Archive for the Salamanca Category

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.

It’s very easy to walk right by and totally miss it.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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 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. There are plenty of other fresh veg and charcuterie stalls in the market, and good tapas bars where you can sit outside at the Calle Ayala side of the market.

cake shop at Mercado de la Paz

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.


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 and Feb 2017.

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.





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