A wide range of toasts with delectable toppings at surprisingly high prices, this certainly is the place to try something a little more Spanish as the Bangladeshi-Indian restaurants are almost outnumbering the neighbourhood cervecerias. The solomillo was delicious, thick and firm and not too fatty at all, while the melted cheese sat well with the mushrooms. We shared three amongst five of us, but if you had one each it would almost make a substantially filling meal.
Watching Spain matches here during the Euro 2012 has been quite comfortable, what with the outdoor seating on a corner behind Atocha renfe station, and a TV propped up in the doorway for an audience of about thirty.
This is the second place in the city that I’ve been served a beer in a reassuringly trad cream tankard. I liked that. Tapas surprised us on the first evening – soft tortilla and porky bites followed by spring rolls. Spring rolls! And when we asked for a larger racion of this freebie, we got it gratis. We’ll keep coming back here, at least while the good weather and football last.
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One of the four famous bars on Plaza de Dos de Mayo, Baztan is a local favourite. Tapas are freshly prepared and promptly cease being given with every order once the kitchen closes at approximately 11:30pm – you can tell when the empanadas de bonito and jamon are replaced by small bowls of jelly sweets and corn nuts. The rueda is a good firm choice of white, and both their ribera and rioja are well-chosen. Bar staff are breezy and efficient and the decor is welcoming, yet clean and colourful.
I have only one gripe with this place: their huge reproduction of Goya’s Los Fusilamientos del 3 de Mayo, an important canvas hanging in the Prado depicting the execution of the rebels outside Madrid. It was the first time that light, perennially a symbol of divinity and revelation, was used to illuminate a scene of killing by artificial box-lamp. The harsh (sodium?) bulb was as conspicuous in the painting as the specific glow of a laptop or smartphone screen would be today. This is absent in the reproduction that Baztan displays near the entrance. Missing the whole point, as it were. An additional omission is the stigmata from the upraised right hand of the dark-skinned, white-shirted rebel in the firing line, the focal point of the image. This was the same hand-puncture that Picasso used for his image of the fallen warrior in Guernica.
But don’t think that any of this will stop me from drinking here. Oh, no, sir, oh no.
Standards have slipped at Maimonides recently. I have never frequented a place as regularly and long-term as this spacious room and terrace. The serving staff may change every few months, but the Dominican lad has been there throughout (over three years), and he’s the one to greet and get on-side.
Glasses of wine and beer are 2.50€ inside and about 3€ outside. All drinks come with a choice of any tapa: from huevos estrelladas with jamón, morcilla, or chorizo to skewers of Argentinian chicken, baguette sandwiches and cazón fish and chips. The piece de la resistance though, is the skewer of Ox: solomillo de buey.
Friday evenings see it packed to the rafters, and you may even have to wait a few minutes for a small table.