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A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

Toronto, Canada
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A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

Recently, another TA poster told me that she had had a wonderful visit to Madrid. Everything was so delicious! She even found some time to drop in and see Picasso’s “Guernica” at the Reina Sofia.

“Don’t tell anyone on TA Madrid but I was really there to eat so I skipped the Prado. I know they wouldn’t approve…”

“Approve? But it’s YOUR trip and you should do it the way you want” is what I told her. Everyone has their own special interests and TA is supposed to be a forum for travel advice, not peer pressure.

In June, my 12yo son and I visited Madrid briefly to eat well and see a few museums. I would’ve liked to spend more time appreciating the art but 12 yo boys develop the strangest ‘allergies’ and my son says he is allergic to nuts and art, LOL! I give him the latter in small doses and keep hoping that he develops a ‘tolerance’.

We took the Airport Express to O’Donnell and walked only 500 metres to lunch at El Fogón de Trifón. I had done exhaustive research on rabo de toro and finally decided to take a chance on a restaurant that is unmentioned on TA but apparently well-respected by the Spanish press. It was also the only Madrid restaurant featured on Annie Sibonney’s highly-acclaimed TV series “From Spain With Love”. When I asked my hotel to make a reservation for us, that episode had not aired yet in Canada and I had no clue that my gastronomic gambit would pay off! Thanks again to Señor Garabán at Hotel Europa for taking care of us. And thanks to Revulgo for taking the time to make other recommendations.

The wine bar in the front room of the restaurant was getting busy and the small dining room was fully reserved. Señor Trifón himself greeted us with a wide smile and strong handshake. He knew that we had come a long way to see him and he was pleased. A showman in the traditional sense, his restaurant is his ‘stage’ and his customers, his audience. He obviously loves the limelight as he’s made a few cooking videos which I had previewed on 11870.com. On a weekday, the little restaurant was full of locals and regulars, including several tables of Madrid businessmen.

I made sure my son got his veggies first. We enjoyed the small tumbler of refreshing gazpacho and devoured a tomato salad with bonito belly. Next we inhaled a dish of baby squid with carmelized onions. Finally, we EACH had our own portion of rabo de toro. It was THAT good. Normally we try to order different dishes and share but I knew that Gigi wasn’t going to share with me! For dessert, I wanted to try Señor Trifón’s cheesecake. I’m not a cheesecake fan at all but I had seen him prepare this one on “From Spain With Love” and I was curious.

I wish I had NEVER tasted that cheesecake.

And I will never eat another North American cheesecake again! If I do, it will not be the kind with fruit on top! El Fogón de Trifón’s cheesecake was made with fresh cream cheese, NOT baked, then topped with a dulce made from honey, vanilla and green olives! And served with a slash of balsamic vinegar! It was heaven on earth.

www.elfogondetrifon.com/marcoTrifon.html

http://11870.com/pro/el-fogon-trifon

And that was all before we even checked into the hotel! More of our 1st day to come…

Madrid, Spain
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1. Re: A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

You're right. We tend, at least I do, to recommend only venues located in downtown Madrid. A new recommendation for fans of grilled shellfish and grilled meat: the unpretentious 'Norte Sur' at Calle Bravo Murillo 97, next to Cuatro Caminos. Also in the same area, 'Restaurante Las Batuecas' at Avenida Reina Victoria 17. Speciality: tortilla topped with callos, much better than it sounds.

Nearby sight: Maravillas market.

karachi
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2. Re: A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

The undisputed Barcelona Queen on TA Madrid! …welcome ‘home’ G_m, this is your forum as much as ours…what a fabulous food report….am drooooooling!… ‘eat, drink and be merry”-that’s Madrid for you in a nutshell…the most exciting, vibrant, enthralling and adorable place on this planet…Barcelona too…simply cannot make up my mind, which city I love more…helpless resignation: love ‘em both, almost equally! … “peer pressure” about the Prado?…just a load of pseudo talk…simply ignore it…

London, United...
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3. Re: A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

Yum, is what I say. Thanks for your beautiful report. I look forward eagerly to the next instalment.

Toronto, Canada
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4. Re: A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

And you're right too, Revulgo.

<< tortilla topped with callos, much better than it sounds>>

I found a picture and it looks like pure comfort food. Callos is one of the things that was on my To Eat list but I missed it in Madrid.

It really must be hard to give dining recommendations for Madrid. So many places, so little time. Restaurante Las Batuecas is already on Frommer's Madrid restaurant guide!

Picture of Tortilla de Patatas con Callos:

rinconessecretos.com/restaurantes/…

Toronto, Canada
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5. Re: A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

After lunch, we walked 1 block to the metro and rode it easily to our hotel on the Puerta del Sol.

I know. It’s Tourist Central. It’s loud. It’s where we should worry about pickpocketers etc. But it’s the heart of Madrid, and of Spain, isn’t it? Everyone has their little ‘travel ritual’ and mine seems to be finding the heart of a country: the place where all roads originate, the Kilometre Zero. With only a few days in Madrid, I wanted to stay in the centre and get a feel for a pulse. It reminded me of Times Square but with much better food.

I wanted to swing by Faborit for an ice-cold mango-orange frappé but we got waylaid at Palazzo and settled for some helado instead.

