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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