Four Dinners in Madrid, March 2023

After some time in Andalucia (Province of Cadiz), where I spent three wonderful nights in Jerez (see related report), I drove to the vicinity of Vejer, to access two of my favorite seafood restaurants on the Costa de la Luz, in and near Barbate. I believe I’ve written about both EL CAMPERO and ANTONIO, on this site, earlier. (During that stay, I also dined twice at LA CASTILLERIA, famed especially for the quality of its beef, and other meats, but also most excellent for all the additional dishes that I sampled during both lunches).

From Jerez airport, I flew to Madrid, where I had planned to spend three nights, but fell so hard for the city on this visit that I extended my stay for one night so I could include one more restaurant. (I had been to Madrid quite a few times since I put my first step into Europe in this city, at the age of 17, many years ago.)

My visit coincided with a puente weekend, 18-20 March) so I had to arrange and re-arrange my schedule since many restaurants were closed on that Sunday and Monday, or had changed their hours.


I’d long wanted to dine at this restaurant, located just to the north of Gran Via and west of some of the main drags of Chueca (C/Hortaleza was a block or two to the east).

The dining room is sleek and handsome, and small and I booked well in advance.

Chef/Owner JuanJo Lopez (born in Madrid of Asturian and Andalucian parents–great combination as far as food goes…both among my current favorite regions in Spain, having spent time in recent years; alas, many food write-ups lost to the ether of Chowhound) emphasizes using few ingredients (I believe he states that he does not often use more than four ingredients in each dish, each ingredient, therefore, must obviously be of prime, super-prime quality. “Great product” is his calling card, and he says it much better than I could ever do in this video:

This is a small restaurant with a contemporary-art-filled dining room that I estimate holds about 10 tables, more or less. I’ve read and heard criticisms online about poor treatment of those not known to the house, especially non-Spanish speakers. To be frank, I did feel a bit pressed when St Lopez approached my table within 5 minutes of my being seated, and asked if I I had decided on my dinner selections. When I asked him for five MORE minutes, he acquiesced, and when he returned only about three minutes later, I did let him know that he needed to give me a bit more time, so tempting were so many of the offerings from the menu that changes daily, based on his purchases, mostly at Salamanca’s Mercado de La Paz (where I spent many, many hours during those four days). (see video , above, for more that)

From then on, I felt very comfortable at my small table, observing my fellow diners (there appeared to be one other table of non-native-Spanish speakers…sorry if I phrased this wrong). The rest appears to have been before; this was a Saturday night, not sure if that had any bearing on the clientele. But if you do not speak Spanish, and require some hand-holding from the chef/owner, this might not be your spot, although the wait staff (the staff attending my table did appear to speak English well) were extremely kind and most helpful in answering any questions I did not pose to the owner himself.

I loved my experience there, and would like to return; my limited appetite (part of its diminishment was thanks to the incredible breakfasts served at my hotel, which included a personal favorite, migas (with grapes!!) and a tortilla for one, impeccably cooked… not to mention top-quality jamones…and the eye I kept on my wallet, limited me to 3 dishes; portions were not large, but each one was impeccable and I would happily order each one of them again.

  1. Media Racion of house ensaladilla
  2. Cardo…Full racion: short cuts of cardoon, bathed in almond milk and topped with chiffonade (?) of black truffles. I’d never tasted cardoon before, although it is available in New York City Greenmarkets in season. This dish (owner advised me to drop my fork and eat with a spoon in order to reap the goodness of the almond milk bath) was memorable; delicious.
  3. Full racion of “pulpitos,” the tiniest, tiniest octopi (?) I’d ever had the incredible pleasure of eating. Cooked in their ink, these came for Palamos, a Catalunyan port northeast of Barcelona, legendary for the quality of its shellfish. Please may I be lucky enough to get there myself someday soon!

With one glass of white wine, total: euro 117.50. Note that portions might e considered small by those of a hearty appetite.

Now will attempt to add photos, and hope to return soon for the next, very different but wonderful, meal in Madrid:


Before I continue, I will post this, because I am seeing “open draft” and “create topic,” instead of a command to post…


Ok…looks good, ensaladilla next, followed by cardoons bathed in almond milk and topped with black truffle:

Pulpitos, tiny octopus from Palamos, the tiniest and the best I’d tasted before this night; note utensil for eating:


Although true that your CH reports have disappeared to the ether, they have not disappeared from my memory! It is ten years ago this August (I know!) that I first went to Madrid, encouraged in large measure by your wonderful, evocative reports. I cannot find the posts of yours I had turned to for my Madrid trip, but this, for example, from my notes about where to eat on my first trip to Seville a couple of years later, “From Erica: Bodega Paco Gongorra (especialidad en pescados, mariscos y vinos del aljarafe)
Calle Padre Marchena, 1 It is a few steps away from Enrique Becerra.Also some good tapas at Casablanca, Calle Zaragoza, 50…get the potatoes there.I should add that I was last there is late 2003 but I imagine those places are still there and still fine…”

