Oishi. Calle de Miguel Moya, 6. Madrid

One of the very few kaiten-sushi joints in town, where diners can just pick dishes off a conveyor belt. We used to come here for their set lunch, which – the last time we looked – did not include anything off that belt. So there are limited choices, and the menu doesn’t get adventurous at all. Sushi and sashimi standards are served with little enthusiasm but are fairly priced and serviceable. The food just doesn’t taste of much at all. Save your money: there are much better places in town.

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Metro Gran Via

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Sushi Shop. Calle de Génova, 23. Madrid

They try hard here, they really do. But it’s horrendously overpriced, appealing to the bankers and wannabes working -or playing -near Calle de Serrano. It’s a piece of NY/London slickness on the smart corner of Retiro, and the decor is flashy: dark greys and blacks with textures of stylised leaves and silhouetted light shades.
The lunch ‘deals’ are restricted to the lower-shelf items, and you’ll be fattening your bill if you veer from this. I’d recommend not even bothering.

Service on the ‘terrace’ (pavement) can be non-existent.

$$$
Metro Retiro

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Rul’s Bar. Calle de la Esperanza 8. Madrid

This old favorite has recently undergone a refit, and is all the worse for it. From being a great little stand-up space (in more than a dozen visits I have never sat down on their eight bar stools) with perfectly acceptable 3€ mojitos – also available in a much sweeter strawberry flavour – it has been transformed into a pastel-walled toyless crèche that happens to serve a drink or two and maybe play some music if anyone dares accept the invitation to select something on spotify.
We really shouldn’t mourn the loss of a bar in a city like Madrid, but many of us were fond of this place and used it as the reliable go-between a Lavapies curry house and a late late nightspot such as La Candela.
RIP Rul’s bar, un bar chulo hasta Abril 2012

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Metro Anton Martin/Lavapies

Angosta. Calle de los Mancebos. Madrid

A birthday drinks party ended up here, and our group of fourteen dominated the narrow bar area. Some of us spilled into the restaurant part, where there is little pressure to order food, as long as the drinks orders come flowing.

Service was attentive that night, though with the increasingly-annoying waitress giving English answers to perfectly-serviceable Spanish questions, a habit I am starting to tire of.

The reason this back-of-the-plaza bar deserves a mention is down to their terrific gin’n’tonics. Hendricks was served professionally, with a bar spoon; I had heard of this technique a few months earlier, where you pour the tonic down the long-handled swizzle stick (or ‘spiral staircase handle’) spoon to maintain the carbonation of the drink. Bubbles shouldn’t be crashing into each other, apparently, which completely renders my home mixes, where I pour in the tonic from the highest distance I can, Asturian cider- style, useless. And you take away your chalice glass, a bubbly swimming pool with cucumber slices and take a big refreshing gulp of mother’s ruin. And then the bill comes, and each G’n’T, even with pop-top-shelfers like Hendricks, costs 7€ and suddenly everything is right with the world.

Stop off at Angosta whenever you’re in the area, when bars close in Plaza de la Paja or before you hit Berlin Cabaret – if you ever have the poor judgement to queue for such a dive.

Cinquante-cinq. Plage de Pampelonne, St.Tropez

Our group of six were seated next to Philip Green’s table, ten metres from the beach. They created quite the fuss halfway through their meal when most of the t-shirted kids jumped and squatted on their chairs, fearful of a huge bluebottle that had flown under their table. But one of the Green teens promptly killed it using an overpriced Havaiiana. SlickPhil looked merely amused. People arrive at this beach club by yacht, ferrchrissakes.
The food was better than my first time here, a year ago. Paella was a Sunday special and MJ suggested that it was on the menu as the proprietors could smell the Madrileños coming.

We made more than a dent on the crudités boat: a cornucopia of fresh local produce, raw and crunchy, with a hollandaise-style sauce. Seafood is fresh, fish is firm, and dips, sauces and dressings are reassuringly buttery. This stuff goes well with the light rosé wine served on the Cote d’Azur.

And after you finish your meal, the beach beckons. We dipped a toe in the water and walked on the crowded beach, tipsy and sun-drenched.

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10 minutes drive from St Tropez town centre.

 

L’Escale. 9 Quai Jean Jaurès, Saint-Tropez

We took a table here as Le Quai was packed and standing on the street waiting in a mass of rubberneckers just didn’t appeal to us. Don’t be deceived by the sand on the floor – this place ain’t that hip. The average age was pushing 55 and few of the younger Eurotrashers congregate here. They’re usually at Le Quai at this time of night.
Risotto was good, as was the fish and the wine, and what soon became fishy wine…
There was one disappointment: the seafood linguini here is a bland confection of well-textured pasta and prawns, with a mussel or two. Asking for a chilli dressing produced a limp Asian chilli vinegar and then sending it back to the kitchen didn’t do much either: the only low note of the evening, apart from the glum looks on some of the diners’ faces.

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$$$
Centre of St Tropez

Han Gang (Coreana). Calle Atocha, 94. Madrid

Individual barbecue tables would float most people’s boats: throw in some decent noodle dishes, kimchi sides and good quality cuts of beef and pork, and it’s impossible to go wrong. The local Coreano restaurant – most people never use its real name – is good value, and a place for groups as well as couples. Service can be on the indifferent side of stand-offish, officious as well as fairly quick.
I’ve brought three different dates here and I’m sure the waiter looked at me knowingly, especially as two of them were a couple of days apart. ‘Back here, are you, with a different woman? You adventurous gourmand, you!’ I thought I heard him think. Wish-fulfillment indeed.
Order the bulgogi (often spelt bulgoki). However, the kimbab should not be eaten as a sushi substitute, as it resembles it in appearance alone. I felt that Han Gang looked a little worn and shabby the last time I we went there (date #3) in August 2011, but that was probably because of the gangs of unruly teenagers and kids in town for the Pope’s visit (‘Christian Youth’ they call themselves) who had found out they could use their food vouchers in an exotic yet fairly-priced establishment. And play with sizzling hibachi grills.