Archive for the Salamanca 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 – Barrio Salamanca – Recoletos – Stuff to See in Plaza de Colón

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Believe it or not it’s actually very easy to walk right by and totally miss it because you’re watching the traffic.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Photos uploaded April 2011 and February and April 2017.

Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – Bars in Recoletos

Posted in Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Recoletos, Salamanca, Spain with tags , , , on April 7, 2017 by gannet39

Recoletos is the southwesternmost ward in Salamanca, bordered by Paseo de Recoletos to the west, Calle de Don Ramon de la Cruz to the north, Calle Principe de Vegara to the east and El Retiro park to the south. There are heaps of good bars in the area. Please see my separate post for places to eat. My Google map here.

El Pabellon del Espejo (Advanced A), 31 Paseo de Recoletos

A famous art deco style bar, although it was only built in 1990.

El Espejo

It’s more expensive than elsewhere but it’s a great spot to sit in the sun with a cold beer and watch the world go by on the paseo.

El Espejo terrace

Cafe Gijon (Advanced B), 21 Paseo de Recoletos

A famous literary cafe since 1888, artistic ‘tertulias’ (gatherings) are held here regularly. Just down the hill from El Pabellon above, it also has a nice summer terraza on the Paseo.

Gran Cafe Gijon

It has a beautiful mirrored mahogany ground floor interior and an old school formal restaurant in the cellar which I have yet to try.

Bar at Gijon

Inside Gijon

To watch sports the James Joyce pub at 59 Calle de Alcala is an ok spot (on the site of the once famous Cafe Lion). The staff are friendly and you can also eat outside. Or alternatively for sports fans there’s the Marca Sports Cafe at 18 Paseo de Recoletos. I’ve never been in but I noticed it as I was walking past the other day.

Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – Eating in Recoletos

Posted in Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Recoletos, Salamanca, Spain with tags , , , on April 6, 2017 by gannet39

Recoletos is the southwesternmost ward in Salamanca, bordered by Paseo de Recoletos to the west, Calle de Don Ramon de la Cruz to the north, Calle Principe de Vegara to the east and El Retiro park to the south. There are heaps of good restaurants in the area. Please see my separate post for places to drink. Google map here.

A great new place at the bottom of Calle Goya that everyone should check out is Platea at 5-7 Calle de Goya, It’s an old cinema which, as their website puts it, has been converted into the ‘largest gastro entertainment space in Europe’. It’s like an indoor street food market where you can choose what you want to eat and drink from several stalls and consume it in the communal seating area. I’ve only had the tapas (croquettes and a chistorra for €2.70 a pop), which were very good but there is also a restaurant, a cocktail bar and a patisserie. Entertainment on the stage varies from classical concerts to DJs. What’s on is here.

Street XO (Intermediate B+), top floor of El Corte Inglés, 52 Calle de Serrano,

This tapas bar in a department store is the street version of Chef David Muñoz’s restaurant DiverXO. Three Michelin starred Muñoz is the enfant terrible of Madrileno cuisine and you’ll have much more chance of getting in here than DiverXO which is booked out months in advance.

To avoid queuing for too long it’s best to arrive twenty minutes before they open for lunch at 1.30pm or in the evening before most Spanish people eat (they close at 12am). Don’t confuse their queue with the place next door which has the terrace at the front. They can serve you wine in the queue which makes the wait more tolerable.

As it was a sunny day we sat on the terrace but if I went again I’d like to sit at the bar and watch the chefs at work. I’d describe the food as Jackson Pollock on a plate and it’s a lot of fun watching it being made. The music is pretty loud though so you may want to sit away from the speakers.

We had…

Dumplin Pekines; Oreja Confitado y Hoisin de Fresas, Alioli y Pepinillo, or in English, a Pekinese dumpling made with a confit of pig’s ear with a strawberry hoisin sauce, alioli and pickled gherkins.


Lasaña Koreana de Wonton y Vaca Vieja Gallega con Shitakes, Tomates Escabechados Picantes, Bechamel de Cabra- Cardamomo aka Korean lasagne with aged Galician beef, wontons with shitake mushooms, spicy marinated tomatoes and a Bechamel sauce made with goat milk and cardamom.


Pichon Japon Marinado en Miso Rojo de Remolachas y Yuzu en Robata con Migas de Pastor al Vapor y Chorizo de Leon Ahumado, or marinated and charcoal grilled Japanese pigeon in a red miso of beetroot and yuzu with steamed breadcrumbs and smoked Leon chorizo.


Saltado Peruano; Presa a la Robata y Aliño de Mojito, Crema de Ají Amarillo, or charcoal grilled pork shoulder with a mojito and cream of Amarillo chilli dressing.


We shared a bottle of called Rebisaca, a blend of Albarino, Treixadura and Loureira grapes from the Rias Baixas DO which was fine.


The bill for two came to €91.50. I didn’t grade the dishes as I was busy talking with my friend Nicky but our overall conclusion was that while everything was visually spectacular (A) the flavours weren’t always in evidence, so the food scored A or B overall. Definitely an experience worth having though.

