Madrid – Centro – Eating Cheaply in Cortes

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

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

El Lacón (Intermediate B-) 8 Calle Manuel Fernández y González, www.mesonellacon.com

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

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

Los Chanquetes (Intermediate B), 2 Calle de Moratin, www.tabernaloschanquetes.es

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

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

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

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

And finally a place I’m less keen on:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photos from April 2011, February 2014 and February 2016.

Madrid – Sol – Roast Meat Restaurants around Plaza Mayor

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

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

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

Los Galayos (High Intermediate A), 5 Calle Botoneros and Plaza Mayor, www.losgalayos.net

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Botin ground floor

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

Botin cellar

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

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

garlic soup

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

roast lamb & potatoes

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

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

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

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

Photos uploaded February 2017 and April 2011.

Madrid – Retiro – Jerónimos – Out and About

Posted in Jerónimos, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Retiro, Spain with tags , , on April 9, 2017 by gannet39

The best thing about staying in Barrio Salamanca is its proximity to Parque De El Retiro; Madrid’s largest park. The park is in the ward of Jerónimos which is in the district of Retiro.

El Retiro path

It’s one of my favourite places to go for a walk or a jog, have a cold beer in the shade or lie on the grass in the sun after a big lunch!

El Retiro skater

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There is a big boating lake should you fancy practising your oarsmanship.

Boating lake

El Retiro lake

El Retiro folly

If you are a jogger it takes about 30 minutes to run around the edge of the park, if you take in all the corners, but it’s much more fun to explore the small shady internal paths which are full of unexpected sights.

There’s an outdoor gym near the Fountain of the Fallen Angel, the only statue I know dedicated to Lucifer. I love the imps on the base!

Statue of the fallen angel

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There are many other beautiful statues in the park.

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El Retiro statue

El Retiro has given it’s name to the local district which has many other things to see.

To the west of the park, at the bottom of the Paseo de Recoletos, is the Plaza de Cibeles, a rotunda with a fountain featuring Cybele, the Roman goddess of fertility and a symbol of Madrid. When I took this picture, a mass rally of nude cyclists just happened to be passing by!

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Towering above the rotunda is the Palacio de Cibeles, formerly the Palacio de Comunicaciones (Post Office HQ), but now it’s used as an art gallery. The building itself is stunning both inside and out.

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You can still see the post office counters on the ground floor and the ceiling is very nice.

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There’s a bar on the top floor which has terrible service and mediocre food but you do get a great view from the roof looking up Calle de Alcala towards the Circulo des Bellas Artes, itself an even better viewing spot.

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Pics upload April 2011 and Feb 2017.

Madrid – Retiro – Eating & Drinking in Barrio Ibiza

Posted in El Retiro, Ibiza, Madrid, Madrid Comunidad, Spain with tags , , on April 8, 2017 by gannet39

Barrio Ibiza is a neighbourhood in the Retiro District, to the east of El Retiro park, south of Calle Alcala. It’s a bit of a walk from the Hotel Catalonia Goya (about 20 mins walking quickly) but only three streets if you map it right. Or you could take the tube to Metro Ibiza.

La Castela (Intermediate A), 22 Doctor Castelo, lacastela.com

Love this place. It’s on the pricey side but we (my friend Ethel and I) got loads of freebies in the tapas bar, more than we could eat.

We ordered four things off the menu. The first was the Merluza al Aceite Oliva Virgen, hake in virgin olive oil, was possibly the best either of us had ever had (A+).

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Secondly we got the Ensalada de Cecina, air dried beef, probably Cecina de León, served with asparagus.

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And also off the menu; Croquetas Marisco, seafood croquettes.

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In addition we got all the below for free, even when we hadn’t ordered a drink. This included… Chorizo with piquillo peppers.

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Some stewed boletus.

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Gem lettuce with mussels.

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And various kinds of marine life.

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20160517_204345The free stuff came so thick and fast we eventually had to beg them to stop!

With three jarras and three canas of beer the bill came to €66.50 between two which was very good given the quantity and quality of what we had.

One of my favourites…

Casa Portal Sideria-Restaurante (Advanced, A) 26 Dr. Castello, Tel 91 574 2026 or 91 409 1553 GEM ALERT!

This trad spot (specialising in Cocido Asturiana since 1939) is a favourite restaurant of mine and a good place to go on a chilly evening when your cockles need warming.

Casa Portal

There is a tapas bar with lots of smelly, cheesy delicacies under glass at the front, and a posher restaurant at the back which is usually empty around the time I go (just after 8pm) so no reservations required.

Casa Portal interior

The specialities are various kinds of fabada (butter bean stew), seafood and Asturian cider which should be poured from a great height in order to aerate it.

The service is formal but friendly and has always been good, especially the nice older chap who seems to be a permanent fixture. The atmosphere is quite sedate with paintings of Asturian valleys and erm… an oil refinery on the walls.

A great starter is Esparragos Trigueros Salteados (A+), wild asparagus (in season May/June) dressed in a wonderful reduction of wine and oil. The Foie-gras de Pato with a balsamic reduction is excellent (A) too.

It’s best if you go with a companion as the classic (A+) Fabada Asturiana (with ham hock, chorizo and morcilla and butter beans in a thick rich sauce) is big enough for two, although I have been known to manage it by myself. They’ve been making it for decades and it’s the best one I’ve ever had.

Casa Portal Fabada

The Leche Frita ‘fried milk’ (kind of like bread and butter pudding) and Tarta de Queso (‘cheesecake’ but not as we know it) are ok but straight out of the fridge (C+) but the icecreams are sublime (A) so just get one of those.

Leche Frita

Be careful of the price if you go for one of their classic brandies (perhaps a Larios 1866 or a Cardinal Mendoza) at the end though, or at least ask how much it is first! This is a place I always return to.

A Japanese Kirikata (Advanced B), 19 Calle de Antonio Ancuna, www.adearzabal.com

Every now and then I need a break from local food and Japanese is my default setting if it’s available.

This is a posh Spanish wine bar that serves food from both cultures. The Guia Repsol recommends the Arzábal croquettes with sheep’s milk but I was here for the sushi.

I sat in their dark but comfortable and stylishly decorated cellar and had…

Some complimentary Capocollo, Italian ham, with bread and homemade butter (B).

Atun Picante (B).

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Kimchi Salmon (B).

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The seared scallops, Vieras, tasted ever so slightly of the blowtorch fuel which detracted a bit (B-).

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The chef, a good English speaker, recommended the Gambas Picantes and they were indeed my favourite (B+). I loved the Ito Togarashi (literally ‘thread pepper’) garnish they were topped with.

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The white wine was a Verdejo called Terrible which sounded ominious but it was actually quite good! (B+).

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Total €80, a price you have to pay for sushi here I guess, sometimes you just have to do these things. It was fine but I’ll keep searching for an authentic place.

Pics uploaded May 2012.

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, www.plateamadrid.com. 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, www.elcorteingles.es

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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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, www.almounia.es

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, www.lavinia.es

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.

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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).

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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).

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

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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.

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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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Chocolate with Apricot was enjoyable (B).

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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.

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

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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.

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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, www.joseluis.es

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 ww.flg.es (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)…

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

hamburguesas-jose-luis

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

protos-crianza

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

2012-04-25-22-38-32

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, www.elseptimo.com

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.

apple-croquetas

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.

seared-iberico-pork

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

cune-rioja-2007

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!

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