A Bumpy Downhill Road Out of Madrid…

12 April 2015

It’s been a bit frustrating the last few days in Madrid, to be honest. The food has been spectacular for the most part, but the dining experiences have really marred my enjoyment. In fact, I really can’t wait to get out of Madrid. I think those who follow my Twitter feed saw that first hand…

On my final day I had a very light schedule, partly because of an unplanned deadline that kept me at my hotel glued to my laptop writing and doing research. Oh well, I wasn’t planning to do much anyway, as I grow very tired to Madrid in general.

I popped out to lunch after getting some fresh air walking around a few neighbourhoods. Was near the centre and I had no plans, so I just walked into anywhere that looked (1) not touristy, (2) not overrun, and (3) interesting. The place I found was a little bar called Taberna San Fermín de Puerta Cerrada that the hoardes of tourists seemed to have missed.

It was doing a increasingly brisk early lunch business with locals and regulars, and I stood at the bar and enjoyed some early wine. I wasn’t too hungry so I ordered a dish of “gulas”.

gulas

These “fake” baby eels I enjoy almost as a pasta dish, with a heavy dose of garlic. It is actually delicious even if it doesn’t compare to the real thing. I really should get a dish of the real stuff before I go; it’s been many years since I’ve had real baby eels. These were good though.

I headed out and wandered a bit more and I did get a little hungry after about half hour, so I stepped into the only place that didn’t look overly busy — Can Punyetes. I later found out this was a chain out of Barcelona that had many locations. I was originally interested in various items they had on the menu, but each one I tried to order they told me they had run out. Huh? Sunday lunchtime…

ventresca

So I settled with this rather disastrous dish. I generally don’t like ventresca — tuna belly that’s been preserved. It loses all its oily fatty goodness 99% of the way they do it. Very, very rarely would ventresca work in my opinion. So I just consumed this and headed out and back to my hotel — to work…

After a few hours of crunching my keyboard I finished the piece and sent the item off in question, and I got ready to head to dinner. I usually have better luck with old school places, so I went for one this evening — Casa Lucio. Some call it a tourist trap, some say it’s proven itself. Whichever way, I headed there.

After fighting a drunken crowd out doing the horrible modern Spanish custom of botellón (really, at 8.30pm on a Sunday night in such numbers?), pushing some people out of the way, I found Casa Lucio. They eventually put me at a table upstairs. Looks very old school…

I ordered my food and yep, I decided to do the baby eels. The good thing about this place, tourist trap or what, is that they have a reputation of having the hardest-to-find treats available when in season.

I ordered a bottle of white and a starter and chilled out, hoping for a good final meal in Madrid. I relaxed and was starting to enjoy my wine when they came back and told me they had run out of the baby eel… Crap… I was already on the white but then the only other dish I’d do is the oxtail here, so I ordered it… So deflating!

pata negra

The jamon starter arrived and it was good, but frankly I don’t think it was preserved well. It was starting to really dry out. The fatty parts were glorious but the meaty parts were tasting a bit off… Maybe this is a tourist trap…my mistake… It took ages before my main course came.

oxtail

The oxtail was very good, strong flavours and a good portion, but goes a bit odd with the weak white house wine. Plus, they stop pouring it for some reason and I couldn’t get anyone’s attention. What the hell is wrong with the service sector here? Is 9pm still siesta time that they can’t function normally?

I ended up complaining to the manager using my broken Castillian about the service and they ended up apologising. They thought that the white didn’t work with the oxtail so they just stopped pouring it… But they forgot that I had bought the bottle…oops! So at the end they brought me a brandy and a free dessert. A good gesture, but I’ve had enough of Madrid’s maddening service sector and I quickly left this tourist trap…

Frankly I was underwhelmed and I didn’t want to leave Madrid with such a terrible taste in my mouth — even if I never come back here again — so I hopped on a cab (after fighting through the drunken crowd outside) and headed across the El Retiro park (Metro was inconvenient) and…well, went back to where I closed my first night in town, Rafa.

They were surprised to see me again and I just chilled with some wine. They fed me some olives again and I ordered some food at that point…

erizos

Look at this first item, sea urchin at its best. This was delicious, deep and flavourful. What a nice change of pace. I then had a plate of percebes (barnacles); I apologise I forgot to photo this plate, but you know what it looks like (it’s a bit larger portion than the one I had at Cervejaria Ramiro in Lisboa a few days earlier). Then the final dish, to close my Madrid account…

Manos y morro de ternera a la madrileña

Manos y morro de ternera a la madrileña. In other words, the “hands and nose” of veal. Now this is a fabulously rich dish, full of collagen and flavour. I love it, even better than the oreja dish at Casa Alberto the other day. An excellent end to this rather disastrous stay in town. I’m glad it ended this way.

I headed back to my hotel by Metro knowing that this is probably the last time I will ever be in Madrid again, probably all of Spain. Life’s too short. Food is fabulous but I don’t need this type of aggravation. There’s a big ol’ world out there, and every place has to sell itself to me for me to return. I gave Spain 4 chances over the years, Madrid 2 of them, and each time it’s been a dismal failure to convince me to come back.

Adiós, Madrid. Adiós, España.

La prossima?

Taberna San Fermín de Puerta Cerrada
Calle de Gómez de Mora 1

Can Punyetes
Calle de los Señores de Luzon 5

Casa Lucio
Calle Cava Baja 35

Rafa
Calle de Narváez 68
Madrid, España

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