A mediocre place from 2012:

Wagaboo (Intermediate B), 14 Calle Ayala, Tel. 91 578 3368,

Part of a chain (one in Chueca too), it’s tempting to compare this place to Wagamama but the food is more pan-asiatic and international fusion with a strong Italian input, as well as Mexican, Jamaican and English influences. The atmosphere is more intimate with tables and booths rather than long benches, the decor is modern and its low lit with an ambient house soundtrack. I had the Hamburguesa Portobello (B) which was nicely rare and came with grilled goat’s cheese, tomato and caramelised onions (a good combination) and a meagre bowl of mustard mayo and not particularly nice chips on the side (C). Had a competent mojito with it (B) which brought the bill to €16.48 with bread, not too bad. Might go again at a pinch but with so many other good places in town it’s unlikely.

And one to give a miss…

Al Mounia (Advanced D), 5 Calle de Recoletos, Tel. 914 350 828,

This is probably the most famous Moroccan restaurant in Madrid with over forty years of history. Unfortunately though in my experience it seems to be living on its reputation and the food just isn’t up to scratch. The beautifully tiled interior just adds to the feeling that it’s all about form and no content.

We shared a mixed starter of four dishes including hummus, aubergine in yogurt, and a salad, all of which were unbelievably bland but at least edible (C).

My friend Nicky ordered a Lamb Tajin however the ‘meat’ was mainly bone and fat, and was swimming in a greasy sauce, which she just couldn’t bring herself to eat (D).

My lamb had a little more meat which was ok once you discarded the skin (C). At €25 a dish, we felt ripped off and we refused to pay for my friend’s course.

The service was pretty appalling too, they constantly made mistakes and at one point dropped a handful of cutlery all over our table.

Although we had real problems ordering the wine, the saving grace was the stunning 2006 Rioja Baron de Ley so thankfully we didn’t completely waste our money.

A better place for Morrocan food is Al Jayma in Chueca (see my separate post on International Restaurants in Chueca).

Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – Eating in Castellana

Posted in Castellana, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Salamanca, Spain with tags , , , , on April 5, 2017 by gannet39

Castellana is the northwesternmost ward in Salamanca, bordered by Paseo de Castellana to the west, Calle de Maria de Molina to the north, Calle Principe de Vegara to the east and Calle de Don Ramon de la Cruz to the south. There are heaps of good restaurants in the area. Please see my separate post for places to drink. Google map here.

Lavinia (High Intermediate B+), 16 Calle de José Ortega y Gasset,

Lavinia is principally a wine retail shop. They claim to have Europe’s largest selection of wines under one roof. This is the Madrid branch, they have a shop in Paris too.


The shop has its own restaurant on the mezzanine floor above the wine shop so you can taste the wines with the foods they go well with, and then buy the wines in the shop. This was perfect for me as I’m always on the lookout for wines to sell at my pop up restaurant, ClandesDine (see separate posts on Sheffield).

There are tasting menus of various sizes. I had the Menu Pequenos for €75; ten dishes and six wines from small producers (there’s also a €95 menu with premium wines.

My excellent young waiter was called Javi Jadraque.

We kicked off with Champagne Francis Boulard ‘Blanc de Blanc’, a virtually odourless and tasteless champagne (B).


To eat a piece of brittle deep-fried pig skin with some kind of crunchy fruit similar to christophene, a combination which didn’t work for me at all (C).


Next a glass of ‘Clos de Tuffiers’ by Domaine de Belliviere from the Jasnieres Appelation Controle (B).


This went well with the Ventresca de Lubina con Espuma de Jingebre Fermentado sobre Capuchina, which was unsightly but tasty (B). Javi described this as seabass on ‘frog leaf’ but I think he confused a nasturtium (edible) with a lily pad (which isn’t). Capuchina is nasturtium in Spanish.


After this something described to me as seaweed, which might have been in the puree, but sweet and purple potatoes seemed to be much more of a feature. It was really good though (A).


La Bota de Manzanilla Pasada (A) by Navazos in Jerez. Manzanilla is essentially the same as a Fino sherry but only produced and matured around Sanlúcar de Barrameda. Manzanilla Pasada is a richer, older Manzanilla, and this is perhaps the oldest on the market. I liked it so much that I included a bottle in the wine order I made after the meal.


This was followed by some fantastic Espárragos (A+) which Javi informed me was from Aranjuez, a town to the south of Madrid which is famous for asparagus.


Then a glass of Garnacha de Bernabeleva called Navherreros from the Vinos de Madrid (not a famous appellation) which grew on me the longer it was out of the bottle (B to B+) to the point that I later ordered a couple of bottles to take home.


We went on with some of my beloved Mollejas (sweetbreads) which were excellent (A).


Then a 2010 Ribera del Duero called Corimbo I which was ok (B).


Next some green beans with mushrooms which were really good (A).


The confit of bacalao didn’t do much for me unfortunately (C).


But the small square of Cochinillo Asado, roast baby piglet, transported me to heaven (A+).


Can’t remember what this pre-dessert was sorry. Membrillo quince jelly perhaps?


The Chocolate with Apricot was enjoyable (B).


I had this a glass of a 20 year old Pedro Ximenez called Don Guido by Williams Humbert which was so good (A) that I ordered a bottle to take home.

