Archive for the Las Letras (Cortes) Category

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 – 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 – 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

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