Saturday, 28 June 2014

On living in Madrid's Little Caribbean (and how to compliment like a Dominican)

Telling people I live near Cuatro Caminos gets mixed reactions. Sometimes it's simply 'I don't know where that is' or a non-committal 'Oh right'. I've had the occasional fond reminiscence from former residents of the area, but quite often people don't seem to understand my choice of postcode. It's true Cuatro Caminos isn't hip and trendy like Malasaña, vibrant like Huertas or stately like Chamberí. It's a low-rise tangle of streets in north-west Madrid inhabited largely by Latin American immigrants and older Spaniards. Since 2013 it's also been home to a rather conspicuous-looking blonde Brit, who for some reason feels much more at ease in this working-class corner of Madrid than she ever did in Chamberí. It may not be scenic, it may have nothing of interest to visitors and I may have to sidestep dog poo and discarded shoes more than once on my walk to work, but I've grown very fond of my barrio.

Cuatro Caminos: A hive of positivity. What's not to love?

My main objective when moving back to Madrid was to find a flat within walking distance of my office. Some people would rather base their address on other factors than a commute, but taking the Metro in the morning isn't for me. This particular corner of Cuatro Caminos – close to Alvarado – wasn't really on my radar. On my way to view my flat for the first time, I realised I stood out quite a bit from the area's other residents. Stepping into a light-filled apartment with more metres squared for my money than any others I'd seen, I was more than happy to make this unknown neighbourhood my home. After all, it's well-connected, with plenty of shops and services on my doorstep – and it's cheap. It's a residential area, but it's not exactly sleepy: a few streets away is the 'Little Caribbean', El País's name for the area that's home to the biggest Dominican community in Madrid. It's well-documented that the Spanish love to be outside, with the evening paseo and bata-clad abuelas on the doorstep a common sight in towns around the country. Well, they've got nothing on the Dominicans.

In addition to bars (as you'd expect), the Dominican social scene seems to centre round barbershops and hairdressers. Ladies chat animatedly outside hair salons, rollers in place. Men, women and children dart in and out, greeting friends, stopping for a drink or even a game of draughts. Plenty of hairdressing and beard-trimming goes on too: I've seen barbers preening their customers at midnight before now. It's not just the social side of things that's different. Shops and restaurants in the neighbourhood cater to latino tastes; the music you hear blasting from car stereos is most likely to be a bachata rhythm or some booming dembowSometimes it doesn't feel like I live in Spain, but I guess that's part of the attraction. My neighbours and I may not have the same country on our birth certificates, but nor is the name of the country where we now reside printed there. We're all far from home, some further than others. And I suppose I can relate to the sense of community among the Dominicans, their recreation of the streets of Santo Domingo and San Juan here in Madrid. I'm more noticeably an outsider around here, but I feel like less of one.

I've learned bits and pieces about the Dominican lifestyle since I've called Cuatro Caminos home. I've also learnt that Dominican men know how to pay a compliment. The creativity, originality, slick delivery and – above all – lack of sleaze: other nations should take note. Many women object to being complimented as they go about their daily business; it makes them feel hassled and objectified. Of course, it can. But for me personally, there's nothing objectionable about hearing I'm the love of someone's life as I walk past. Or better still, how about these rather more unusual lines...

'I would sell your eyes'. This was my first introduction to Dominican-style compliments, in the rather unromantic setting of the LIDL fruit and veg section. I was just perusing the peppers when a gentleman announced: 'Que yo vendería esos ojos...' which, in a Spanish-Caribbean lilt, is much less creepy than the English translation. Anyway, I got the gist: nice eyes, love. I also managed to part with my peepers intact, thankfully.

'What are you doing round here during the day, if the stars only come out at night?' Well I'm just on my way home sir, but thanks for confusing me with the aurora borealis.

'Nature is great. It created you'. Again, another compliment that sounds much better in its rather more wordy Spanish form. Never mind those wonders of the world like the Great Barrier Reef and Iguazu Falls: nature created me!