Javi informed me that PX is a mosto or a mostella (essentially unfiltered grape juice) because it’s not fermented and the alcohol is added later.


To finish, an excellent Oloroso Viejo brandy from Lepanto (B+).


We also debated the merits of drinking brandy with ice or in a warmed glass. I prefer the latter because for me the aroma adds to the taste but purists like Javi say the alcohol is being lost in the vapours.


So mixed results for both the food and the wine but I enjoyed myself and learned a lot at the same time, which is all I want really.

After thanking Javi for his great service I went down to the ground floor and ordered all the wines I’d enjoyed during the meal, and a few more from around the shop. That’s my kind of shopping! I’ll certainly be back next time I’m in Madrid.

In 2016 it cost about €3 a bottle to post to the UK, if you got 12 bottles, or around €2 each if you ordered 24.

They are open from Monday to Saturday for lunch and the bar is open for tapas, every day until 10pm. The schedule can vary but they are usually open Thursday and Friday for dinner.

Many of the places below are between ten and twenty blocks walk from the hotel. But then if you’re going to walk that far to eat then you may as well go to Chueca where, in my opinion, the restaurants are more interesting and the food is better value for money.

The above was written in 2016, the below in 2012.

Jose Luis (Advanced A-), 89 Calle Serrano,

One of the most famous tapas bars in Madrid. As the flagship of a national chain owned by a famous Basque chef, this is a good place if you like to rub shoulders with the well-heeled and be attended to by waiters in tunics with silver buttons. There is a restaurant too but the brightly lit tapas bar next door is far more vibrant.

The canapés include caviar, smoked salmon, crab and a myriad of other delicacies. Think I upset the perky young guy behind the bar a bit (though he wasn’t averse to my blonde female companion) by turning down the house special of various croquettes, fried brie and other calorific goblets in favour of a more healthy tapa of salpicon (prawns with diced onion and green pepper in oil) which was much better than elsewhere (B).

We enjoyed a glass of Galician dry white with it too but only wanted a snack so the bill was relatively low. It can get very expensive here though if you’re not careful. It’s at the far end of Calle Serrano and not worth the walk from the hotel as far as I’m concerned, although it is opposite the interesting Museo Lazaro Galdiano (free on Sundays). Generally though I’d rather go somewhere a bit more down to earth.

I came back here in 2012 when somewhere else I was going to was closed and ate in the restaurant. I had some standard Pimientos de Guernika (B)…


…followed by the mediocre Hamburguesas Jose Luis (C+).


To drink an absolutely stunning Protos Ribera del Duero Crianza 2004 (A+).


To finish Tocina de Cielo, a very sweet version of flan from Jerez.


In short, a bit poncey but worth checking out if you’re passing.

Pics uploaded again Feb 2017.

El Séptimo (Intermediate A-), 7 Calle Diego de Leon now moved to 29 Calle de Alonso Cano,

Overly romantic decor (hence the minus) but they have several tables out on the pavement where you can sit and watch the world go by. There are lots of veggie options on the menu, including several kinds of salads that are supposed to be very good.

After a free entree of raw carrots and some rather tasteless cream cheese (C), I had the ‘starter’ of apple croquetas which were great (B) but sizable (you get two so good for sharing) and seemed more appropriate as a dessert as they are quite sweet and come with a splodge of squirty cream.


The star of the meal was the Tournedo Iberico which is fantastic (A). Four slivers of lightly seared top quality pork overlaying a mound of tasty mash and decorated with swirls of raspberry sauce; a delight to the tastebuds and well worth the €15 price tag.


The house red, Cune Crianza starts off well but seems to lose its attraction towards the end of the bottle.


Pics uploaded May 2012.

Flash Flash Tortilleria (Intermediate A-), 75 Nunez de Balbao, Tel. 91 575 1010

Very popular with the locals, queues at peak times despite seating for 100+ upstairs, more downstairs and a terrace outside when it’s warm. The walls, banquettes and most of the decor is blinding white with silhouettes of a female model wielding a camera, the room lights replacing the flashbulb. It’s not so bad; the waiters are friendly and the food, although very plainly presented, somehow makes up for the brash surroundings.

To start, the three of us had Ensalada de Gulas (elvers with caramelised onion on a deliciously dressed salad of green leaves) (A), the good house Gazpacho (B+) and excellent Parmentier potato and leek soup (A). The mains were Albondigas con Arroz en Salsa (A), the Monty Burger which was very similar to steak tartar with fresh veg (A) and a disappointingly ironic ham and potato tortilla (C). The accompanying Taurus Tempranillo from Toro was great (A) and took the bill to about €25 each which is pretty reasonable for the area. There’s a big salad bar too. I’d definitely go back but not for the tortilla. Open Sunday.

And one to avoid from 2012…

Meson Cinco Jotas (Intermediate C/D), 118 Calle Serrano

We came here on the spur of the moment as the Menu-del-Dia on the blackboard outside looked good. However we took the plunge only to find they had stopped serving it! After this disappointment we only ordered starters fortunately namely the Foie con Jamon (took a while to find the foie under the huge pile of rocket) and Queso de Cabra con Espinacas which was a whole soft cheese in a deep-fried crispy pancake with raw spinach, not a good combo (D). The Montecillo Crianza 2006 Rioja was good (A) but not at €17. Avoid!

Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – The Hotel Centro and around

Posted in Goya, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Salamanca, Spain with tags , , on April 4, 2017 by gannet39

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of Salamanca which I think is Madrid’s equivalent to somewhere like Kensington in London. The principal streets, Calle Serrano and Calle Goya, have some of the most expensive real estate in Spain and the side streets are crammed with pricey shops and boutiques. As you might expect, its toffee-nosed inhabitants aren’t generally known for their friendliness and the over-priced restaurants leave me cold (see my post on Posh Restaurants in Goya).

Much better I think to walk fifteen minutes or catch the metro to Chueca, in the old town, which is more down-to-earth, and being the LGBT area, a lot more fun, as well as having heaps of good restaurants and interesting shops.

On the more positive side, I have got to know Salamanca (and especially Goya ward, the forty blocks around the Hotel Catalonia Goya) quite well over the years and will concede that there are some okay places, and every year I go there’s always somewhere new to check out.

So with my colleagues in mind, my post on eating cheaply in Salamanca is here, the one on tapas bars is here and posh restaurants are here. The general Barrio Salamanca link is here.

My Google map for the whole of Madrid is here.

Here are some more redeeming features…

Hotel Centro Catalonia, 49 Calle Goya, Tel. 917 814 949,

The Centro is one of my favourite work hotels, although it is starting to become a bit faded and worn. The front desk staff are friendly and efficient (Miguel is the man) although the restaurant workers can be overstretched at times. It has stylish suites (except for some dated modernist artwork), comfortable beds, great walk-in showers (only in the rooms at the front) and free wi-fi (much improved in strength as of 2014 due to a feedback campaign by my colleagues).

The breakfast buffet is fairly comprehensive; cereals, fresh bread, lots of ham and cheese choices, fresh pineapple, kiwi, melon etc and the chefs will cook you a fresh omelette if you ask. The coffee situation has gone downhill however. Once you could get a proper cup made for you but now it’s a choice of the filter stuff or queuing at the machine which is often on the blink.

Minibar prices on water, beer, snacks etc are extortionate just as they are in all hotels, but there’s a Carrefour around the corner (turn left out of the hotel and left again and it’s on the right) which is open till 10pm, although don’t forget to support the small grocers shop over the road on the corner if it’s open.

Transport connections are great with a taxi rank and the entrance to Velasquez metro station right outside the hotel’s front door, so you can hightail it into town for some better action in next to no time.

When you’re arriving at the hotel by taxi, the landmark to watch out for is the white church, La Basilica de la Concepcion de Nuestra Senora, immediately opposite.

If hotel room picnics are your thing, or you just like walking around markets, you should definitely check out the Mercado de La Paz, only about four blocks away from the Hotel Centro at 28 Calle Ayala. Read more about it and other food shops in my Barrio Salamanca – Food Shopping post here.

Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – Food Shopping

Posted in Castellana, Goya, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Salamanca, Spain with tags , , , , on April 4, 2017 by gannet39


Best market in Madrid

One of the best things about Barrio Salamanca is the Mercado de La Paz which is only four blocks away from the Hotel Centro at 28 Calle Ayala (also hard-to-see side entrances on Calle Lagasca and Calle Coello).

Time Out says that La Boulette, the cheese store there, has the largest cheese selection in Spain with over 400 varieties.

La Boulette

Please see my ‘Buying Cheese in Spain’ post for more info.

Of course there are plenty of other excellent stalls in the market for such things as these lovely cakes…

cake shop at Mercado de la Paz


… and charcuterie from all over the country like this Sobrasada from the Balearic Islands.

I also like to stock up on legumes, usually butter beans for a Galician fabada or some lentillas for a chorizo and lentil soup.

There are also some good tapas bars at the Calle Ayala side of the market where you can sit outside.

For a spot of wine shopping, head two blocks north from the market to Lavinia at 16 Calle Jose Ortega y Gasset which apparently has the biggest wine selection in Europe. See my ‘Eating in Castellana’ post for a review of their restaurant.


Finally, the basement of the El Corte Inglés at 47 Calle Serrano, has a gourmet food court that shouldn’t be missed.

Salamanca can be divided in to six wards all of which are walkable from from Goya as it’s the most central. For lots more restaurants, please see my other posts for Goya and also Recoletes, Castellana and Lista in Salamanca , and also posts on El Retiro and Ibiza which are in the Retiro district to the south of Salamanca. Map of Barrio Salamanca here.

Pics uploaded April 2011, May 2012, Feb 2017, Feb 2019.

Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – Architecture

Posted in Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Salamanca, Spain with tags , , , , on April 2, 2017 by gannet39

Barrio Salamanca is a relatively modern neighbourhood, built between 1860 and 1927, so there is very little here that is truly old. Some of these places are on my Google map here.

Guindalera is the barrio in the northeastern part of Barrio Salamanca where the neo-Mudéjar Plaza de Toros de Las Ventas is located.





Another famous neo-Mudejar building is Casa Árabe at 62 Calle de Alcalá.



