Sunday, 10 February 2008

Potatoes, Chicken and Madrid

When the Spanish take a photograph, they invariably enjoin their subjects to say 'Patatas' rather than 'Cheese'. Anyone who has tasted one of the country's national dish - patatas bravas - will understand why the humble potato might be dear to the heart of the average resident of the Iberian peninsula.

At the same time, it's hard to walk around the streets of Madrid without stumbling across the ubiquitous Museo Del Jamon chain of bars, where huge hams line the walls. You'll trip over them everywhere. And you won't be disappointed if you stumble inside. You'll search hard, however, for anything that celebrates the Spanish love of the potato in quite the same way. Thankfully, Bill Blunt has done the searching for you.

Back in 1980, two brothers in the south of the city centre surveyed the proliferation of ham museums and had the bright idea of opening something which marked the respect with which they held the potato. But fear not, this is no stuffy museum of the kind that Thomas Hamburger Jnr likes to wander round - this is a down-at-home, honest to goodness tapas bar where the potato forms the central part of every dish. Best of all - a couple of beers and a bowl of migas or other free tapas will (unbelievably) set you back less than €2. Worth the trip on the metro to Palos de La Frontera (just a couple of stops down from Sol, in the centre), the Museo de Las Patatas won't disappoint, and is well away from the tourist haunts. Particularly if you've availed yourself of Madrid's Abono Touristico, and have the freedom of the city's rail, metro and bus services for the paltry sum of €7.15 for two days. Buy it at the airport metro station, and your journey into the city is also included - Ken Livingstone, eat your heart out. For more information on the Museo de Las Patatas, and other worthy Madrid haunts, you could do worse than visit esmadriz!, which is one of my favourite blogs, from the design point of view of its header, alone.

Of course, man cannot live on just potatoes (although I'm sure the frite sellers of Belgium would make a pretty strong case to the contrary). Bill's top tip for an authentic, non-potato, Madrid eating experience is therefore to take a trip to Casa Mingo. Here, traditional Asturian sidra is served up alongside perfectly-cooked chicken. Nothing fancy - honest-to-goodness food that seeks to please the palate. Handily, you'll also get the chance to visit Prícipe Pio, where an abandoned train station has been converted, rather spectacularly, into a shopping centre.

Staying in Madrid is always a pleasure. It's a city I've visited more times than I've had hot dinners (at least, that is, more times than I've had hot dinners since my marriage to Mrs B was rent assunder), and I've always found somewhere to lay my head that is comfortable, and in an interesting area. This time, though, I was happy to leave the business of arranging our accommodation to THJnr, and he came up trumps with a modest little three star place just a potato's throw from Sol - the Hotel Ingles. It proved handy for the live jazz at Cafe Populart which he insisted on dragging me to watch, and where the drinks were 1000 per cent more expensive than those on offer at the potato museum. The staff at the hotel are attentive, and the rooms large and rather quaintly old-fashioned. I was particularly impressed with the bath, the design of which gave me pause for thought, and has given me ideas for how I'd like my next bathroom to be, when I finally get to re-establish Blunt Towers. But my views on bathroom design will have to await another posting. As will my views on jazz.

1 comment:

70steen said...

Great post Bill and very timely as I have today confirmed I am off to
Madrid in August to stay with a friend who lives near Piramides.
Have been to Prícipe Pio & Sol (I love Sol) a number of times and will revisit now with new haunts to seek out ....