And the one that prompted me to finally write this post: 'You're like the Virgin Mary, walking here on Earth'. I have absolutely no idea what gave rise to this biblical comparison, unless the gent in question remembers a Mary with blonde curly hair from his school nativity play. Given that I'm not sure nativity plays are that big in the Dominican Republic, the reason will probably remain unknown, but it was certainly a memorable moment that raised a smile. That's the thing: these poetic declarations are so charming in their grandiose overstatement (and utter lack of sense) that you can't help but feel a little bit better. So ladies, next time your ego is in need of a bit of a boost, take a walk down Calle Alvarado. Or as it's known to me, Hairdresser Street. Oh, and tell them the Virgin Mary sent you.

Let me know if you liked the more local focus of this post. There's plenty more blog material in Cuatro Caminos, believe me. 

Linked to the My Global Life Link-Up at SmallPlanetStudio.com - See more at: http://www.smallplanetstudio.com/2014/10/31/october-mygloballife-link-up-add-your-blog-post/#sthash.YpRAseb6.dpuf

Monday, 23 June 2014

Madrid Monday: My Madrid

Madrid Monday is a new series of posts about the Spanish capital. I'll be reviewing restaurants and bars, and writing about tourist attractions, cultural events and more. If you have any requests, just leave me a comment.

Today's Madrid Monday post is a bit of a cheat. I'm inviting you to head on over to Madrid Food Tour's website, where I feature in their 'My Madrid' series. Founded by blogger Lauren Aloise of Spanish Sabores in 2012, Madrid Food Tour is helping visitors to get the most out of Madrid's culinary scene by offering different tours concentrating on key aspects of dining in Spain, from market-fresh produce to tapas taken with a vermouth while propped up by the bar. I was recently invited on one of their tours, which will be featuring on Tales of a Brit Abroad soon.

This guy is definitely part of my Madrid


In addition to offering tours, Madrid Food Tour has a comprehensive website including dining recommendations and a blog with advice for visitors to Madrid. The 'My Madrid' series of posts features Spain bloggers' thoughts and opinions on the city, including their favourite places to drink, eat (of course), relax and party. Other bloggers who have featured include Madrid residents Cassandra of Gee, Cassandra, Kaley of Kaley... & Más, Courtney of Adelante and well-known Spain bloggers Cat of Sunshine & Siestas and Jessica of Barcelona Blonde. I joined them last week, so follow this link to read the story of how I came to live in Madrid and find out a few of my favourite places in the city.

Monday, 16 June 2014

Madrid Monday: Outlet shopping

Madrid Monday is a new series of posts about the Spanish capital. I'll be reviewing restaurants and bars, and writing about tourist attractions, cultural events and more. If you have any requests, just leave me a comment.

If you need a bargain shopping fix in Madrid outside the strict Spanish sales windows (January and July), try one of the city's two outlets, The Style Outlets and Las Rozas Village, which offer cut-price designer and high-street clothes and homewares year-round. The catch? They're both out in the suburbs. Thankfully they're also accessible by public transport, but it's best to put aside at least half a day if you want to do some serious
shopping.

Shopping at Las Rozas Village


The Style Outlets, San Sebastián de los Reyes
The Style Outlets is a shopping centre in San Sebastián de los Reyes containing 120 stores. There's a mixture of high-street and designer shops here, with names ranging from Benetton to Bimba y Lola. There are plenty of women's clothes shops, including Mango and Nice Things, plus unisex retailers like Desigual, Pull & Bear, Pepe Jeans and Massimo Dutti. There are also a few sportswear shops, including Nike and Under Armour. It's fair to see that most shops are high-street rather than high-end, but the reductions at more pricey shops like Hugo Boss and Guess make it worth a visit if you don't want to pay full price. There's more than just clothing, though: there are also a couple of homewares stores, accessories shops, shoe retailers and some cosmetics stores (although the reductions here are less significant). If you're looking for some summer swimwear and can't wait for the sales, there are big discounts on last season's bikinis and swimsuits at Calzedonia.