A more colourful example of this architectural style is on the corner of Calle Goya where it meets Calle Alcala.


On the north side of the El Retiro park at 83 Calle de Alcalá, is the Neo-byzantine Church of San Manuel y San Benito which contains some famous tombs. The church could easily be mistaken for a mosque.



Back in Guindalera, Calle de Castelar has some unusual little villas known as ‘hotelitos’. Nearby Calle Roma and Calle Belluga have some bits of neo-Mudéjar architecture.



South from here, at 47 Calle del Dr. Esquerdo, is La Casa de Abejas, with a swarm of bees on its facade. I’d be intrigued to know how much business this ‘apicultura’ (beekeeping) shop does in such urban surroundings.


At 26 Calle de Goya is the brilliant white Basilica de la Concepción de Nuestra Señora (opposite the Hotel Catalonia Goya).


Lots of other nice buildings dot the neighbourhood.





Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – Posh Restaurants in Goya Neighbourhood

Posted in Goya, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Salamanca, Spain with tags , , , , , , on April 1, 2017 by gannet39

Goya is in the central southern part of Barrio Salamanca, bordered by Calle Principe de Vegara to the west (see my Recoletos posts), Calle de Don Ramón de la Cruz to the north (see my Lista post), Calle del Dr. Esquerdo to the east and Calle de O’Donnell to the south (see my Ibiza posts). There are heaps of good bars in the area. Please see my separate post for places to eat. Map of the barrio here, my Google map here. Please see my separate posts for bars, stuff to see and cheaper places to eat in Goya.

As befits this wealthy part of town, there are more high-end restaurants in Goya than you can shake a fist at. I’m not keen on most of them but there are a few places that are okay so I’ve put them in order of preference with the ones I like first. The end of this post turns into a bit of a slag fest but that’s one of the joys of blogging, you can vent your spleen at the places that have done you wrong!

So, beginning with my favourites:

Punto MX (Advanced A), 40 Calle General Pardinas (corner with Calle Ayala),

This is the world’s only Michelin starred Mexican restaurant. Two of us went without a reservation but they let us in as we arrived as soon as they opened. We were given the table by the kitchen door, which is probably kept for last minute customers like us, but it wasn’t so bad.

On my last trip to Mexico a few months before I discovered the Margarita Tamarindo. I’m not sure what they do to it here but it was the best one I’d ever had (A+).


Of course we had to have the Guacamole. A trolley was wheeled up to our table and they made it in front of us to our specifications.


We can definitely recommend it with pumpkin seeds (A).


Panuchos de Cochinita Piblil con X’nipek de Cebollita Morada y Chile Habanero. Refried tortillas (panuchos) with roast piglet and a red onion and habanero salsa. Video recipe here.


Pibil refers to roasting underground. X’nipek (dog nose) is a Mayan name, although it now made with some non-American ingredients such as vinegar. It’s usually used as an accompaniment to other Mexican dishes, often with other ‘Pico de Gallo’ sauces.

Taco de Atun Rojo, Salsa de Chile Serrano y Limon Verde, a taco with Bluefin tuna and a salsa of chilli Serrano and lime.


Tamal Colado de Rabo de Toro, Frijoles Hayos, or maize flour tortillas with oxtail and kidney beans.


We also had a 2011 red called Salia from the Manchuela DO in Castile-La Mancha (a new one on me)…


…and a beautifully presented dessert involving sweet avocado cream, lemon jelly and coconut ice cream, but I was too busy chatting to grade them, apologies.


Suffice to say it was all top notch.

The total came to €119 for two which isn’t bad for a Michelin starred restaurant.

Not to everyone’s taste this next one, but I love it…

La Tasqueria (Intermediate B+), 48 Duque de Sesto,

Javi Estevez the chef/owner specialises in ‘fine offal’. The name is a play on ‘tasca’ (a boozer) and ‘casceria’ (an offal restaurant).

It’s very popular so it’s probably best to reserve, or arrive as soon as it opens on an evening in the week as I did.

I had their €38 Menu Tasqueria where you can choose one tarro (jar), three small plates, a second course and dessert. I added a cheese board and a bottle of Finca Elez to take it to €58.

Things kicked off with some complementary sliced Lengua (tongue).


The following jar of Morcilla spread was tasteless (C). Too long in the fridge?


Then a taco in a roof tile. Not sure what this was as it seemed complimentary but it tasted really good (A).


The Lengua, Atun, Alcaparras (tongue, tuna, capers) was nice (B) but I’d have enjoyed it more on a plate rather than a slate which couldn’t stop the mayo from going everywhere.


The Manitas, Alcachofa, Cigala (pigs trotters, artichoke, Norway lobster) was very good (B+).


The Rabito, Anguila, Queso (piglet tail, eel and cheese) for the main was the star though (A).


The label on the 2009 Finca Elez (B) told me that it was the first wine to be granted it’s own DO.


The Rhubarb & Cheesecake was excellent (A).

I had it with a PX that was new to me called Monteagudo (B).


I also had their Cheese Selection which was disappointingly small (B-) and the waitress couldn’t tell me what they were. In fact the dour service from her and her male colleague scored a C overall.


