Posts Tagged ‘Madrid’

26th February
2010
written by spd
(img: Sean Patrick Doyle) Although it is not posted, photos are prohibited at La Venencia.  This shot was the lone survivor from my visit there, as the bar woman shook her finger at me after the shutter snapped.  The folks at spottedbylocals.com share a similar story... the people at La Venencia believe, "pictures steal the soul".
(img: Sean Patrick Doyle) Although it is not posted, photos are a no-no at La Venencia. This shot is the lone souvenir from my visit, as the bar woman shook her finger after the shutter snapped. According to spottedbylocals.com, the people at La Venencia believe, “pictures steal the soul”.  Well, how does one argue with that? :)

When the door to La Venencia shuts behind me, I am transported to another Madrid. Dust covered bottles hanging behind the bar, large ancient barrels holding Jerez wine (sherry), a cat passing through customers’ legs, wilted posters hanging on yellowed plaster walls…. Through the puffs of cigarette smoke, I can’t spot a single tourist. One possible expat, but I suppose the rest turned around at the entryway. I feel as if I’ve landed in the 1950s, or possibly earlier… the 1920s when this bar served it’s first glass? The decor is decidedly unfussy, with a staff to match (the female bartender is wearing a moth-eaten turtleneck) and, strangely enough, I love it! I order a fino (your only options are manzanilla, fino, oloroso, amontillado or palo cortado) and sip it slowly while munching on garlicky olives. The gal behind the bar keeps my tab in chalk on the old bar, and later declines my tip with a nod, “no.” The people-watching is unreal, and the sherry is top-notch. Sherry, unlike other wine, doesn’t benefit from age in a bottle, and is better closer to the source… so Madrid is a perfect place to sip this product from nearby Jerez de la Frontera. Grab a glass and take a trip in time before catching the flamenco show at adjacent Cardamomo.

La Venencia, Calle Echegaray, 7 | Sol | +34914297313

25th February
2010
written by spd

(images: Sean Patrick Doyle)

(images: Sean Patrick Doyle)

“We lunched upstairs at Botín´s. It is one of the best restaurants in the world. We had roast young suckling pig and drank rioja alta. Brett did not eat much. She never ate much. I ate a very big meal and drank three bottles of rioja alta.” The Sun Also Rises, Ernest Hemingway

Well, I can’t say that I drank three bottles of rioja alta, but I did have a very big meal at Restaurante Botin on Calle De Cuchilleros. To call it one of the best restaurants in the world is also a stretch, but to call it the oldest restaurant in the world… that would just be fact. The restaurant, opened in 1725 in a building dating back to 1590, holds the certificate from the Guinness Book of Records to prove it. How’s a foodie on holiday to resist? As you can imagine, the place has become wildly popular with tourists trying to scout out Hemingway’s seat; but it’s worth mentioning that when I dined there, there were several tables of spaniards enjoying cochinillo asado, the roast suckling pig they are so famous for. And of course, that is what I had as well.

The portion was laughably large, but so much of it was fat and bone, that I only got a small fists-worth of meat. The pig is roasted in the Castilian style with a mixture of onion, garlic and parsley, tomillo (thyme), some bay leaves, dry white wine flavored with fermented fish, and pig’s fat. Unfortunately, I didn’t find the meat as flavorful as expected, and the potatoes that accompanied it weren’t exactly inspiring. I did, however, end the meal with the most incredible flan de queso I have ever tasted!

With light spilling in through ancient window frames, waiters in white jackets flying by, a nearby elderly madrileno enjoying a taste of her childhood, azulejos (ceramic tiles) dating back to the 1700s (and others in the cloisonne-like style of the 1500s) surrounding me, I found the ambiance sort of infectious. The menu is headed with an etching of Madrid in 1561, around the time the first cutler’s shanty was put up on this very spot. If you come at lunch, the crowds are sparse enough to sit back and contemplate all of the generations that have passed through these arches. That alone is worth the price of admission.

Restaurante Botín. Calle de los Cuchilleros, 17. 28005 Madrid, Spain. 91 366 42 17

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