Just a big gracias to you and the others who have so enthusiastically reported on your travels. My life, single mom putting herself through grad school when I first encountered CH, was radically changed by your writing. I saw that travel might be possible. Also, to think and eat beyond family meals, wonderful as those were in their own ways. And those who write here at H.O. continue to inspire us lurkers (though these days I have the confidence to add as I can to the board) to go and taste. A special thank you to you, Erica, for this report and loads of others. I know that like me, you live in NYC, and perhaps it was this fact, that you are a neighbor, that tipped my balance from just dreaming to getting on airplanes.


I’m hoping this link works - it’s to the Spain board/tag on CH, now at the Internet Archive:

Clicking on a link to one of @Maribel’s posts ( shows her post but not the responses.

Going back to the Spain tag and scrolling down to the link with Maribel’s post, you can see @erica1 had replied.

Clicking on Erica’s name/avatar take you to her profile.

Once at the profile, if you scroll down to below the big orange “trust” button, you come to the “contributions” section. There you can click on “Posts” :

and the first that appears is a response to Maribel

and clicking on the “Show more” drop down arrow does appear to show the whole response

This is clunky to navigate, but @erica1’s CH contributions are not completely lost! (This process can be done for other CH accounts, too, as well as the tags.)

This should go to the page with all of the CH tags:

And this to the Locations tags:

You can then drill down to more granular levels.


Reading Erica’s wonderful description of her travel and eating in Matera made me plan a trip there 6 or 7 years ago. We visited Matera and then stayed in two different locations in Puglia-probably one of my two favorite places and memories of our travels in the last 15 years. Whenever I saw a post by her on CH I immediately clicked and enjoyed. I was Macdog in those days (rip my wonderful wheaten named Mac).


Wonderful report, erica1–I am looking forward to more.

And good use of the web archive, Elsie Dee!


Ninkat, your comments have given me so much pleasure, I cannot even convey how much in this sentence. Thank you! And to all of you who recently posted (Leely and AnneGrace, I remember your reports SO well…on CH and also on that travel site (not sure if I can mention it here; I am ‘ekscrunchy’ there). On that site, I still have many reports, mostly about travels in Italy (I remember at least 2 on Rome, 2 on Puglia/Matera, 1 on Liguria/Lake Como, 1 on Piemonte, 1 on Amalfi Coast, and 1 on Ischia…and several about Spain. All of them are pretty much devoted to food!!

ElsieDee: I simply cannot believe that you were able to find those threads from CH!! I’m going to take a good look when I have more time, and see if I can’t transfer the food reports to here…

As per my usual, I’m taking ages to finish this up but will try to do so this week. Following my usual manner, I return home so eager to write and share my food experiences. But then, I’m also caught up in planning the next trip, so I lag on the report I “should” be working on. I’m looking at Sicily next month, so soon after Spain but this one had been planned and canceled last minute, I think, four times…medical issues, COVID, etc…but will do my best to write some good notes on that trip, too. I’m thrilled that I can now post photos here!

Once again, I thank each of you for your positive comments that really brightened my past couple of days!


Yes, I definitely get my Chowhound and fodor reports mixed up. Still over there and happy that HO seems to be thriving. Happy travels!

Thanks ElsieDee - this works for me - but only for the first couple of pages (and the last couple also).
I think the issue is that whan there is more than one ‘page’ of posts, the link at the bottom shows (e,g,) “<1 2…99 100 >” .
Clicking on the arrows doesn’t link to pages 3-98 (in the above example) - I can only link to the numbers specifically included.

I’m guessing I can hack more by linking to a prior archive, which will give me the two most current pages (at that time) - plus the same last couple. But have you found an easier way to find those ‘middle’ pages?

I only wish that my stay in Madrid had lasted as long as it’s taking me to finish this food report about my 4 nights in the Spanish capital.

My second meal here was on a Sunday which coincided with a puente (bridge) holiday, or what we in the US would call a “long weekend.” Many restaurants were closed, especially for dinner which is usual on Sundays in Madrid. So instead of dinner, I booked a table for the last time slot at SALA DE DESPIECE.

This miniscule and very casual (mostly bar seating; a few high-topped tables) eatery sits along Calle Ponzano, which in the past decade, has evolved into one of the city’s prime venues for tapeando. It’s a street of only a few blocks, lined with a dozen or more small eating spots: restaurants, bars, etc, interspersed with small local businesses catering to local residents (butcher shop, etc). The barrio is Trafalgar, within Chamberi, a gentrified district just north of the center.

