Cristina Reyes - 2010-11-29
A weekend in Madrid? Fashion, culture and restaurants... Discover the happening places of Spain’s capital, where Madrileños themselves like to hang out!
The unashamedly proud Madrileños have a proverb “From Madrid to Heaven” which raises their vibrant city, with all its bustle and charm, to the status of a celestial antechamber. Cosmopolitan yet deliciously provincial, at the forefront of the avant garde yet jealous of its traditions, modern and splendidly decadent, the Spanish capital is a city of contrasts and getting to know it is a real joy.
The area surrounding Madrid’s three paseos (walks), of the Prado, Recoletos and la Castellana (the city’s main thoroughfare), weaves a web of streets and avenues which make up Old Madrid. This area can be explored on foot over a weekend, which is something of a rarity for such a large metropolis.
For every Madrileño worthy of the name, the day starts with a real breakfast. You can order one in the lively Café Commercial, from where you can head on to one of the town’s most interesting sites: theSan Miguel Market. This unique place has been beautifully restored and converted into a delicatessen market and is a favourite of gourmets who come here to stock up on “bellota” ham, local cheeses, or who pass by to enjoy a little, mid-morning vermouth before the inevitable hordes of tourists from the neighbouring Plaza Mayor arrive and invade the place.
Time for ‘tapeo’
The sacrosanct institution of tapas starts at La Venencia. This old traditional bodega, with its diverse and regular clientele only serves fino (an Andalusian dry wine)accompanied by the two local specialities of mojamas (smoked tuna) and fish eggs. Beer aficionados, however, prefer the ever packed Cervecería Cervantes, opposite the Cristo de Medinaceli Church, an authentic place of pilgrimage for the local population, or La Taberna del 9, which is a tasca (popular bistro) with an unassuming facade. Here, away from the beaten tourist tracks, in the heart of the Chueca district this tasca serves wonderful homemade cooking.
A Fashion Capital
Madrileños don’t just live for tapas: Madrid is also a fashion capital and a shopping Mecca. Names to look for include Alma Aguilar with his romantic creations, Pedro García and his wonderful shoes or the Clemente brothers and their El Ganso label whose preppy style has become a craze for young and old alike. These creators stand shoulders above the plethora of names in the world of Spanish fashion. However Fernando Lemoniez, at his boutique number 17 on the calle Argensola, is undoubtedly the the most representative designer of authentic Madrileño chic.
Just like fashion, culture is also an integral part of the life of Madrid. In the recently renovated Alcala street you’ll find the mythical Círculo de Bellas Artes (Circle of Fine Arts.) For over a century this institution has been the cradle of Spain’s avant-garde and artistic movements. What’s more its restaurant is one of the capital’s best kept secrets. Politicians, businessmen and artists enjoy its very affordable menu of the day in its imposing and perfectly preserved, if somewhat outdated surroundings. Two of the city’s unmissable cultural attractions are the Mapfre Foundation and The Caixaforum, a building designed by the architects Herzog and Meuron with its vertical garden facade that’s inseparable from Madrid’s urban landscape.
Madrid by night
By night even the most conventional Madrileños hunt out the latest trends. Le Cabrera is currently one of the most popular places. Under the direction of its owner, the famous chef Sergi Arola, this gastronomic hot spot has a luxury tapas bar on the first floor and the thing of the moment, a cocktail bar in the basement. Another great revelation of the moment is the recently opened Nikkei 225 which has been receiving a lot of attention. This Japanese-Peruvian restaurant is representative of a culinary trend that is currently in vogue in Madrid. At number 26 on the same street is a Mediterranean alternative, the Tomate gastrobar which is more informal than its neighbour and is equally appreciated by the beautiful people who come here to see and be seen.
Finally, compulsive night owls and other late-night revellers will find Madrid to be paradise on earth. In fact the Spanish have an almost religious devotion to copas (going for drinks) in cult places such as La Turba, the nearly hundred year old Bar Cock or Chicote - an establishment which used to be frequented by the international intelligentsia. Thus, on a high note, the Madrileños bring their day and night to a close.
Café Comercial : Glorieta Bilbao,7
La Venencia : Echegaray, 7
Cervecería Cervantes : Ventura de la Vega, 10
La Tabernadel 9 : Santa Teresa, 9
El Ganso : Jorge Juan, 2- www.elganso.com
CaixaForum : Paseo del Prado, 36
Fundation Mapfre : Paseo de Recoletos, 33
Le Cabrera : Bárbara de Braganza, 2
Nikkei 225 : Fernando el Santo, 29, on the corner of la Castellana
Tomate : Fernando el Santo, 26.
La Turba : Conde de Xiquena, 3