, salads, meatballs, churros etc. I also tried their Café Asiatico, a coffee made with brandy-sweetened milk, 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 place has been serving up lambs innards for more than 100 years so I figured if I was going to try other Madrileno offal dishes, this would be the best place.

Freiduria de Gallinejas

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

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

Menu

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

Entresijos y Gallinejas

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

Mollejas

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

Baked apple but not as we know it

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

Pics uploaded Feb 2017 and April 2011.

Madrid – Centro – Eating Cheaply in Cortes

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

Barrio Cortes 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, www.mesonellacon.com

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.

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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, www.tabernaloschanquetes.es

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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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, www.losgalayos.net

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.

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

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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.

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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).

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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++).

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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).

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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+).

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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.

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

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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, www.botin.es

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, www.madrid.es

Barrio map here, Madrid map here.

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

Ojalá (Intermediate A), 1 Calle San Andres, grupolamusa.com/restaurante-ojala

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.

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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.

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Definitely somewhere I will return.

Musa Malasaña (Intermediate A), 18 Calle de Manuela Malasaña, grupolamusa.com/restaurante-lamusa

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.

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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.

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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+).

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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 Justicia (Chueca), 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.

Balcony

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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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

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

 

Madrid – Chueca – Food Shopping

Posted in Centro, Justicia (Chueca), 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, www.lacharcuteriadeoctavio.com

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.

Deli

 

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, www.reservaycata.com

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, www.pco.es

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, www.laduquesita.es

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, pasteleriasanonofre.com

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

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Their window displays of unusual breads are quite photogenic.

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La Vieja Castilla, 3 Calle Gravina, www.laviejacastilla.com

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

Cacao Sampaka, Calle Orellana, www.cacaosampaka.com

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, www.poncelet.es

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, www.isolee.com

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.

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