The long, narrow dining room, white with blocks of lemon and teal-colored tiles, was packed when I entered. I was ushered to my tiny window table, reached by ducking under the bar and scooting to the right. First time I’ve ever had to limbo in reverse to be seated!

I loved this place. Modern and buzzy but not frenetic, with cooking that was creative without pretense, it was an ideal spot to pass a few hours on a quiet Sunday. It’s seated dining only, so no mobs of people crowding you along the bar at peak times.

Argentinian Manager, Paul, was as hospitable as could be and set the tone for the entire meal. I gather that this was a very hot spot not too many years ago and it’s still going strong, filled to the gills on the afternoon I was there with locals, plenty of European visitors from outside Spain, and at least one American female. I had a fantastic time! Ingredients are prime quality, sourced from all over Spain, and beyond (mussels from France; cod from Denmark, etc) put together in a way I’d not seen before. No foams, no fuss, but lots of fun, both in the place and in the food.

Baked olives, complimentary starter, served hot; do not recall the details, which were carefully explained by Paul:

“Product List,” or carta:

I began with the prettiest artichoke (from Tudela in Navarra, vegetable mecca of Spain) I’d ever laid my gaze upon. Dabs of avocado puree like khaki-colored Hershey’s Kisses tucked into the roasted leaves, a mound of black roe in the center,
a drizzle of lime…just superb.

A signature dish, the “Rolex,” consists of a long, flattened strip of “Iberian pancetta” (???) laminated with palm sugar syrup and bruleed. On top, a disc of foie crowned with one perfect jammy yolk sitting above a lawn of black truffle, all rolled up into one scrumptious bite.

“Chuleton,” raw Galician beef, pounded to a gossamer length, with black truffle and grated tomato:

Prawns from Huelva; their heads fried in light tempura batter that were so delicious I found myself eating the tiny black eyes, their meat sweet and dusted with maybe a tad too much salt:

Like the prawns, the navajas (razor clams were off menu; it’s good to ask for any specials of the day if you are after shellfish)
So good, I forgot to snap a pic. (But not as good as the navajas I would have the following night, when I returned to an old favorite in the barrio Ibiza.)

With a glass of Lopart cava (6.20e), my bill totalled 64.20e

Thumbs up for SALA DE DESPIECE!

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East of El Parque del Retiro, in the Retiro district, Barrio Ibiza, this is a long-time favorite of mine. I’ve dined there several times, in both its previous iteration and the newer one where I had booked a reservation by phone (no e-mail booking taken; phone reservations taken only during set hours, as detailed on their website)

This is a mainstay of mine in Madrid, and like many places, I was first alerted to its excellence more than a decade ago by our formidable member, Maribel who, as I think I mentioned above, I had the pleasure of meeting for the first time earlier on this trip, late one evening in the lovely bar of my Jerez hotel, CASA PALACIO MARIA LUISA.

The first (ground) floor is centered around the large bar, lined with seating; there are also a few tables on this floor available to walk ins.

My table was just above the bar, at the end of the main dining room; I had an encompassing view of the bar area, but a quiet seat above the fray.
I’ve written about my impressions of TABERNA LAREDO after earlier visits, so here the photos should give a general Idea. In case this does not shine through, I consider the Laredo brothers’ restaurant to be is a landmark of casual Madrid dining. No fuss, nothing molecular, just great implementation of prime ingredients with equal emphasis on shellfish and meats.

To offer an idea of the graciousness on view, I arrived exactly one hour later for my booking, as I got turned around after asking the help of many passersby, some of whom, in the spirit of hospitality to an obvious foreigner, probably offered direction without being absolutely certain of the location of my destination. I tried to phone the restaurant several times but of course, they pick up only during certain hours. So I arrived flush and apologetic, an hour late on a very busy holiday night, only to be welcomed with kindness and told not to worry in the slightest about being tardy.

I knew before arriving that navajas (razor clams) would be among my choices, as these are the best navajas I’ve ever had. Some char but tender within, it was I could do to restrain from gobbling the shells.

Complimentary mussels in escabeche, with house-made potato chips:

CARTA (one of two pages); before first dish arrives, diners are offered a selection of breads, each of superb quality.

NAVAJAS, before and after:


LAREDO has offered wonderful sucking lamb chuletas in the past. On this night, the chuletas on offer were those from an apparently baby rabbit. (I’d had the rabbit chops before and knew they would be superb!) And they were:
Out of the ordinary, crispy and scrumptious and despite their minute size, there was plenty for me to devour, even given that I ordered a half portion; accompanied by good fried potatoes:

To drink: 1 glass Palo Cortado

TOTAL dinner total for one person: 56 euro