MADRID: MAINLINING MAHOU
Throughout the whole EAT MY GLOBE trip so far, I have been in regular contact with dear sibling, H1 and, while he has expressed considerable support for my efforts and, in the case of The American Royal or my trips to indulge in Texas BBQ, not a little jealousy, he has tempered this with one regular and simple phrase.
“Yes, but is it Spain?”
And, he is right. No matter how much I have enjoyed my travels to date (bearing in mind it is nearly over with just three more countries to go) at the back of my mind, I have always had a sneaking feeling that all that EAT MY GLOBE will reveal to me is that Spain remains my favourite country on the face of God’s earth and, by hook or by crook, my next adventure is to move there.
So, when I was invited by the good people of Gonzalez Byass to join them at the sherry fair in Jerez this week it seemed liked the perfect opportunity for H1 and H2 to proceed it with a visit to the place that we both place at the very top of our list of favourite cities, Madrid.
Unless you have visited (and if not, why not?) it is hard to explain the appeal of Madrid.
Is it the fact that it is hard to walk more than ten yards without passing a bar that sells food and wine that back in London would make the Hart brothers cream themselves at the thought of what they could charge?
Is it the fact that for the price of your beer you invariably get a freebie? A plate of nuts, some fried seafood, some offcuts of jamon. No muss no fuss.
Is it the fact that the Madrilenos predicate their entire life around things, which they find enjoyable and don’t bother too much with little things, like work, that might get in the way of that enjoyment?
Or, is it simply the fact that, above all else, Madrid is not dependent upon tourism and just gets on with its life which you are more than welcome to be a part of but no one is desperate to persuade you to be part of.
In any case, after many visits over the last few years, stepping off the plane at Barrajas feels like coming home and although the city is now very familiar to us, it still fills us with incredible excitement.
So much so that, inevitably, after meeting H1 at our hotel in Barrio Salamanca, we headed straight out and, quite frankly, overdid it a bit fitting in visits to nearly twenty bars, each of which provided a small freebie with our cana, before heading off to supper at Asador Ansorena situated near Plaza De Castilla.
H1, of course, had done considerable research searching for a venue for our first supper and lit upon this particular asador because it is one of only three in the whole country that serves true Carne Roja, the stunning beef from Galicia.
Starters of croquetta and morcilla were good, but just passed the time while our kilogram plus of chuleton was cooked above coals. It came to the table with a perfect char on the outside and perfectly “poco hecho” inside as requested. As ever, in Spain, you order beef and that’s what you get. No side dishes to distract from the main event and what a main event it was.
I would have to think long and hard before I could come up with a place that has served beef that I enjoyed as much as this with the crunch of the char giving way to the juicy, rare inside. Stunning and, served well with a bottle of Arzuaga.
Puddings, like starters, are perfunctory but do the job and dishes of ice cream were followed by small chopitos of Pacharan and Orujo before we collected the bill.
With the Euro being so strong, it is not a cheap option with the bill coming out at £100 but, for beef of this quality and for the whole experience back in our favourite city, I begrudge not a penny.
After supper, the owner gave us a little tour of his kitchens, meat locker and held up a large rib of beef for us to admire like a new-born baby. He rubbed his hands along the creamy, yellowing fat lovingly and then lifted it for us to smell. An odd but strangely pleasurable experience.
We may or may not have fitted in another nightcap, I don’t recall but I do recall why I love this country so much and this city in particular.
H1 was as ever, right. I have (and still am) travelling all over the world, but at the heart of the matter is the fact that where ever I go it will not be Spain and it certainly will not be Madrid.
The best city on the planet.