On the plus side I received a free glass of Torres 5 Anos Brandy to finish. A great spot! If you like that sort of thing…

La Cocina de Maria Luisa (Intermediate B-), 42 Calle Jorge Juan,

This mushroom specialist is recommended by the Guia Repsol and also a local headmistress. I so wanted it to be good but I can’t say we (my friend Ethel and I) were particularly impressed. They specialise in wild mushrooms but we visited in early May so they would probably have more to offer if you went in the autumn.

We were the first customers to arrive but were left unattended for such a long time that we had to go and remind the waiters that we existed. However Maria Luisa the chef and owner was lovely and very welcoming (unlike her staff) when she came out to tell us about the tasting menu (€54).

Everyone in the restaurant got an amuse bouche of cheese croquettes (A) and a big bowl of asparagus and tomato soup (B+).


Our menu kicked off with a carpaccio of boletus (ceps)which were nice but Maria Luisa had been a bit heavy-handed with the vinegar (B).


This was followed by two big spears of white asparagus (B+) with mayo and salad and served with a shot glass of the cooking water which was remarkably tasty (A).


After this we had some Colmenillas, which translates as ‘little beehives’ (morels I think). They were wonderfully meaty but a bit over salted (A-) and didn’t go very well with the strawberry and mushroom juices sauce they were served with (C+).


Next , two overcooked monkfish fritters (C) with a sauce reminiscent of Campbells mushroom soup (B); a rather strange combination we couldn’t get our heads round.


Then I had stuffed the pig’s trotters, a staple of Spanish cuisine that I was interested to try but that did little for me (C-).


We had all this with an excellent Priorat red (B+) which was very good good value.


Ethel had venison (B) served with dollops of four rather unpleasant sweet sauces (C-) including one of very sweet chocolate.

To finish, a slice of blamange type cake (C) with some blackberry ice cream which Ethel liked but I didn’t (B/C). I had this with a glass of average Pedro Ximenez to finish (B).


So a couple of highlights but otherwise quite middling scores. I would give it another try in the Autumn though.

There are also a few places to steer clear of in this moneyed part of town…

El Fogon de Trifon (High Intermediate A-), 144 Calle Ayala,

I actually like the food and service in this small place but it’s just a bit too pricey.

Recommended in ‘Where Chef’s Eat’ I felt I had to give it a try, and might do again if I’m feeling flush.

I had the complimentary gazpacho (A), entrecote and chips (B+). a half bottle of Emilio Moro 2010 Ribera (B+) and pastel manzana (B+) for €52.50.


There’s a tapas bar out front and a small dining room in the back, both quite popular so it might be hard to get in without a reservation.

Teatriz (Advanced B-), C/Hermosilla 14, Tel.915 775 379,

As the name suggests, this place is in an old theatre which has been redesigned by Phillipe Starck. I sat were the stalls used to be but you can sit on the stage too, or upstairs in the circle if you just want drinks. I was quite disappointed by the plain decor with little evidence of Starck’s amazing imagination in comparison to his efforts in Beijing (see my 2010 post).

The front entrance area looks more like a cafe but it gets a bit better inside. The lighting very theatre like but a bit too dim for a restaurant, although it does add to the hushed atmosphere as you wait for the food performance to start.

This was a lunch time trip for relatively cheap menu-del-dia as I couldn’t afford the a-la-carte offerings. To start Gazpacho Burata which was a lump of ordinary mozzarella (not burata as it should be with buffalo cream injected into the centre) floating in the middle. Although the texture was interesting, I thought both main ingredients would have been fine by themselves but spoiled each other in combination (C+).

I chose a nice Verdejo to go with this which was probably the best part of the meal (B+).

Next a mushroom paella (looking quite moist like a risotto) which was very rich and tasty, if anything a bit too flavoursome (B+), certainly for my choice of wine (memo to self, buy by the glass for each course).

Finally, my unmemorable dessert came unexpectedly in the form of a milkshake and although it tasted fine, was a bit of a visual let down (C+).

The best thing was the glass of ten-year-old Pedro Ximenez sherry from Osborne (A).

In short, a poncey place to see and be seen, good for business lunches if you have them. Personally I won’t be going back.

El Buey (Advanced D), 9 C/General Diaz Polier,

The sister restaurant in Placa de la Marina Espanola has a great rep for its sizzling steaks, cooked on a hotplate on your table. Here, I found the meat tough and expensive for it was.

The worst thing though was the inedible seafood and some kind of vegetable ‘special’ they were offering that day which I have obliterated from my memory and don’t want to write about. Don’t go.

La Trainera, C/Lagasca 60, (Advanced D), Tel . 915 768 035,

A very posh seafood and champagne place, beloved by cabinet ministers and captains of industry with large expense accounts. It’s just opposite the side entrance to Mercado de la Paz, which boded well for the quality and freshness of the mariscos sold here. It’s a warren of rooms (I know because I turned the first two tables down and got a tour of the place). The decor of ‘The Drifter’ is lots of varnished wood with ship wheels in every alcove to hammer home the seafaring theme.

