Friday, December 12, 2008

La Negra Flor Restaurante & Good Bar, General Pardiñas 36

It happened!
I had the perfect piece of meat, the best in years!

A new bar restaurant opened in my street . It was an old fashioned bar before so I was expecting the worst, but to my pleasant surprise they were able to redesign the place into something that only slightly reeks of IKEA. There is one problem that they might not have been able to get rid of (yet), the smoke. 5 minutes in the place and you stink to the high heavens.

The bar is well laid out and when you pass through to the back there is a cozy lounge. You go upstairs to get to the restaurant. Comfortable, but a bit too bright to my liking, also for every smudge can be seen on the cutlery and the glasses. Our waiter was very friendly and when asked to explain the menu he explained and suggested the most popular dish since they opened 5 days before, the “Pluma Iberico.” We were hungry and ordered that and a tomato salad. The tomatoes in the tomato salad were rock hard and green, green not always being a bad thing but this time yes. If it hadn’t been for the sun dried tomatoes, the olive oil and the spring onions, this would be one tasteless starter. But then the meat arrived. “Madre mia!!” It was just beautiful, cooked to perfection with a portion of potato quiche on the side. The meat just melted on my tongue. I always thought this was such a weird thing to say about meat, but now I know what is meant. The Tira misu after was OK, but nothing more. But I didn’t care after that Pluma Iberico.

Go there now, before it’s too late!!

Monday, December 1, 2008

HD Escentrico, Guzmán el Bueno 67

This is the kind of place that gives me a false sense of nostalgia and this was probably the idea. The funny thing is that people who actually can remember the way it used to be seem to love this place as well. Old fashioned bar with long counter in a 50's setting with original furniture. Good coffee, great music, WIFI, cocktails and menu del día.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Economist

I started writing this blog to record my experiences and give my opinion on what I see. I am not trying to use this as an excersise in Spain bashing. However, it is always nice to find out that you are not alone. Following is an excerpt from The Economist of November 8-14:

"Spaniards as individuals are almost unfailingly friendly and kind. But when they have to serve customers, something strange often happens: they become defensive and unhelpful."

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Monday, November 24, 2008

Horno Asador La Parilla, Toledo

When you live in Madrid, Toledo is part of the staple diet of places you have to have been to at least once. I still hadn't been and so last weekend we went. Again many people had told me about how great it is and how good the food and how cheap compared to Madrid. Well, I wouldn't be writing this if I didn't have my own opinion about this. Toledo is cute, but on a Saturday, of course, overrun by tourists like ourselves. If you want to buy a knife, or maybe an even more essential tool such as an ancient sword, Toledo is the place for you; but if it is a newspaper or a book you want, good luck. So around lunchtime all these visitors want to eat in that quaint restaurant that serves the quintessential local fare etc. So did we of course, and I didn't want to eat in a place with picture menus. I had seen a place before but it would mean that we had to walk back to the other side of town again so when we came across this place with a Michelin 2007 sticker in the window we figured this might be just such a place, especially because there weren't any other restaurants in this street and the menu seemed OK.

While waiting in Horno Asador La Parrilla we saw that the meat on the plates looked nice so we got that feeling of having found that place that everybody else was looking for. This was going to be great and we would be talking about it for weeks. We took the "menú del día" of €17 which included a glass of wine and desert. There was also a "menú"of €25, but we would be fine with the simple one.

As a first course I had a "Sopa Castellana" or Garlic Soup and my girlfriend a "Paella Mixta".

I love garlic and I love soup, so I was ready. My girlfriend is from Valencia so she knows her Paella. The Soup: tasteless, with too much bread. The Paella: not great. Not wanting to give up just yet: "Just wait for the meat."