I’ve written several times this week about Hotel Europa. It’s not the fanciest place in town but it was clean, comfortable, surprisingly soundproofed and well-staffed. It also faces the Puerta del Sol. We had asked for a quiet room with a balcony and at first, we were given a room that faced an internal corridor. When I voiced some displeasure about our lack of view, the gentleman at the front desk explained that the quiet rooms were in the back. What’s the point of staying in Tourist Central if you’re not positioned to throw water-balloons or spit-balls?

http://www.hoteleuropa.eu

We decided to take our chances with noise and move to a room facing Puerta del Sol. It was a good move. Once the shutters and French doors were closed, the room became an oasis of calm. In fact, the only disruptive noise we heard that night was an English-speaking family in the corridor. They had gone out late to buy McDonald’s for dinner and the family was arguing about who would eat which burger (how do you say in Spanish, “Please remember to use your indoor voices and try the local food…”?).

Thus, we were able to enjoy the dazzling lights of the plaza and observe the various demonstrations and exhibitions for as long as we pleased. Something was going on down there; a group had built a giant shelter and painted the makeshift walls. From time to time, someone would get on a bullhorn and make speeches. We weren’t too interested. It was time for the 2nd part of our travel ritual: riding the sightseeing bus!

We often ride a sightseeing bus on our 1st day in a new city. It gives us a chance to be lazy tourists and get an overview of a place. The truth is, we both dislike sightseeing tour buses and prefer to walk or use the bus/metro/taxi. However, if the trip is short, the tour bus is a good idea. For instance, we got to see the Temple of Debod from afar (sorry but we’ve been to Egypt, so we don’t impress easily) and did a reconnaissance of the Prado (and its many doors), information which would come in handy for our Prado visit.

This was late June and we were unaccustomed to the afternoon heat. Gigi claims that I dozed off first but I distinctly remember seeing his head bobbing up and down. Another good thing about the sightseeing bus is that, if you fall asleep, you don’t have to worry about anything. No one will touch your bags and when you wake up, the tour will still be going on… :-)

After the tour bus, we looked around Puerta del Sol for the plaque marking the “Origen de las Carreteras Radiales”. We couldn’t find it! I wonder if it was hidden under the makeshift shelter?

For dinner, I had planned to go on a tapas crawl around Cava Baja. After months of studying and drooling, I had decided on Casa Lucas, Matritum, Revuelta, Taberna Tempranilo and Bodegas Ricla. We started with Casa Lucas, since I had read that it’s a popular place and can get full quickly. The barman was a perfect gentleman and honest too. When we ordered too much food, he actually told us to stop. Gigi is allergic to nuts so we had to be careful with certain items containing pine nuts. The dishes we liked best included the creamy rice with mushrooms and foie and the fardo de calamares (strips of crispy calamari with bacon). The large size of the portions surprised me. I didn’t realize they would be raciones. We were starting to feel full already! Full but happy.

Rounding the corner, I noticed El Meson de la Tortilla and thought the ‘cave’ looked interesting. As soon as we had stepped inside, Gigi started making warning noises at me. He thought we were in a tourist trap. It’s hard to imagine a 12yo boy who can sense a tourist trap but when it comes to food, he’s 12 going on 35. Unfortunately the manager had spotted us and I didn’t want to be rude and run away. In the end, we ordered their specialty – tortilla española – and avoided everything else the manager suggested. The tortilla tasted fresh but it was enormous. We could only eat about half of it. It stymied our possibilities for further gastronomical exploration that evening.

We enjoyed the walk along Calle Mayor, stopped at the Mercado de San Miguel (it’s a pretty building and much smaller than I thought it would be), SHOULD HAVE stopped at Chocolateria San Gines but instead went off for more helado at Palazzo.

eatintravel
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6. Re: A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

I am intrigued by Casa Lucas menu and wondering what the prices were relative to other tapas/pintxo bars.

Treasure Coast of...
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for Ronda
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7. Re: A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

O.K. you guys are killing me here, l just went out and ate the kids horse, food, helado, l will never lose that 20 pounds, just kidding about the kids horse. So much food and so many fine restaurants to visit in Madrid, looks like one more to visit. Hubie

Madrid, Spain
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8. Re: A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

The Kilometre Zero plaque is located on the ground close to pavement curb in front of the Casa de Correos' main entrance (under the clock).

…wordpress.com/2011/01/11_02_12_kilometro-ce…

Toronto, Canada
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9. Re: A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

Revulgo, thanks for the picture. We didn't go near the Casa de Correos. There must have been some government action going on. Police vans were stationed all around and I could see people inside the building, having a meeting. Just another advantage of having a balcony facing the Puerta del Sol, LOL!

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Eatintravel, I don't usually keep track of prices when I eat but I would guess that it was more than 12 euros. Raciones are generally larger portions and more expensive than tapas/pintxos. I was being too ambitious and thinking we would manage to eat all that food. The calamare plate, with its bacon AND divine squid ink sauce, was very rich and filling. If you look on the Casa Lucas website, you'll see a menu and it's clearly divided into tapas vs raciones. And if you click on the coloured circles, you'll get a picture of that dish.

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Hola Hubie!

If you are on diet, you don't have to worry about horse. It's very lean and has little fat. Helado is a very different story, but you know that already. :-)

Malaga, Spain
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10. Re: A short and delicious visit...(skip, if you don't like food)

Gigis_mum:

The details you put in your reports are fantastic! I think you are the best writer in TA!