I recently came back from a whirlwind trip around Madrid where I tried my best to sample as many of their culinary delights as possible in just a few short days. We arrived on a Monday night after a day of traveling. The actual plane flight from Lisbon to Madrid was only about an hour, but we had to catch an early bus into town to the train station, a 2 hour train down to Lisbon, and then take the metro's red line from Oriente Station to the airport. Our airline, EuropaAir, said to arrive 3 hours ahead of time, but we discovered that was completely unnecessary because they don't staff the counters to check luggage until about 2 hours prior to departure.
The Madrid metro appears to be safe, modern, and is easily navigated. We headed to Lavapies to check in at our studio apartment which was rented through Airbnb. Despite being an hour early, our host Jorge was kind enough to let us check in. It was a perfect little place for a couple with 2 twin beds, a washing machine, drying rack, microwave, well-supplied kitchen and reliable internet. The windows faced into a center courtyard with plants and a fountain, blocking all street noise from entering the apartment.
After unpacking and washing up, we headed out to dinner at Gau&Café which was just a short walk from our apartment on the 4th floor of Calle Tribulete 14. You might be a little confused when you see that no. 14 is a school called UNED, but the restaurant is on the top floor of the school. Head in and take the stairs or elevator to the top.
I'd read a few reviews online that Gau&Café could get very crowded, but we lucked out by going early (8:30 PM) on a Monday night. As we were leaving around 10:30 PM, it started filling up more, but never got packed so if you prefer a less crowded night try opting for an early weekday.
Since it was a little chilly we opted to eat inside, but there was a lot more seating out on the terrace. The views of the city from the rooftop were really nice - this seems like a fantastic spot for a warm evening.
They had a large wine list as well as quite a few cocktails, although the only beer available was Heineken and the non-alcoholic Buckler. The menu was pretty similar to the one posted on their website and it was really hard to decide because there were so many great choices. They had meat, seafood and vegetarian dishes, with Iberian, East Asian, Middle Eastern, and Indian influences. I opted for a squid ink couscous with calamari and prawns with a glass of the Rioja and my husband ordered the "Duelos y Quebrantos" which was an interpretation of the dish from Don Quixote that is popular today in La Mancha. It had scrambled eggs, ham, and bacon piled high atop a baked potato and was the perfect comfort food.
After not really eating lunch we were so incredibly hungry and the food was so good that we completely finished our entrees. Our server informed us that it was pretty rare to see someone finish the Duelos y Quebrantos - after you make it through all the eggs and meat, there's still that whole baked potato at the bottom. Despite being full, we didn't want to miss out on dessert so we waited awhile and ordered the New York Style Cheesecake with cherries. After having some very odd, highly-gelatinous cheesecakes in Portugal, I really wanted to see what Spain's take on it was.
The cheesecake was quite good. I wouldn't say it tasted like it was straight out of New York, but they came a lot closer than any other "New York Style" Cheesecakes I've tried since moving abroad and the cherry sauce was fresh and delicious. On top of all the good food, the service we received was excellent - our server was very friendly and spoke really great English, which is always wonderful. We left highly satisfied and although I hoped we'd get a chance to return during our short visit, it wasn't to be. Next time I'm back in Madrid though, I will definitely try more of Gau&Café's excellent cuisine.