I ordered a Venison ragout and my girlfriend a piece of meat "cazador" which means that it was hunted I guess. I didn't like my ragout very much, but I don't eat venison very often so I thought it might be me, and my girlfriend's meat was a bit dry. Anyway, she didn't finish it because she didn't like it. The waiter started clearing the table while I was still eating and wanted to know what we would have for desert. To take away an empty plate when someone at the table is still eating is one thing: I don't like it. But to ask me what I want for desert when I am busy trying to finish my meal is just ignorant. The "Natillas" or custard was what it was, nothing more and the "Flan" or crème caramel I guess was the same. In any case we left feeling it was a bit expensive, especially compared to all these other places where the menú del día is only €9 or slightly more, pictures or no pictures. We wandered around some more; saw some more swords; a few knives and a few more interesting old buildings. We had seen enough, but still had two hours before our train. Around the beautiful train station there is Nothing. At least not on a Saturday afternoon at 5 o'clock. Whatever there is (not a whole lot), is closed.

I was so glad to be back in Madrid that I went to the supermarket to buy a carton of milk, just because I could. Also, I still had all Sunday to myself. Or so I thought.

I woke up at 10 o'clock on Sunday to find my girlfriend on the couch with a bucket. She had been vomiting etc. and was in a lot of pain which was getting worse. To spare you the details, I ended up calling an ambulance, thinking it may be appendicitis, because it was impossible for her to move or go to Emergency. The attending paramedic fortunately ruled that one out pretty quickly and instead asked her what she had had to eat the day before. When she told him we went to Toledo, the driver ( I guess he was the driver, he had the car keys) said she had had bad luck because "normally you eat well in Toledo". Yeah, right!

Last week I was commenting to someone that it was so difficult to find a good restaurant. This Spaniard wholeheartedly agreed with me and said that sometimes he went to McDonald's because he knows it is bad, but at least it is always the same, so you can never be disappointed. They even have one in Toledo!

The best food is found in Spain. What they do to it at times is a different story!

Monday, November 17, 2008


I never understood the long, long queues in VIPS, the Late night convenience store- cum-restaurant. And now I'm even more mystified. I always suspected the place to be bad, not for any particular reason just that there are so many VIPS around. Anyway, my girlfriend asked me if I wanted to go to VIPS for breakfast on Saturday. Seeing that it is just around the corner and I fancied something more wholesome than a croissant and a coffee I agreed. She ordered an English Breakfast and an American Breakfast for me. The difference between the two is that the American comes with pancakes instead of a toasted breadroll and the English also has a glass of freshly pressed orange juice, which I drank (sorry darling). So both have scrambled eggs and bacon. There is not a lot that can go wrong with scrambled eggs and bacon and toasting a bun isn't exactly rocket science either, but the pancakes I don't know... They looked nice. I'm sure you have heard of food being referred to as chewing gum, well this was Hubba Bubba dreck. I did go out on a limb and actually swallowed some pancake which landed in my stomach with the force of a meteorite. To settle things down a bit I drank some of my Cafe con Leche which tasted like it had been brewing for four hours and again all I could think about was writing on my blog and would VIPS be suitable material, because you have to be a bit of a sucker to go to VIPS for a meal. Anyhow, you have to be a total idiot to queue for it!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Trobador Braseria Mediterránea, Paseo de Recoletos 14

Pathetic attempt of recreating a tried and tested northern European concept. Very limited offer of snacks during the day. I counted 10 staff of whom 4 were "busy" in the (open) kitchen. I ordered a toasted sobrasada and cheese sandwich which came with either a glass of wine, a beer or a coffee for only €2,80. Bargain! And super easy to prepare one would think. Let me remind you that I am writing this blog to share my experiences in the restaurants of Madrid, good or bad. So, my toasted sandwich and glass of wine arrived after about 10 minutes and when I took a first bite I noticed there was no cheese on it. I called back the waiter, who appologised and took back my sandwich. A bit later I heard one of the cooks in the open kitchen reprimanding one of his younger colleagues for not putting cheese on the sandwich, all this for €2,80 Great! I waited another 15 minutes this time while I was watching the staff milling around the place and only one of them actually serving people. Of course there were two managers busy looking important and not noticably doing anything else, but especially ignoring me. Then as if by miracle one of them, I guess the big boy between them, showed up with my previous sandwich. Excluding ( I am not lying) the previous bite of course and two measly slices of cheese in beginning stages of curling up as from the heat of a toaster, but definitely not melted, wedged in the sandwich. I was deciding if I should show amusement or dismay, but since no one would notice I just wolfed down the thing, plucking the skin of the sobrasada from my mouth and asked for the bill. When it came it said €3,30. Still not a fortune, but not the price on the expensively printed menus. When I made the waiter aware of this, it was time for big boy to spring into action again. Twice in one hour, no wonder he looked annoyed. And all that for €0,50!!