Top pick: Bimba y Lola. The reductions on past seasons of women's clothing and leather goods are significant, especially on their beautifully-designed handbags.
How to get there: Take the metro (line 10) to Hospital Infanta Sofia. It's in zone B1, so tickets cost €3.50 and you have to change trains at Tres Olivos. It's open daily.
Top tip: Don't go hungry - there's only a simple cafe in The Style Outlets, and the choices at the nearby shopping centre are pretty poor chain restaurants and fast-food outlets.

Las Rozas Village, Las Rozas
Las Rozas Village is part of a worldwide group of designer outlet villages, including Bicester Village in Oxfordshire and Kildare Village near Dublin. It has a more luxe feel than The Style Outlets, and is designed to feel like a chichi town centre as opposed to a mall. The brands on offer here are also more upmarket, with designer names such as Armani, Belstaff, Burberry, Michael Kors and more. There are also plenty of homegrown designers represented here, including Carolina Herrera and Loewe. As there are more big-name brands here, prices aren't as low as at The Style Outlets, where sub-€10 clothing items are normal at some stores, but if you've saved up and want some cut-price luxury goods, this is the place for you. In addition to clothing, accessories and leather goods, you'll find wedding and bridesmaids dresses, skiwear and homewares.

Top pick: Spanish brands such as Carolina Herrera, Desigual and El Ganso for locally-designed bargains.
How to get there: You can either take the Cercanias trains to El Pinar de Las Rozas (3km from the village) or take 'The Shopping Express', the coach laid on by Las Rozas Village which departs from Madrid 3 times a day and costs €16 return. Everyone who takes the coach also receives a VIP card for further shopping discounts. Open daily.
Top tip: Sundays are quieter, so if you want more space to peruse, it's a better choice than Saturday.

Photo from lujazos.com

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Brunch in Madrid: Carmencita Bar

In part 4 of #BrunchChallenge, I try the international menu at cosy Carmencita Bar in Malasaña.

Carmencita Bar is a cute little cafe-bar at the Noviciado end of Calle San Vicente Ferrer, simply decorated with white walls and mismatched tables and chairs in classic Malasaña style. It's certainly petite, with a few high tables and some bar space in addition to tables for two and small groups.

Visiting around 12.30 on a Sunday, there was one table free for brunch (they take reservations). The short menu is translated into English, an international gesture that's explained by the fact that around half the customers seemed to be American or English. The menu was as varied as the clientele, with 6 options including the bizarrely-named 'Bunny plate' (eggs benedict served with salmon, avocado and crispy bacon, €10.50. And no, I have no idea what that has to do with rabbits either), French toast with scrambled eggs and bacon  and huevos rancheros with black beans (both €8.50). You definitely need to bring your appetite to Carmencita. There's nothing light about the menu; you'll find no granola and berries here. The particularly hungry can order the fixed brunch menu for €14, which includes eggs benedict with salmon, avocado or crispy bacon, home fried, hash browns or salad, the dessert of the day, a Mimosa and a coffee. Carmencita's usual range of burgers (no veggie option) are also on offer at brunch time.

Mushroom revuelto, hiding under the home fries



Glad not to be tied into a set menu, I opted for the mushroom revuelto with provolone (goat's cheese also available), served with home fries (chunky bits of fried potato, for the non-americanos) and salad, as a needless nod towards health. The provolone was a sort of crispy disc of semi-melted cheese perched atop the scrambled eggs: not exactly what I'd expected, but tasty nonetheless. For €7.50, I had no complaints about portion size. My revuelto was a decent size, but paled in comparison to the hearty helping of home fries. A few more mushrooms in amongst the scrambled egg wouldn't have gone amiss though. S's eggs benedict with crispy bacon (€8.50) was similarly sized, ideal for feeding a hangover. They were smothered in hollandaise though, so requesting it served aparte could be a good idea unless you're a fan of this effect. The hash browns were home-made, and not something you see on Spanish brunch menus often: ideal for homesick Brits.

