Thursday, September 11, 2008

madrid on 2 wheels

as an exception to the norm... i would like to dedicate an entry to madrid, the city where i was born. it is also a city i absolutely love and i consider many people from madrid do not know as well as they could. it is a city with character and a lot of secrets... i know, plenty of cities have character and secrets, but i like the ones in madrid very much. it is after all a personal opinion, may be biased and maybe not. i could also mention things i don't like about this city, and i may point them out a little later as things to avoid, just bear in mind, you might end up liking the things i don't, but i will be as objective as possible.

for some time now, me and a couple of good friends dedicate thursday nights to good food, good cañas, and good music (there goes my objectivity). for those not familiar with spanish culture, a caña, is a fairly small glass of beer (compared to the size of glasses and jugs our neighbours in the north of europe are used to), and we do take a lot of pride in our cañas... like a pint of guiness, you don´t just pour it... it has to be served the right way. so let me start with a couple of places you might want to try a well poured caña in madrid.

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a good place to start would be "el doble" (A) which is in c/ponzano 58. its a small neighbourhood traditional bar and they are probably the best at serving cañas. on the downside... dont expect the traditional free tapa to go with it, if you eat something you will probably have to pay for it.

el cantabrico, in c/padilla 39 (B) is another place where you will have the chance to try one of the best cañas in the city. this neighbourhood bar is specialised in seafood and for a reasonable price you will have access to some of the best seafood you can get away from the coast.

my favourite place in this part of the city however, has to be "cazorla". note there are 4 "branches" of this bar/restaurant. i have only tried 3 of them and they are walking distance from each other. i will recomend the one next to "cantábrico". it´s just down the road on the corner of c/padilla and c/general pardiñas (B).

here you will be able to have some very impressive cañas and probably the best typical southern spanish food to be found in madrid. i would have to recommend that you never leave without trying the "cazon en adobo".

my next stop would have to be la latina. this neighbourhood has been gaining popularity over the last couple of years and it has become the epicentre of the bohemian and artistic characters of the city who always seem to bring with them a series of more irrelevant spectators who are there to see and be seen without really providing any originality to the area.

you will find a generally young and trendy crowd here, although variety would be a more appropiate term to describe the many bars, pubs, cafes and clubs that populate one of the oldest parts of the spanish capital.

park your bikes where c/del almendro intersects with c/costanilla de san pedro (C) and enjoy. once you hit this area you will find it difficult to stop and go home.

a good place to start would be "la mulata", just down c/del almendro where you will be able to enjoy good drinks, including wine, and some pretty good bites... if you have not had dinner and you think it might be too late to find a place... try la mulata.

on the way back to where you left your bikes... still on c/del almendro, you have "la turuleta", one of the few places you can still have a nice cappuccino at a very strange time of the night.

opposite la turuleta you have el mentidero and well... pretty much any place on that street will allow you to indulge in some of the best food you might try in madrid.

a classic is el almendro 13, but during lunch and dinner hours it is virtually impossible to find a table and you might have to wait for a long long time. go early, its worth it for the "huevos rotos" and its "roscas".

the best mojitos you can try in the country might just be a stone throws away... in this little but always packed deli/bar called "delic" (plaza de la paja). also famous for their cakes and great atmosphere, if you are lucky you might be able to sit outside for a more comfortable experience, but i think its more fun inside ;)

also on plaza de la paja, you have the bar "timon" although this might be more suitable for when you are not so sure if you should be getting back on the bike. a good point to visit before heading to "marula cafe" in c/ caños viejos 3 (D). this is probably my favourite club in the neighbourhood (i still have to visit the very famous berlin cabaret). its not big, it has a terrace to sit outside in the summer months and they serve great drinks. if you like gin & tonics try it with hendrick´s gin and a slice of cucumber instead of lemon. music will probably be some great rn´b (the real one, not the one you hear in mtv), funk and some good house at times. you will definitely have plenty of reasons to dance ;)

you can pretty much end the night in marula or leave when its packed at 2 or 3am. then i would head to "el junco" which is in plaza de santa barbara (E). similar to marula, but slightly bigger. if you are there earlier you might catch a live band and they are regularly pretty good.

if you still have energy or you feel that you need to refuel... have a meal... hey!!! its somewhere in the range of 5 to 7 am!!!! where can you have a meal in this city????

thats when you head to lady pepa (F).

this would be worthy of a post by itself. i cant think of anywhere else where you can enjoy a nice plate of spaghetti, callos (if you like them) or lentils at 5, 6 or 7am...

you might read/hear things like "the best spaghetti in madrid...", "it is not a restaurant, it is a treasure..."

it might seem like they are the best spaghetti in the world considering your likely state by the time you hit this legend. one thing is for sure, you will never forget this experience.

go to c/ de san lorenzo and look for the "cafe teatro lady pepa", knock on the door and when it opens, tell him/her/it you are going for dinner, yes, tell them what i said regardless of the time... you will be shown the way downstairs towards a narrow long room with tables on the sides where, if there is enough space, you will be seated. its not cheap, but at those weeeeeee hours... who cares?

if you are lucky you might see someone who spontaneously decides to start playing the piano located at the end of the room, or someone playing guitar... most times everyone ends up joining and singing and clapping... until it gets too loud and isaac, the owner exercises his authority to keep noise levels down. he will confiscate the guitars if he has to, so have fun but don't get carried away. its part of the game.

by the time you are done... you will be done, literally... go home, go back to your hotel and be happy you survived.

more on madrid in a near future.

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