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Sep 13, 2011 06:02 PM

Madrid restaurants -- comments please.

If you have thoughts about the following restaurants please share them.
Botin; Balzac; La Bola, Astrid y Gaston.
Steve K

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  1. We ate at both Botin and La Bola last week. Both serve pretty solid traditional food, certainly nothing fancy. I loved the atmosphere at Botin - we were seated in the cellar. La Bola was a bargain - we shared a house salad and a cocido, which is served as 2 courses (our waiter insisted one order would be plenty for two people, and he was right - it's very filling) so food was about 35 Euros, wine as always in Spain was cheap, maybe 20 Euros, and we were served a complimentary digestif afterward. For both places I'd have to say I'm very glad to have gone once, not sure if I'd go again, probably didn't need to go to both on the same trip. Both places full of tourists but not "touristy". I have read negative comments about the service (again for both places) but we found everyone to be friendly and efficient.

    6 Replies
    1. re: savagehenry

      Been to all of them.

      Botin - Suprisingly the food is actually good for a ""touristy:: place. And they're open Sundays.

      Balzac - When we went during the week it was empty so the atmosphere was lacking. The food is good as is the service.

      La Bola - They love Ava Gardner in this place <g>. Typical madrileƱo fare. If you order a meal with chorizo they apply it heavily. Tends to get crowded. Another ""touristy"" place.

      Astrid and Gaston - Been to the one in Lima, Peru and the one in Madrid is just as good. Great ceviches. Don't forget to order a Pisco Sour. Reservations a must.

      Enjoy your trip.

      1. re: Quimbombo


        I was very tempted to eat at Astrid y Gaston during our visit to Madrid this summer. We had had a fantastic meal at the one in Mexico City some years back. I still dream of the various ceviches, especially one with passionfruit and tamarind in the marinade. In the end, with limited time, we chose places that we hoped would be more emblematic of Madrid: El Fogon de Trifon, Casa Lucas, La Gabinoteca and El Cisne Azul. We also stopped at La Bardemcilla but this was more to see the place than to enjoy the food.

        I've read that each Astrid y Gaston is a bit different, incorporating some of the dishes that are local to the host country. In Mexico City, they do some dishes with huitlacoche (corn smut). Did you find the menu of the original restaurant in Lima different from the one in Madrid?

        1. re: Aleta

          Aleta, There is a slight difference between A&G Lima and Madrid.

          I found the one in Lima tended to have more of a meat selection than the one in Madrid who had more fish dishes, thankfully no cuy on the menu in the latter <g>. And of course the former's Pisco Sours were more outstanding than the one in Madrid. Additionally, on the 2 x's we visited the one in Madrid making reservations was a PITA, both times the night we wanted to dine there was no reservations so flexibility helps.

          Here are A&G websites for your research and comparison pleasure.



          1. re: Quimbombo

            Thanks very much for the websites, which I will definitely peruse with pleasure. A quick look just now at the list of ceviches made my mouth water!

            Did you find the preparation of the ceviches different too?

            1. re: Aleta

              Yes, in Lima I found the peppers, onions, corn, limes even the potatos, et al much more tastier and flavorful add to that the fish/seafood from the Pacific as well. Spain obviously from the Meditarrenean & the Northern Spanish seas.

              Both delicious and to be savored. <g>

              PS. Should you ever visit the magnificence <sp> that is Peru let me know and I'll ""meet"" you in the So. American discussion forum and give you suggestions on some great restaurants.

              1. re: Quimbombo

                Would love to 'meet you' in the S. American forum. Thanks again.

    2. We ate at Botin and La Bola when we were recently in Madrid. I'm sure the Madrilenos look down their noses at them but I think one of them is worth a visit for a tourist, it's a view to a style of cuisine that you don't often see anymore in otherwise thoroughly modern Espana.

      It's probably obvious that they are really old school places both in decor, service approach and cusine, that's kind of the point of these places. Botin the specialty is roast meat (suckling pig or lamb) and La Bola it's Cocido (and yes you can order other things off the menu but the point is to have the specialties). Going to these places is a little like going for soul food or BBQ in the US, this is rustic, country food, simple, hearty and flavourful (and to be clear, I think this is a good thing, some of the best food in the world is what the Italians call "cucina povera").

      Botin the crowd seemed to be mostly Spanish and a lot of people were getting their pictures taken outside the restaurant before they went in. La Bola is chock full of International tourists.

      In both places the service was a little on the brusque side but friendly enough and in particular the guy at La Bola was really helpful (suggesting that 1 order of cocido shared between 2 people was plenty, and comping us some digestives at the end of the meal).

      The food was solid versions of these classic dishes made the same way for decades.
      I'm not sure I would go back to either place now that I've had the experience but I would recommend going to at least one of them if you are visiting Madrid it is interesting and definitely worth a meal.