Eggs benedict

Carmencita's a good budget brunch option if you're feeling hungry but don't want to commit to a set menu. It's also served on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, whereas most Madrid restaurants offer brunch on Sundays only. There's nothing remarkable about the food: it's tasty and well-cooked (if a bit salty), but fairly standard brunch fare. However, the low price, friendly bilingual service and cosy setting all help to make Carmencita worth a visit.

The details
Address: Carmencita Bar is at Calle San Vicente Ferrer 51, 28015 Madrid.
Tel: 915 238 073
Metro: Noviciado (line 2)
Brunch is served on Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 12 to 4.30pm.

Monday, 9 June 2014

Madrid Monday: Restaurants for vegetarians in Madrid

Madrid Monday is a new series of posts about the Spanish capital. I'll be reviewing restaurants and bars, and writing about tourist attractions, cultural events and more. If you have any requests, just leave me a comment.

Meat is part of Spanish culture. It's not just part of the diet: jamón is practically part of the national psyche (and not eating it is utterly incomprehensible). Living in or visiting Spain can definitely prove challenging for non-meat eaters, but if you're armed with the right information, you'll manage to survive (and hopefully not solely on a diet of potatoes). For more details on what to order and how to avoid 'surprise' jamón, see this post about being a vegetarian in Spain.

As a cosmopolitan city, Madrid has more vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants than most. However, traditional restaurants abound, particularly outside the city centre. While pescetarians will almost always find something to suit them, vegetarians have it a little more difficult. Here are a few recommendations for those who don't eat meat, including plenty that will also appeal to their carnivorous fellow-diners.

Sala de Despiece: suitable for vegetarians. The asparagus confirms it.

Burrata & raf tomatoes at Sala de Despiece

Read on for my recommendations of restaurants and tapas bars in Madrid.



Tapas
Celso y Manolo Calle Libertad 1. Swish sit-down tapas bar with a huge menu of modern spins on Spanish staples, including a fair number of vegetarian and pescetarian choices. You'll find both cheese and tomato sections on the menu.
Sala de Despiece – Calle Ponzano 11. At the newly-trendy end of Calle Ponzano north of the city centre, Sala de Despiece couldn't be much cooler. With waiting staff resplendent in lab coats, menus dangling from meat hooks and walls made from polystyrene cartons, you could be mistaken for thinking you were in the back room of a butchers. However, the menu features plenty of vegetarian options (categorized with a 'V' for verdura), which change according to the seasons but always include a delicious burrata with pesto. The tomates raf are simple but lip-smackingly delicious.
La Musa – Plaza de la Paja and Calle Manuela Malasaña 18. For a more modern take on tapas (and the possibility to sit down), try La Musa. Vegetarian options include fried green tomatoes topped with goats' cheese shavings, vegetable tempura, a selection of salads and aubergine houmous.
El Cisne Azul – Calle de Gravina 19. Specializing in mushrooms, this traditional bar has  range of tapas with and without meat (but mostly with some variety of edible fungus).
Mercado de San Antón – The first floor of this revamped, gourmet-focused market houses a range of stalls selling tapas-size tasters from around the world, including Spain, Greece and Italy. The rooftop restaurant also does a couple of vegetarian dishes, although the service can be less than smiling.

