A very comfortable train ride ushers us into Madrid. On my travels 18 years ago I wasn’t so wild about Spains’ capital, so how would I feel about it now?
Well many years have passed, circumstances have changed, so it’s with fresh eyes that I look at Madrid.
What a difference time makes!
It’s funny how cities have a masculine or feminine feel to them, or at least that’s the feeling I get from certain places.
Take for example Italy. Rome is definitely male in my eyes, where Florence has an obviously feminine feel for me.
So to are my feelings for Spains’ two major cities Madrid and Barcelona.
I think you can guess that Barcelona to me is a sexy voluptous woman, sashaying down the street, hips swaying hypnotically but Madrid in my imagination is a sharp dressed man.
Sporting a bespoke suit made of the finest fabric, accessorised with a superb silk tie and handmade leather shoes, he has a quiet strength and confidence to him.
All of which makes for a very attractive package!
Madrid is certainly all that and more.
Our three nights in Madrid were filled with brilliant food, fabulous art and some exceptional shopping. Let’s start with the food.
Our Airbnb hosts recommended an excellent restaurant for our first night in Madrid.
An easy walk from our accommodation, Bosco de Lobos is a sexy Scandi style beast with an open kitchen that ushers out flavoursome food with panache.
Taking a seat at the bar while waiting for a table, we are throughly entertained by the kitchen.
So much so, that when a table does come up we choose to eat at the bar so we can see all three acts of this delicious play.
Fabulous mini corn tortillas topped with sashimi tuna and chipotle mayonnaise and calamari frittas got the taste buds working in overdrive, while our main drove it over the line for a winning finish.
Beef tagliata with rustic potatoes was big and bold.
And we couldn’t have done better than the La Locomotora tempranillo from Rioja at a very reasonable 22 euro for the bottle. I must add that the kitchen were generous too.
On seeing that we were so interested in the workings and the dishes coming out, we did receive a few little sneaky tasters. All in all a fabulous first feast in Madrid.
Moratin vinoteca-bistrot was a delightful find for our second night.
One that we just stumbled upon on our meanderings through the city, but our hosts also sang the praises of when we told them what we had found.
A jewel box room of dark wood and moody lighting is the perfect setting for simple seasonal food done exceptionally well.
Modern art works adorn the walls and shelves filled with books and wine, give a sophisticated welcome vibe.
The chef – owner Marcos Gil is the consummate host.
From passionately talking through his succinct menu, to helping you pair your food choices with the perfect wine, we could not have asked for better service.
And the food…
Well, my leek confit with romesco sauce was sublime.
Matched with a glass of cava, even better.
My husband chose an earthy dish of freshly picked wild mushrooms, beautifully pan sauteed, followed by veal cheek cannelloni. I decided on cod with seasonal vegetables.
Marcos helped us navigate the fabulous wine list, and a local Madrid blend of grenache and shiraz worked beautifully with both seafood and red meat.
For dessert, apple tart tartin and chocolate pudding were the devilish delights, oh and a glass of Pedro Ximenez because we can!
This stunning Spanish fortified wine is a dream match with desserts.
I can’t recommend this restaurant highly enough, and judging that it’s Trip Advisors number 2 food destination in Madrid, I can safely say it’s worth the visit.
Remember to book in advance, we were very lucky to secure a last minute table.
Night three was fabulous too! we started at Bocadillo de Jamon y Champan at Calle Fernando V1 #21.
Champagne and jamon what a great duo! How can you go wrong with stunning Spanish cured ham teamed with a glass of bubbles?
It was heaving at around 8pm as we squeezed our way in to this two level shoebox bar, and we loved it!
Sexto located on Fernando V1, #6 was another lucky choice on our behalf.
We happened to spy it on the way to the bar, so thought we’d try our chances at nabbing a table.
Settling in to our upstairs table in this 2 level restaurant, we found to hard to not over order as everything sounded so tasty.
Sharing croquettes and artichokes for entree, then both having a hearty steak for main turned out to be the right decision.