There are two ranks of waiters, lowly plate bearers in white and section bosses in blue. The chap who greeted me was fine but from then on the service was brusque and unsmiling in the extreme. Not sure if it was because I was a scruffy English sod in trainers and shorts or whether they’re like that to everyone who they don’t know (probably the latter given the negative reviews on TripAdvisor). The manager came in to our four table room and asked the Spanish diners if everything was ok but ignored myself and an English couple on another table which said it all really. I’d always thought that posh Spaniards could be awful snobs and this just hammered it home.

I asked whether all six of the Rueda whites where Verdejo’s (probably a stupid question) but just had the wine list read out to me in order by way of reply. The recommendation when it came was for the most expensive one (Marques de Riscal 2011) and I can’t say I was too impressed (C+). I’ve had some wonderfully fragrant bottles of this grape in the past but, although very dry, this one just didn’t satisfy.

I started with the Canapes de Gambas which were small slices of white bread with the crusts cut off and a slice of persimmon topped with a couple of shelled prawns and doused with what looked like Thousand Island dressing, but I was too scared to ask. They were very good though (A).

To follow a plate of Almejas al Natural, uncooked shucked clams in their shells, served on a bed of ice with wedges of lemon, again very good (A). I toyed with the idea of a main dish but by this time I was already pretty pissed off with the treatment I had been getting and thought better of it.

I was even toying with the idea of a negative review on Trip Advisor, not something I have ever done before but this place deserved every word of bile I could muster. And then the bill came. They wanted €56 for the clams!! The waiter had not even bothered to listen to me when I had ordered 200g, not a lot I admit, but I had only wanted to try them. I remonstrated with the manager and got it reduced to just over €20.

I calculate that in the last 12 years, I have eaten in over 300 hundred restaurants in Spain, and this was the worse treatment I have ever received in all that time. Looking at Trip Advisor I can see that I was not the only one to have been treated this way by “el Camarero de la pena de muerte”. Go to Marisqueria Ribeira do Mino in Chueca instead and notice the difference.

And on that cheery note I shall curtail this discussion on the love/hate relationship I have with this part of Madrid!

For other neighbourhoods in Salamanca that adjoin Goya please see the separate posts for El Retiro and the Lista, Castellana, Recoletos and Ibiza barrios.

Pics uploaded Feb 2014 and May 2012.

Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – Eating & Drinking cheaply in Goya neighbourhood

Posted in Goya, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Salamanca, Spain with tags , , , , on March 31, 2017 by gannet39

Goya is in the central southern part of Barrio Salamanca, bordered by Calle Principe de Vegara to the west (see my Recoletos posts), Calle de Don Ramón de la Cruz to the north (see my Lista post), Calle del Dr. Esquerdo to the east and Calle de O’Donnell to the south (see my Ibiza posts). Please also see my separate posts for food shopping and posher places to eat in Goya.

Map of Madrid here. Map of Goya barrio here.

Here are a few medium-range bars and restaurants I can vouch for:

Cafetería Avanty’s (High Elementary B), 15 Calle del General Pardiñas

This is a favourite spot for my work colleagues as it’s cheap and convenient for the Hotel Catalonia Goya. It’s a fair sized bar with a large selection of Spanish standards which is fine if you’re not too fussy.

For me the food generally scores a C so I tend to just drink here and graze on their complementary tapas. When buying beer it’s good to know they charge nearly the same for a doble as a caña! But it’s still much cheaper than anywhere else I know in Barrio Salamanca.

Someone please tell me how I was supposed to eat these crabs.


Taberna de la Daniela (Intermediate B+), 21 Calle del General Pardiñas, Tel. 91 575 2329,

Just a few minutes walk from the Hotel Catalonia Goya, this is one of a small chain of Danielas dotted around town. It looks like a good choice with its tiled walls, crowded tapas bar and constantly busy restaurant. I come here fairly frequently with my colleagues because it’s convenient, friendly and the food is fairly decent.


And most importantly it is one of the best places in Madrid to eat Cocido Madrileno, a hearty chickpea stew that I adore.

Once eaten in winter, people now eat it at any time, especially for Sunday lunch, which is when I usually have it at Daniella’s. Traditionally it’s served in three stages, although it’s been narrowed down to two in modern times.

First the stock is used to make a tasty noodle soup.


In past times you would then get the veg course (principally chickpeas, cabbage and carrot) and finally the meat, thus saving the best for last in poverty stricken homes. However, in these more affluent days the vegetables and meat usually come together.

At Daniela’s you get a chicken drumstick, a lump of bacon, a chunk of marrow bone, slices of black pudding and chorizo and some other hunk of meat (veal?) and a square of quivering gelatinous lard. The lard doesn’t look very appetizing but trust me, it’s actually the most flavoursome ingredient in the whole stew, just cut it very thinly and eat it in small slices.


Couple this with a few glasses of decent red and you’ll quickly find it’s siesta time! You’re going nowhere after that lot.

Total cost before wine €26.50, worth every penny.

I’ve had tapas here a few times and they are ok (usually scoring a B) and the portions are generous (especially the morcilla!) but I’d avoid the Ternera con Castada y Puree de Manzana (C). Tapas are a euro cheaper if you eat in the bar.


The servers in the restaurant, especially Paula, are lovely and have a good sense of humour. If you ask for a digestif they will leave the bottle on the table and it won’t appear on the bill.