Restaurants with vegetarian options
La Finca de Susana  – Calle Arlabán 4. Questionable service, but low prices, a smart setting and a wide range of dishes make up for it. There are a good number of vegetarian dishes among the starters and mains, although note that the starters are actually the same size as main dishes. Other restaurants in the same group with similar menus include Ginger and Public.
La Kitchen – Calle Prim 5. A swanky restaurant that's worth splashing out on. Vegetarian starters (also suitable for sharing as mains) include a baked goat's cheese salad, and the boletus mushroom risotto is a significant cut above the average take on this dish.
La Pescadería – Calle Ballesta 32. Currently one of the city's trendiest spots, La Pescadería isn't just stylish: it also serves excellent quality, fresh tasting modern Spanish and European fare. Oh, and there are plenty of vegetarian and pescetarian options such as vegetable tempura, blue cheese and walnut croquetas, a roast pumpkin and goat's cheese salad and some buñuelos de bacalao so delicious I order them on every visit . Diners can share tapas or order main dishes. Great value for the quality.
Lateral – branches include Plaza Santa Ana and Calle Fuencarral 43. A Madrid-based chain serving up a range of modern tapas and raciones, including mushroom crepes, a variety of baked cheeses, quesadillas, croquettes and substantial salads.
My Veg – Calle Valverde 28. Not a vegetarian restaurant, but one with a strong focus on vegetables within most of its dishes. There are some purely vegetarian options though, including soups, salads, a vegetable lasagne and asparagus with poached egg. Unlike many actual vegetarian restaurants, My Veg is sleek and stylish, with a good wine list.
Habesha – Calle Manuela Malasaña 17. A budget-friendly Ethiopian restaurant with a vegetarian section on the menu. The €10 mixed plate is a great introduction to Ethiopian food and includes a welcome variety of flavours.
You'll also find plenty of Indian restaurants in Lavapiés which serve a good selection of vegetarian dishes. My favourite is Shapla at Calle Lavapiés 42.

Vegetarian restaurants
Viva la Vida – Plaza de la Paja. Buffet-style restaurant with funky decor and a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan salads, rice dishes, bakes, pasta and more. Fresh juices and home-made desserts are also available. Pay by weight.
Yerbabuena –  Calle Bordadores 3. Significantly smarter than the old-school hippy style of vegetarian restaurant, Yerbabuena is modern in terms of both decor and dishes. The menu features crepes, provolone cheese casserole, vegetable moussaka and more. There's also a menú del día.
El Granero de Lavapiés  Calle de Argumosa 10. An old-school offering, but seeing as it's in Lavapiés it somehow manages to be cool. The menu changes regularly; dishes include veggie burgers, vegetarian paella and other hearty fare.

I'll keep updating this list as I find more vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Madrid. If you know of any worth including, please leave a comment below!



Saturday, 7 June 2014

Visiting the Costa Brava: Cadaqués

In part 2 of my trip to the Costa Brava, I visit Cadaqués. You can read part 1, about Port de la Selva, here.

If Port de la Selva is laid-back and low profile, Cadaqués is its glossier, more popular neighbour. It's all relative though: this white-washed beachside town is no Monaco. Cadaqués isn't ritzy and glitzy; nor is it over-crowded – but its pin is more firmly in the international tourist map thanks to its most famous former resident, Salvador Dalí.

Photogenic Cadaqués


The artist actually lived around the bay from Cadaqués in the hamlet of Portlligat. Even the term 'hamlet' doesn't quite capture the petite proportions of the place: it's nothing more than a cluster of buildings and chiringuitos huddled around a pebble beach. The most prominent building is, of course, Dalí's former residence. Now open to the public (tickets cost €11 and must be bought in advance, you can do so here), Dalí and his wife Gala lived there for 50 years, until Gala's death in 1982. During that time, their home expanded from simple fisherman's hut to the rambling complex of rooms that remains today. I began my visit to Cadaques with a visit there, and was surprised at how much the private side of Spain's most flamboyant son the building still reveals over 30 years after his departure. As you'd expect, eccentricity is very much in evidence, from the stuffed bear-cum-umbrella stand in the entrance hall to the penis-shaped swimming pool, but a much more intimate glimpse into the couple's life is afforded through this guided visit. I learnt that Dalí had carefully positioned a mirror in his bedroom so that he could awake to beautiful bay views without needing to stir from his bed; that he rigged up a complicated contraption that allowed him to paint while seated; that he was a collector of bizarre knick-knacks and trinkets. For a full account of my visit, you can read this post.


