Want to know where to eat in Salamanca, Madrid? Read on… (and keep in mind that I’m including the far side the Retiro in this list).
Traditional bar-slash-restaurant, serving food to die (or kill) for
On the far side of the Retiro (from where I live in Lavapiés, anyway), are Madrid’s well-heeled barrios. And amongst those somnolent streets, are some highly-memorable food discoveries. La Castela is one of them. The food – straddling traditional and modern – is some of the best I’ve had in the city. Out front it’s a classic Spanish bar, and out back it’s a debonair dining room. Eat in the bar if you’re going to graze – perhaps a few tostas (slices of bread with toppings) or raciones to share – and get a table out back if more serious eating is going to take place. It’s not the cheapest place around (a big lunch for four was €130 last time I went), but prices aren’t outrageous and dear God it’s worth it. Highlights from what I’ve tried include: rabo de toro (bull’s tail stew), chickpeas and scampi, morcilla (blood sausage) and perhaps the best fillet of fish I’ve ever eaten in my life (I can’t remember what fish it was… but no matter, get the fish). A tip: if you sit down to eat, perhaps get raciones to share as a starter (1 per 2 people), then a main each (there’s no menu del día). Get there by taking a stroll through the park.
We came for the game, we stayed for the best damn tapas I’ve had in a while
Whenever crossing the Retiro for food, I’d gotten into the lazy habit of always returning to the safety of La Castela. But I’d heard rumours. I’d read snippets. I’d sensed for some time there was a lot of good eating to be done amidst those affluent streets. It was time to branch out. First stop, La Montería, which I’d been told specialised in game. I imagined dark wood, vast arm chairs, beady-eyed boar heads. And serious plates of meat being eaten by serious Spanish businessmen with questionable political views (for my tastes anyway). What I got was white and modern, young and hip. And tapas that were light, smart and very, very good. There’s a restaurant out back but Yoly and I hoved to at the heaving bar (see tips on dealing with a heaving tapas bar here). We drank good albariño by the glass, and ordered a plate of grilled tuna (curiously only grilled on one side, which meant it was at once delicious raw and fabulously crispy) and a plate of milk-fed lamb sweetbreads sautéed with wild asparagus and garlic. You can get cheaper tapas, but these were worth the outlay. And here’s the rib-sticking rub: the amount of free tapas the diligent bartenders keep sliding under our noses meant this wound up being a very well-priced lunch (some of it was battered seafood, which is usually a soggy failure – but this was the juiciest and most flavourful breaded scallops and prawns I’ve eaten). La Montería does do venison and partridge and all those game meats (maybe there are vast armchairs and boar heads and serious Spanish businessmen in the restaurant out back?), but we’re saving that heady meal for a cool autumn night.