Vi Cool. Calle de las Huertas, 12. Madrid

Brightly lit, touristy and English-friendly: not a great recipe for full-on authentic culinary success. But Vi Cool pulls it off, especially with their signature dishes: albondigas con salsa de chimichurri with a fondue of goats cheese (10€)- the mini meatballs are so delectable and easy to pick-and-dip that this could be one of the first tapas that makes it into the Death Row Meals list for me. Pulpo pizza (12€) was decent, and the fried prawns with mint leaves were perfectly cooked and served with aioli. Good wines are served by the glass, and service is reassuringly friendly. I’m still not convinced by the decor, though: oversized black-and-white wallpaper photography of a grocer’s stand just smacks of insistence on freshness.
I haven’t tried the burgers yet, nor have I sat upstairs, but I will be back for more very soon; an exciting prospect.

$$-$$$
Metro Anton Martin

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Tandoori Station. Calle Ortega y Gasset, 89. Madrid

We finally made it here on a busy Friday night, after months of trying to fit it in our diaries. It was well worth the wait. A funky, bustly dining space, much more comfortable than the terrace that occupies pavement space on an unattractive street. Besides, sweating outside on a charmless road for 15% more just didn’t appeal to us.
Service is friendly and fluent English is spoken to you if your Spanish doesn’t sound native. Accurate and detailed explanations are given of the ingredients and dishes, and presentation is perfect.
Our Madras Wali michli, a swordfish curry with a touch of coconut in the sauce, was one of the best Indian fish mains I’ve ever tried, while their daal makhani is thick and hearty. The karhai wala paneer was a perfectly balanced melange of chunks of cottage cheese with a punchy tomato and ginger base. Garlic naan was crisp and well-baked.
Leaving just enough space for dessert was a good idea as we were treated to a cinnamon ice cream that was subtle and mellow, yet fed that need for some tongue’n’tastebud-cooling relief. Other diners seemed very content with their choices. Pukka.

$$-$$$
Metro Manuel Becerra / Lista

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The Harvest Company of Natural Goods. Paseo de la Castellana, 40. Madrid

Part of the mini-plaza of outdoor art on the Castellana next to Ruben Dario metro, Natural Harvest is a buzzy little prospect. Their tostas are fairly good, well balanced with – not quite – the finest ingredients, but their pizzas are much better than the average Italian joint. They also serve great wine and fancy salads and starters; they can do no wrong.

$$-$$$
Metro Ruben Darío

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Tapas 44. Calle Juan Bravo, 28. Madrid

Extremely bright lighting inside validated our choice to sit on their terrace, on which the canopy nearly blew off due to the strong gusts – it seems to be angled perfectly to catch wind like a clipper’s sail. We had glasses of verdejo with tostas de bonito picante which resembled – and almost tasted like – tinned cat food. Needless to say, there was nothing spicy about it at all. We didn’t bother ordering anything else, but most tapas in decent portions cost 3.90-4.30€.
Apparently there’s one on Gran Vía too though I can’t see why I would recommend that either.

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Metro Lista / Núñez de Balboa

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O’Clock Pub & Garden. Calle Juan Bravo 25. Madrid

We arrived here far too early – O’Clock’s USP is that it’s a very late bar in a staid, posh area. There’s a doorman in top hat feather-dusting the two Fairways (British Black cabs) outside, which tells you all you need to know. Well-heeled Madrileños who happen to be well-drunk can presumably get ferried home in these, if they’ve spent enough inside – which really isn’t that difficult to do; it isn’t extortion to charge 11€ for a drink, but it starts to look like a rip-off when it arrives in tiny glassware that makes these nano-cocktails positively Lilliputian. They are actually a third of the standard size, and were over in four sips.
We ordered an Australian Blond (an inappropriate name for mango, vodka, with their ‘touch of something secret’, which ended up being curry sauce) and a fruity martini. They were tasty, but we wondered where the rest of the drink was; presumably behind the bar in the shakers ready to top us up for another 11€.
The atmosphere in here really is very good, though: a rarefied version of a traditional English pub, cosy and lit with glowing bulbs, with a beautiful patio as well as a terrace space in the boulevard 20m away; the charming waiter in his tie and braces pulled off the look too. I would come again if I were to find myself in this area with nothing to do (unlikely), late at night, and let someone else pay.
(Listed in Where Chefs Eat, Phaidon 2012)

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Metro Lista / Núñez de Balboa

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