Salvador Dalí's former home in Portlligat


Dalí also dominates nearby Cadaqués; his statue positioned prominently by the beach to welcome visitors to the town. Significantly bigger than Portlligat, Cadaqués is still easy to wander in an afternoon. Arranged around a cove, it boasts plenty of beachside bars for a relaxing drink. Unlike Port de la Selva, Cadaqués has no permanent harbour, although in summer the bay fills with boats. When I visited during the Puente de Mayo, Cadaqués was bustling yet still relaxed – I suspect it can get a bit crowded in July and August though. It wouldn't be too challenging to shrug off your fellow visitors though: away from the bay, Cadaqués is a maze of narrow streets, winding up the hillside. Perfect for quiet exploration, these alleys are studded with boutiques, bars and restaurants – plenty of boltholes to escape the crowds.

Maitanqui is one such bolthole. Tucked away down a passageway close to the seafront, this modern restaurant serves modern Catalan and European dishes with a fusion twist. I enjoyed my share of two starters, Thai-style mussels and artichoke chips. The mussels were plump and juicy, with a healthy amount of ginger and coconut, while the fried artichoke chips were full of flavour (the two sauces provided, tartare and barbecue, weren't the best complements though). My main of bream en papillote (the paper turning out to be a banana leaf) was delicious, cooked with coconut and chilli. In the evening, the restaurant's interior was softly lit, the patio sadly empty due to the Costa Brava's notorious tramontana wind paying an unwelcome visit. With helpful yet discreet service and great value, well-prepared food, Maitanqui is worth a visit for holidaymakers finding themselves tired of standard seafood and rice dishes. Cadaqués's culinary clout doesn't end here though: the town's most famous restaurant is Compartir, which is run by three chefs who formerly worked with Ferran Adrià at world-renowned El Bulli.

Cadaqués itself has little in the way of formal sights, beyond a town museum (Dalí's work features prominently, as you would expect). Its appeal lies in just that, though: it's a town to wander and explore at your own pace, pausing to dip in and out of cafes, bars and shops, to soak up the sun on the pebble beach. Dalí arguably may not have had much taste in facial hair, but he certainly chose his place of residence well.




Monday, 2 June 2014

Madrid Monday: Bar Galleta, the new restaurant on the block

This is the first installment of a new feature on Tales of a Brit Abroad: Madrid Monday. Each Monday, I'll bring you a new post about the Spanish capital. I'll be reviewing restaurants and bars, and writing about tourist attractions, cultural events and more. If you have any requests, just leave me a comment.




If you're looking for the hippest spots in Madrid, you'll find them around semi-scruffy, up and coming Triball. An area that's only been placed on the map since its 'christening' a few years ago, this corner of Malasana encompassing Calles Corredera Baja de San Pablo, Pez, Valverde and Ballesta was once better known for ladies of the night than hot night-time hangouts. These days, it's Madrid's version of hipster heaven: plenty of checked shirts and beards, but little of the pretension and posing you'd find in London's equivalent areas. Since the creation of Triball, bars, restaurants and quirky boutiques began opening their doors, and these days it's one of my favourite areas of Madrid for a dinner or a drink.

The latest offering in this hip 'hood is Bar Galleta, a restaurant which opened its doors just over two weeks ago. Situated on Corredera Baja de San Pablo, it faces competition from the excellent Clarita and Maricastaña, two spots which seem fairly similar at first glance. Large glass-windowed frontage and inconspicuous signage? Check. Chic decor made homely with fresh flowers on the tables? Check. A menu of modern Spanish/European food? Check again. So what differentiates Bar Galleta from its neighbours? Well, obviously I had to visit and verify.