Micota (Intermediate C+), Calle Costello 18,

This grill house is very near the Hotel Centro and serves ok food, although some dishes are better than others.

My options from the extensive Menu del Dia were grilled chicken with gravy (B), baked potato (C), coco de pastel aka coconut tart (B).

The waiting staff are very nice if a bit over efficient at times (different ones ask you the same questions all the time). It’s €2 extra to eat outside.

El Olivar de Ayala (Elementary B), 84 Calle Ayala

This place was recommended by a teacher as a cheap place to eat fairly near the hotel and it didn’t disappoint. With the €11 Menu-del-Dia you get a wide choice of dishes. I had Salmorejo (like gazpacho but made with bread), Emperador a la Plancha (grilled swordfish with salad) and Mousse de Queso (a speckled blancmange) with a quarter litre of red. The decor is unremarkable, wooden chairs around barrels in the front tapas area, tables in the back, and the service is fine. A good deal all round.

Bars near the Hotel Goya:

I try to avoid drinking in the bar of the Hotel Goya. Canas are a hefty €3 and a Cuba Libre costs nearly €12, and that’s after I taught them how to make it!

If it’s open, which it hasn’t been for a while, a much cheaper and very nearby option is the Barley Bar (turn left out of the Hotel Centro and it’s on the first corner). Plain and simple, it looks small but there’s an upstairs seating area with a telly if you want to watch the match. The decor is on an English pub theme although the old couple who run it don’t speak a word of the language.

For an alternative to brandy, I find a glass of Anis La Castellana (the best stuff comes from Chinchon) to be a nice way to end the evening.

Pics uploaded May 2012

Madrid – Barrio Salamanca – Tapas Bars in Goya neighbourhood

Posted in Goya, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Salamanca, Spain with tags , , , , , , on March 30, 2017 by gannet39

Goya is in the central southern part of Barrio Salamanca, bordered by Calle Principe de Vegara to the west (see my Recoletos posts), Calle de Don Ramón de la Cruz to the north (see my Lista post), Calle del Dr. Esquerdo to the east and Calle de O’Donnell to the south (see my Ibiza posts). Please see my separate posts for stuff to see, posh restaurants and cheaper places to eat in Goya. Map of the barrio here, my Google map here.

Here are a tapas bars I know in Goya, in no particular order. Some are better than others.

Quintin (High Intermediate B+), 17 Calle Jorge Juan,

This is currently (Spring 2016) the trendiest wine bar in Barrio Salamanca according to our Madrileno area manager. We popped in for a couple of glasses of wine which were a bit pricey at €3.50 a shot but it was all good tackle. Not sure what the food is like but presumably it must be good.

Estay (Intermediate B+), 46 Calle Hermosilla,

This well-reputed tapas bar is on the other side of the block from the Hotel Centro making it the easiest quality option for many of my work colleagues. This is their House selection.

House selection

The decor is rather sterile and there is no atmosphere as such but the tapas are great and the wines are reasonably cheap.

Cabrales with toasted almonds is a personal favourite.

Cabrales with almonds

Lateral (intermediate B+), 57 Calle Velasquez

This is one of a small chain of tapas bars with a good rep for quality, well-priced tapas. They have good salads too and you can sit outside if you time your arrival right.

Their ‘Solorca’ Ribeira del Duero Reserva is excellent (A) if a bit pricey at €18.20 but I’d prefer spend the extra rather than get the cheaper Finca Vieja La Mancha at €13 (C).

Solorca Ribeira

Also near the Hotel Catalonia Goya are near neighbours Taberna O’Caldino at 74 Calle Lagasca and El Rincon de Goya at 46 Calle Lagasca are good quality but rather posh, and consequently a bit pricey.

La Casa del Abuelo (Intermediate C+), 57 Calle Goya (turn left out of the door of the Hotel Centro, it’s two half blocks, just before the green pharmacy sign on your side of the street)

‘Grandfather’s House’ is a typical ceramic tiled tapas bar a stone’s throw from the Hotel Goya, making it a handy spot for my workmates to meet at the end of the day for drinks and snacks. I’m not much of a fan as I find it quite expensive. It’s a hefty €2.70 for a cana (in 2009, more now) and they don’t do small tapa portions, only media-raciones, which are okay but not the best. The staff can vary from being mildly pleasant to downright rude but I’ve learnt to take them in my stride.

Santa Barbara (Intermediate B+), Calle Goya, on the corner where it meets Calle Alcala. NOW CLOSED!

This is a famous bar, founded since 1815, although the lovely neo-Mudejar building is occupies is ersatz. It’s very popular due to its location on a major crossroads and proximity to El Corte Ingles department store.


It’s famous for seafood; the prawns are great and the salpicon (seafood salad). is pretty good too, and you can sit outside in an oasis of calm amidst the hustle and bustle of two major streets.

A rack of eight Gambas a la Plancha and two dobles of cerveza will set two people back about €20, not something I can afford every day but a nice treat now and then when I need my prawn fix.

Sadly when I walked past in March 2017 I saw that this place is now a phone shop. Times inevitably change…

Pics uploaded May 2012

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