That's entertainment!

Friday, November 14, 2008

La Daniela

I like modern restaurants that have been thought about, that are functional and serve decent food. You call yourself a restaurant because you serve food, not style. The problem being that most of these modern restaurants have been designed by people who have never worked in one. In other words the food should be the star not the interior. And the food is the star in many Spanish restaurants, but then they take it too far sometimes. Strip lights, stainless steel counters and plastic furniture. More like a canteen than a restaurant. Anyway the theory goes that the dirtier the floor, the better the food. You can see ladies in pearls throw napkins, bones, fish bones or whatever is not edible on the floor, sans gêne. It is a habit, albeit a primitive one, quickly picked up which I am only aware of when I have visitors. I read somewhere that Spaniards are the biggest consumers of bleach in Europe and from experience I can tell you that they live to clean, at home that is, because as soon as they leave the house they turn into, well, never mind. Anyway, this is supposed to be about food and I want to tell you about La Daniela.

The restaurant is a typical old fashioned bar restaurant with a bar for tapas y cañas (beer) and two dining rooms where they serve Cocido Madrileño and no, they do not have plastic furniture.

Cocido Madrileño is the typical Madrid dish that consists of a meat stock and vegetables, chickpeas and cooked meats served separately. It looks very rural. Madrid is a big city but the connection between the city and the farm is never far. It is especially great during the colder months. I would probably faint having this meal in August. It is also the main dish served here and it made me think how great that must be for a business. Concentrate on only that which you are good at, you can't lose and neither can the customer, unless of course you get the wrong people to serve the food for you. This, thankfully is not the case in La Daniela. The staff are professional and don't think of themselves as more important than the customer.
As a bar the place is great as well; the cañas are cheap, the few tapas that come with them are good and the place is always packed, with or without a dirty floor.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


In Spain you can have a three course meal for lunch for a tenner. "El menú del día." This is a great way to find out the kitchen of a new restaurant and I guess it’s a good way for a restaurant to try out new meals or get rid of food that otherwise will go to waste.

This is how I came accross Naïa,, this summer and was pleasantly surprised. The waiting staff were friendly the food was nice and I decided that I would definitely return. The next time I went I took my girlfriend for dinner and we got an amuse that was just perfect, so this place had to be good. That day it was and when I returned another time with a friend to show him the beauty of the "menú del día" again it was great. So, I had found my place. And then something happened. I think I wasn't the only person who liked the place and that now there were too many "cool" people going there too. Something had to change. A good thing was that they got rid of those uncomfortable quasi modern chairs and replaced them with straight forward chairs. But with cool people it is uncool to be friendly I guess, or even interested in your job. When I went last Sunday the food was mediocre to bad, my girlfriend's cod was too salty and my buey came on a hot plate that was decidedly not hot. We sent back the cod and were offered something else. This can happen, but by the time I had finished my meat my girlfriend was still waiting for her hamburger while the waitresses were chatting behind the bar. We were lucky enough to have the worst waitress in the world, who was not only rude and not interested, she wouldn't even look at us when she put a plate on the table. We were probably not cool enough. Sending back food is easy, but how do you get rid of a bitch like that? Whatever seemed to be the managing team was too busy smoking cigarettes and looking cool. I wanted to walk up to them and tell them to fire that dimwit and check what the fuck was going on in the kitchen, but then who am I? At last the burger arrived and was of it's usual standard, which is good, but then there isn't a lot that can go wrong with a burger.When I asked for the bill of course there was something amiss with the credit card machine and when our new best friend finally came back with my card and gave it to my girlfriend to sign, I almost lost my cool. I felt I had been had! They fucked up and I paid, including €4 for two pieces of bread that I never asked for, but which got an honourable mention on the menu as being charged per cover.

