Monday 25 July 2016

Spanish Weekend Guides ~ Madrid.

Madrid was actually the first Spanish city I visited way back in the early 90's. I vaguely remember long booze fuelled nights stumbling from one tapas joint to another. I wasn't so discerning but I loved the city then and still do. More so than Barcelona I think although I'm not sure why, maybe it feels more Spanish than touristy. We're still regular visitors to the capital including a trip earlier this year. This guide is seen as an outsider though, there of plenty of local bloggers and food folk who will know lots more than I do. Although we have explored quite extensively over the last few years within the limitations of time, there will always be lots more places to visit.
Where to Stay.
Touristy Plaza Santa Ana was always somewhere I'd gravitate for 20 years ago, so I still have a soft spot for this area. So the Room Mate Alicia is a fine choice, a modern swish boutique hotel, some rooms have extended terraces overlooking the square. (View seen below).
We've also stayed in the Hotel Plaza Mayor, the corner suit at the top of the building has a terrace. On our last occasion we were in the very smart NH Madrid Eurobuilding with view across the city, the best hotel room we've ever been in.
What to do.
At some point in the weekend I'll stroll around the admittedly tourist Plaza Mayor, but on a sunny day even in winter, sitting here with a beer watching the world go by is always a pleasure. We will also usually spend half a day near the lake in Retiro Park (photo above). These are the luxuries I suppose of knowing a city quite well rather than feeling the need to do everything in one weekend. I often visit the Prado Art Gallery at some point (near to the park). The collection is so huge, it's wise to select specific artists. I usually head for the Velázquez room, specifically Las Meninas also the Hieronymus Bosch paintings are a must see, especially The Garden of Earthly Delights. *Note the Spanish call him El Bosco. Lastly, I always make an effort to view Goya's Black Paintings once more, they never lose their power for me. 
Also; visit the Thyssen Museum if you have time.
Where to Eat.
As you may have guessed, this list will be very long. We've eaten in many great Madrid restaurants, yet there are always so many more I want to try next time. My select choices;
Sacha. Is an institution in the city and one of my favourite restaurants in the world. It's also a place where chefs eat, whether local or visiting superstar chefs, those in the know always head to Sacha as will we. Quite right, the food is sensational. Don't miss; the bone marrow.
Restaurante Alabaster. A 'product' restaurant that has no real equivalent in the UK, (apart from Hedone maybe) an obsessive quest for the best products. Don't miss; the sardines.
La Tasquería. A modern temple to nose to tail. We loved it all here.
Don't miss; Manitas, alcachofas y cigala. Pig's Trotter, Artichoke, crayfish.
Street XO. 
Utterly brilliant, we've been to this street food joint three times in two trips.
Don't miss; Pekingese Dumpling, crunchy Pig's Ear & Strawberry Hoisin Sauce.
Michelin Stars.
If you want a fine dining meal on your weekend, try these places.
Punto MX Michelin star Mexican food, we're huge fans of this restaurant.*
DiverXo. Not for the faint hearted, cutting edge cuisine and the only three star restaurant in Madrid. ***
La Terraza del Casino de Madrid.  Perhaps a safer bet, exquisite food in opulent surroundings. **
Coque, Madrid. Well worth a detour outside of the city for this two star. **
Mercado de San Miguel. A vintage market building full of little bars and food stalls.
La Casa del Abuelo. Old school and simple food, the first place we ever had snails.
La Gabinoteca. Excellent modern bistro style tapas.
Taberna del Chato. In the heart of tourist-land, a great little bar for a pit stop, good modern snacks.
Chocolatería San Ginés. A must for your late night post drinking churros, I've been visiting this place for 20 years, hopefully I'll be going for another 20.
Places I've yet to try. 
DSTAgE. I have it on good authority that this is the place to go for some of the finest food in Madrid so I was gutted that I missed out on a booking here last minute. *
Also highly regarded and on my to eat list; La Malaje, Triciclo, Kabuki, La Tasquita de Enfrente, Al Trapo, 99 Sushi Bar, Santceloni, Sala de Despiece, Albora, Restaurante Lakasa.
Day Trips from Madrid
If you're in Madrid for more than a few days both Segovia and Toledo are fantastic day trips out of the city. Segovia is especially noted for it's famous Suckling Pig. Try restaurant José María and for high end, highly rated is chef Rubén Arnanz's Villena.

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