TAPAS AND SHERRY TASTINGS IN MADRID

The Ubiquitous Uncle Pepe Overlooking the Puerta del Sol
In addition to fine art and excellent shopping, Madrid is also the capital of tapas, with hundreds of tapas bars and restaurants to indulge the quest for the perfect tasty morsel.


MADRID'S SHRINE TO SHERRY


An Oasis of Sherry Tasting Amid the Bustle of Madrid
In our quest for tapas, we were fortunate to happen upon the Taberna La Venencia, which specializes in Vinos de Jerez and Manzanilla de Sanlucar. The taberna is located on a busy street not far from the Plaza Mayor, but once inside you feel as if you've walked into a local taberna in Jerez or Sanlucar, with dark wood furnishings and many barrels of wine. In addition to wines from the barrel, the taberna offers a wide variety of sherries and manzanilla in bottles. The tapas selection was limited but good: the most interesting was a tangy rocquefort cheese spread on toasted bread.

We were delighted to see La Venencia mentioned in a July 9, 2000 New York Times travel article on Madrid. The article brought back great memories, as 'Frugal Traveler' columnist Daisann McLane wrote: "Cortes put me in the mood for a Madrid night on the town. I headed straight for the Calle Echegaray, a narrow street not far from the Prado that's lined with little bars and restaurants. I was thrilled to find that the sherry bar where I learned to tell the difference between a fino and a manzanilla 12 years ago was still there. Nothing seemed to have altered inside the dark, narrow bar of La Venencia. Even the dust on the barrels appeared intact. The bartender handed me a fino and a small dish of perfectly fresh green olives, and marked my bill, as is the custom there, in chalk on the bar." The article also said: "La Venencia serves sherry -- fino, manzanilla, amontillado and oloroso -- from large wooden casks, along with fresh olives, smoked trout and cheese plates. A glass of sherry is around $1, and the plates range from $1.50 to $4."

TABERNA LA VENENCIA, CALLE ECHEGARAY 7, PHONE: 4297313


WHERE TO DINE

TAPAS

Enjoying Sangria on the Plaza Mayor
There are dozens of tapas bars surrounding the historic Plaza Mayor, including many with outdoor tables. We also found excellent tapas just a block south of the plaza at Taberna San Isidro on Calle Toledo. This cheery, brightly decorated taberna featured a wide selection of tapas, including delicious mushrooms, chorizos, and snails. The taberna also offered a very reasonable prix fixe dinner which included two courses, including a respectable paella.


TABERNA SAN ISIDRO, CALLE TOLEDO 24, PHONE: 3650244

DINNER


For truly memorable paella, we highly recommend La Barraca, which is open for dinner after 7:30 p.m. This homey restaurant specializes in paella, prepared in several styles. We enjoyed the traditional paella valenciana accompanied by an excellent bottle of Herencia Remondo Rioja 94 from the Bodegas Palacios.

LA BARRACA,, CALLE DE LA REINA 29, PHONE: 5327154

Traditional large paella pan







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