Inside Bar Galleta

Already booked up in the evenings (no thank you, I don't want the 11pm sitting, I'm English), my friend and I visited Bar Galleta at lunchtime on Friday to sample their menú del día. At €11.90 it's pricier than the offerings at most restaurants near my workplace close to Nuevos Ministerios, but it compares fairly well to its competitors: Maricastaña's menú is €11.50. At 1.30am when lunch service starts (although it's open from 11 for coffee and remains open all day, serving drinks once dinner is finished), there were only a handful of other customers, although there was plenty of interest from passers-by. The menu was chalked up outside, but there were no paper copies: first things first Bar Galleta, familiarize yourselves with Microsoft Word and a printer. There were two choices for each course: mushroom ravioli or rocket salad to start, followed by either cod served with bok choi or chicken for main. S and I both opted for ravioli and cod, washed down with a nice glass of white wine.

Table dressing

Bar Galleta is a cosy venue, with wooden walls giving it a slightly rustic vibe. Although careful placement or mirrors gives an illusion of space, it's quite an intimate space. It's trendy without being over-bearing or try-hard: the tables and chairs actually match, and the essential element of quirk is injected through displays of antique paraphernalia on open shelves and a huge glass cabinet. Many of these ornaments link to the restaurant's namesake: biscuits. Named after that humble classic beloved of Spanish breakfasts, desserts and meriendas, 'Bar Biscuit' reminds customers of its roots through old posters advertising biscuits, biscuit tins and even a Cookie Monster toy. It's subtly done rather than gimmicky, and works well. Lighting is low-hanging and soft, meaning Bar Galleta would no doubt be a perfect choice of restaurant for a date.


Main course: Cod with bok choi

So the setting gets the thumbs up: what of the food? Our starters were presented in a Le Creuset-style pot, and smothered in a softly pumpkin-flavoured sauce. The little parcels of ravioli themselves could have done with a bit more seasoning to add some punch: some sage and thyme wouldn't have gone amiss. The portion was substantial enough for a starter, and the pumpkin sauce was an interesting touch, but we weren't blown away by it. The main impressed more: cod served on a bed of bok choi with an orange sauce that looked suspiciously pumpkin-like. Thankfully there was no sauce recycling: this one was more of a sesame paste, which combined with the bok choi gave the cod an Asian flavour that made a welcome change from 'typical Spanish' dishes. The cod itself was light and flaky and well-cooked: no complaints from us about the main, quite the opposite.

And on to the desserts: we were both quite excited about trying something biscuit-based, given the main menu's announcement that all of the postres are 'con galleta'. Not so for the menú del día: our attentive waitress reeled off a few options including watermelon and yoghurt with something and brownie chips. Now a brownie isn't a biscuit, but it was the closest we were going to get. It turned out to be what S described as 'basically a Muller Fruit Corner': a glass (not served atop a plate) of natural yoghurt (admittedly nice yoghurt) with berry compote and a measly amount of brownie crumbs. The coffee (extra €, the menú includes either postre or café as is typical in Spain) was much better: and came accompanied by two mini Maria biscuits. At last, a bite of Bar Galleta's namesake.

Biscuit time at last!

For a recently-opened restaurant, Bar Galleta shows plenty of potential, and I have no doubt that given the location, style and menu it'll do very well. A couple of points to improve, but a good experience on the whole. I'd be happy to return in the evening and try their wider-ranging menu including seabass en papillote with ginger and baby vegetables (€16.50). There are also a number of substantial starters and dishes suitable for sharing tapas-style, including 'surf and turf' croquetas (€9) and spinach, quinoa, apple, pomegranate and chicken salad (€9.50). Oh, and all the desserts genuinely feature biscuits: tiramisu, biscuit and chocolate cake 'like mum used to make' (well, not mine) and more. Massively different from its neighbours? Not necessarily. A welcome addition to the Madrid dining scene? Yes. Oh, and the name? Turns out the head honcho's surname is Fontaneda, as in the Spanish brand of biscuits.

The details
Bar Galleta is at Calle Corredera Baja de San Pablo 31. To book a table (recommended in the evening) call 915 311 161.
Nearest metro: Callao, Noviciado or Tribunal.
Average price per head: €11.90 for the menú del día, around €35 per head in the evenings for 3 courses (excluding drinks).

Most photos by ThePeasKneas.

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