The Huertas neighborhood of central Madrid wasn’t a place I would go more than a handful of times a year to eat, but the bars and tapas joints there are famous for their vermouth and hearty croquetas, salty jamón and oily anchovies. This charming and buzzy East Village restaurant opened a few years ago and signed up to the gratuity-free group, strengthening their Euro-credentials. There was the NYT article about how they added the ‘extra tentacle’ to their octopus dish to make the price increase fairer on diners, and it really is more reasonable than other tapas bars where you can spend an obscene amount on very little food.
Canned fish is something our server had spoken to many a diner about before, and his rehearsed lines – ‘Americans look down on canned products but in Spain they are often the best’ – weren’t necessary to persuade us to order the mussels, drenched in rich paprika oil. The croquetas were excellent while the jamón was merely good, but the bistek (skirt steak, $23) and huevos rotos (quails egg beaten over stringed pasta-like potato, $12) were exceptional.
There is a wide range of drinks, from the aforementioned vermouth, to gintonic on tap, along with beers, cocktails and kalimotxos (red wine & cola).
It was refreshing not to have to worry about tipping and also not to be hassled unnecessarily by overly-attentive servers checking up on the table. This is the future.
Subway: 1st Ave (L)
A well-known and respected bar and brunch spot in Greenpoint, located on the ground floor of the landmark Astral Apartments, BL has an excellent range of food and drink; there really is something for everyone here. The Gaucho Benedict (Argentinean sausage, chimichurri, spinach, poached eggs with saffron sauce in an English muffin) was hearty and filling, and I really didn’t miss the hollandaise at all. Salads come in decent sizes, and they certainly aren’t stingy with the additions of meat.
Our drinks went down a bit too easily for brunch at 11am – which may say more about us than the tasty beverages and whatever they contained.
Service here is appallingly slow, waiting times are completely inaccurate – on a busy Saturday night anyway – and it does take itself a tad too seriously, but El Almacén is a pretty little spot for some Argentinian grilled meats, Mexican and Spanish-influenced dishes and a tight New World wine list. The spinach, cheese and corn enchiladas are heavenly and the mussels surprisingly well-flavoured. Paella and short ribs are excellent choices and for dessert the panqueque seemed to be a hit too.
We came here for happy hour and were impressed by the range of tapas and drinks. The mango margarita went down a treat and the Goose Island beer was great, Boquerones (white anchovies) on mini avocado-smeared tostas were just average, while the vegetable empanadas were a little better. Remolacha salad (red and golden beets, with goats cheese and a pineapple vinaigrette) were very mismatched – textbook hippy tucker. Quinoa croquets (filled with mushroom and roasted pepper and served with a truffle aioli) upped the ante, though: we could have easily had another plate of these. Service is friendly and prices are low, with wine and cocktails at $5 during happy hour, and draft beers at an unbelievable $3, until 7pm even on Fridays.
Location is a problem for this Spanish wine’n’tapas joint: stuck amongst the bars of Shoreditch heaving with their dolled-up suburbanites and badly-behaved Essex lads, it just about manages to keep its head above the fray. The patatas bravas is a fantastic beer-sponge, the sauce made with extra paprika, and much better than most versions I tried after years in Madrid; the tortilla was small and lacked the cake-density of the traditional classic. The wine selection is good, and service is mostly friendly. We’ll have to come by again to try their wider selection of offerings or stop by for a copa de vino anytime except Saturday night.
By far the most famous restaurant in Bogotá, Andrés Carne de Res is a huge space in Chia, on the outskirts of the city, which has also opened up a more accessible branch downtown, simply called Andrés DC. The decor is wild, with all manner of paraphernalia hanging from the ceilings of the multi-floored building. There are assorted characters that dress up and potter around, poking or staring at customers. The hostesses move around purposefully with their clipboards and earpieces, juggling VIP expectations with the hoi polloi. We never actually got a proper table after waiting more than two hours (with a reservation made an hour or so before that), so settled on our lot – a small table on the side of the bar, with limited views and very much removed from the action.
The vegetarian platter was excellent, cocktails are supercharged, and music is loud – but Andrés CR is famous as a steakhouse first and foremost. The selection of dishes, sides and beverages is the hugest I’ve seen of any restaurant in the world, and the menu can be daunting; you may end up ordering according to your budget and appetite as prices are eye-wateringly high. Go in a group, and take the opportunity to hit the dancefloor, especially if you’ve paid the $10 cover charge on weekends just for the privilege of entering.
For exquisite tapas and larger meals with a fine selection of tipples, Sophie Bistro is an atmospheric wine bar with its roots firmly in Spain. The music and lighting is just right, with friendly personal service and a huge menu spanning all types of Creole and Spanish favourites. Classy local clientele and a formidable chef make this a place to drop into if you need an intimate date night in Miraflores. Clink clink.