The steaks were perfectly cooked and some of the most tender we have ever tried, add a bottle of Rioja and it’s even better!
So once again Spain proved to be holding its own in the food Olympics.
Gold all round!
It’s not all food in Madrid, just so you know.
This city is home to some of the finest museums and art collections in the country.
Take the Prado for example.
Home to Spanish, German, Flemish and Italian painting, it also houses amazing examples of sculpture and temporary exhibitions.
Masterpieces by Velazquez, el Greco, Rubens and Rembrandt join Goya, Titian, Bosch and Caravaggio for a visual feast that thrills the eye.
A little tip when visiting, don’t forget to pop in to the vault and cast your eye over the Treasure of the Dauphin which we found fascinating.
Most pieces are a perfectly preserved snapshot of this period of decadence.
The Prado is huge, so make sure you leave plenty of time for your viewing pleasure.
If you are on a budget, it’s great to know that entry is free between 6pm and 8pm Monday to Saturday and 5pm till 7pm on Sundays and holidays.
If you do want to take advantage of this, remember there is a second entrance opposite the Botanical Gardens and the line will be much shorter and maybe plan your visit so you can prioritise the works you most want to view.
The Botanical Gardens provide a lovely respite from the heat and include a fabulous vegetable garden and interesting hot house. They are nearby the Prado and a great way to get into the swing of a language is to read the tags on the veggies. They are quite easy to identify and its fun if you are travelling with kids.
Then there is the Campo del Moro garden, behind the Palacio Real or Royal Palace, and both are well worth a visit.
With the royal armoury collection, lavish halls and banquet rooms it certainly is impressive.
For music lovers, it’s a must. The Palace hosts stunning Stradivaris.
In fact, the only decorated instruments their genius maker is know to have created as a set.
This includes his only known decorated cello. Two violins, one viola and one cello make up this priceless collection.
I can imagine our newest member of the Culture Concept Circle clan Meldi Arkinstall having a personal musical epiphany in this room.
The Museo National Centro de Arte Renia Sofia is a brilliant building complete with glass elevators on the exterior.
Housing an amazing array of modern art, it’s most famous tenant would have to be Picasso’s 1937 masterpiece “Guernica”.
On loan to New York’s MONA from World War II where it stayed until such time as democracy had been restored to Spain. It was returned to its homeland in 1981.
Renia Sofia has a gorgeous courtyard with stunning sculptures, my favourite being the 1966 “Moonbird” by Joan Miro.
I found this interesting as you may remember my choice at the Joan Miro Foundation in Barcelona was “Sunbird”.
I’m going to need a big courtyard and a lot of money with my taste!!
Shopping in Madrid is excellent, and we decided to try out Las Rozas Village, a discount shopping outlet similar to The Mall just outside of Florence, Italy.
Las Rozas is around a half hour bus ride from Madrid, just purchase a ticket from Julia Travel and the coach leaves opposite, in front of Plaza de Espana.
Open from 10am till 9pm Sunday to Friday and 10am till 10pm on Saturday, it’s worth the visit.
With stores such as Burberry, Hugo Boss, Furla, Polo Ralph Lauren and Zegna, there is something for everyone.
We enjoyed a tasty outdoor lunch at the Lobby Cafe shaded by umbrellas.
If you do decide to make the trip, don’t forget to ask for “tax free” shopping where possible and if using your credit card, make sure the charge is in euro’s not your home currency.
This will save you being slogged with two conversion fees.
There are some great savings to be had here.
I was after a new wallet and hand bag, and Furla had just what I wanted, at the price I wanted.
Coach, Karen Millen and Superdry had excellent savings too.
All in all some excellent retail therapy and a great day out.
So, I am very happy to report that distance and time can change one’s perspective.
It certainly did it for me.
I have a new appreciation for the Spanish capital.
Madrid, this suave gentleman managed to woo me with his charms and refinement.
Refinement that maybe all those years ago I was too young to appreciate, but now, on an older and wiser woman they do work a charm!
Jo Bayley, Fashion Elixir, The Culture Concept Circle, 2015