It was not the first time I had seen this idiot waitress in action and that was the biggest surprise, because you have to be blind to not see that this girl has the waiting skill of a cow. In other words if you don't see that, chances are you haven't got any idea what's going on and you can close your doors soon. I'm not sure if I will risk being served by this wannabe dominatrix again and so I for one will take my business elsewhere.

Can I Cook?

Let's see if I can keep this up, I usually start something like this and then forget about it after a few days. This is probably why I have submitted several posts already.

My profile picture may suggest I can cook, which is only partialy true, but since I have only just started this thing I couldn't find a more relevant picture. I wish I could cook like some people I know, but I have been spoiled by my mother who, of course is the best cook in the world. Over the years I have picked up a few recipes here and there, but I don't think I have ever prepared one the same way twice. Recently I have found a great source for new easy recipes on the New York Times website's video page. Mark Bittman shows you quickly, 4 or 5 minutes, how to prepare something using simple ingredients. Type in "minimalist" in the search engine of the video page and you'll see what I am talking about. Or even better just follow the link.

Isn't the internet incredible?
He has made me realize there's no need to be afraid of food, it's just that I hate it when I fuck something up and can't eat it. I have had jobs in kitchens and have always felt a great affinity with food, but when it came to actually cooking something instead of heating it up I backed off. I am the King of the sandwich though. Nothing in my fridge, if it is stocked, escapes my sandwich. A ham sandwich is boring, it has to be at the very least a ham and cheese and mustard sandwich, that's when there is no lettuce or tomato or anything else in the fridge.

Balboa Social Club

The worst restaurant I have ever been to in Madrid has to be Balboa Social Club, General Pardiñas, Madrid. The place is in an upmarket neighbourhood and from the outside looks like a decent enough place. Less could be further from the truth.
This has been a while ago so I can't really remember the details, all I remember is that the meat I ordered was like leather and when sent back replaced by something equally bad. The waiter was a dumb fuck and wanted to argue over the fact whether we ordered sparkling water or still water. Still water, he brought sparkling.
The menu was a system of combining red and green dots to get a specially priced 3 course meal, which should have been a warning. Why though? I wonder if the people who work there have ever tried the food there or if they go to McDonald's after work.

Who Gives a Shit

I don't pretend to know much about food or wine, but I know what I like and what I don't. It's a bit like art, I can appreciate the work that went into it, but that doesn't mean I have to like it. Some people think they haven't eaten properly if they didn't go to a Michelin star restaurant, others think McDonald's is just great. What difference does it make? I eat because I need to, just like everyone else, but when I do I like to do it in comfort and I don't mean in luxury. Again, as much as I admire the detail that goes into the experience of going to an expensive restaurant I can be happy with a lot less. But here's my point: If the service is bad, I am ready to kill. Ooh how much I hate indifferent or rude waiting staff. If the food is bad but the service is OK, you can always send back the food without causing a scene, these things happen and I believe you are doing the chef a favour by telling him that there is something wrong with the food so he can take care of it or take it off the menu. When the wine is corked you do the same, so why not with food.
Anyway, I live in Madrid, in the middle of Spain, The Land of Plenty. Everything you could possibly want grows here. If you get invited to have dinner at someones home the food is usually excellent; people who can't cook usually don't invite people to their kitchen. Spaniards take pride in their food, you can find the most beautiful fresh food markets here. The most beautiful market I have ever visited is in Valencia, it is like a museum. This is why I am starting this blog, because whenever I go out for a meal I go home disappointed. I don't know whether my expectations are too high or maybe I am just being fucked because I don't look Spanish and therefore have no idea about food, as long as I pay. How can restaurants, not all by the way, justify bad food in this cornucopia. I want to record my experiences in different places in Madrid where I have gone for a meal so I can later say to someone who has had the same bad or good experience: I told you so.