>I’ve always been quick on the uptake. It only took me 48 hours to realise that the ladies “shopping” in the streets around Madrid’s Callao metro station weren’t following some local fad for dressing like hookers. They actually were hookers.
The city was suffocatingly hot – upper 90s during the day, and seemed even hotter at night. We were staying in a hostal off Calle Luna, a pretty dodgy area undergoing a transition similar to that which has happened to Spitalfields and Shoreditch in London. Grubby, seedy and interesting with poky little shops, sweaty bars, Chinese restaurants and a population of prostitutes, hustlers, young hipsters and one or two older residents wondering why the bakery has become a tattooists.
After San Sebastian and Santiago, eating out in Madrid seemed incredibly cheap. Casa Mingo (Paseo de la Florida 34) is a long established no-frills barn of a place which serves nothing much more than roast chicken, which tasted like chicken did before the supermarkets started to pile it high and sell it cheap. They also have their own Asturian sidra, which was just the right side of sweet and filled my entire head with a huge hit of fresh apple.
At Casa Granada, (Calle Del Doctor Cortezo 17) you have to press a buzzer at street level and either brave the tiny lifts or walk to the top floor of a dingy office block off Plaza de Tirso de Molina. Worth it though, for the view of the city from the terrace, and to be brought tapas by a friendly Mexican with lurid special forces tattoos.
Museo Del Jamon are a chain which seem to share the original philosophy of Harry Ramsden’s before it was bought out and became rubbish – that nothing is too good for ordinary folk. Scoffing the Spanish equivalent of ham, egg and chips washed down with a Mahou in a noisy, panelled room lit by chandeliers the bill only came to about 8 quid. If any verification of the Museo’s scran were needed, the queue which stretched down the stairs into the standing-only deli/cafe below contained a group of elderly priests and a young, scowling nun. There’s a joke here somewhere.