Oye, rubia: The parent trap

Oye, rubia: The parent trap

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Blogger Kristen Bernardi offers suggestions on where to wine and dine the mamas and the papas.

Did you ever notice that people are more inclined to visit once the weather gets nice?

In the past two months, my flatmate’s father, my father and my mother have all visited on separate, two-week stints, all back-to-back.

My family-friendly tour guide skills are now tuned like a Steinway. I have the opening hours of the Prado memorised and can translate the options on a menú del día at lightning speed.

Having your parents come to visit from another country is different than when friends visit. You can toss friends a Metro map and tell them to crash on the couch. But with parents, you want to impress them a bit with your expat lifestyle, no? You want to be in control and on your A-game.

Mealtimes are important – you want to show your parents the best of Spanish cuisine. You want an easy commute. You want authentic – not touristy-but-trying-to-look-authentic.

And although it might be an authentic experience, your 50-, 60- or 70-something year-old parents do not want to stand around in a smoky bar, getting elbowed by Malasaña residents with asymmetrical fringe. It’s a delicate balance. There are many rules.

So, here is a list of parent-friendly dining options in the capital.

Traditional meals for mum & pop

Restaurante La Sanabresa
There is nothing on La Sanabresa’s extensive menu that a Spanish grandmother couldn’t whip up in a pinch. Dozens upon dozens of hearty Spanish standards: garbanzo stew, roast chicken, pork loin, fresh grilled fish and roasted veg are all served in a completely unpretentious setting by waiters who have been doing this for decades. Affordable menus del día with alternating dishes and the menu is available in English.

C/Amor de Dios, 12 (Metro: Antón Martín). Tel: 91 429 03 38. www.restaurantelasanabresa.com

Casa Mingo
This legendary Asturian cider house has character to spare inside, and an outdoor terrace in the summer. The menu has fewer than a dozen items on it, because you really don’t need anything else besides their juicy, flavourful whole roasted chickens and a chilled bottle of cider to wash it all down. Affordable and great for groups. On weekdays, getting a table for lunch or dinner usually isn’t a problem, but do get there early on weekends to avoid a queue. After your meal, go next door to the underappreciated (and free!) Ermita de San Antonio to visit Goya’s grave and admire the church’s fresco ceiling.

Pº de la Florida, 34 (Metro: Príncipe Pío). Tel: 91 547 79 18.

La Paella de la Reina
Spain is synonymous with paella, even outside Valencia, and this place does it right. Spring for the paella with lobster, chicken, prawns, grouper and squid. On a quiet street off of Gran Vía; best make a reservation.

C/Reina, 39 (Metro: Banco de España). Tel: 91 531 18 85 www.lapaelladelareina.com

Honourable mention for parent-friendly paella: Arroceria Gala C/Moratín, 22 (Metro: Antón Martín). Tel: 91 429 25 62.

La Taberna Según Emma
For tapas, Emma can’t be beat. Despite being sandwiched between Plaza Mayor and the Royal Palace, La Taberna Según Emma is the least-touristy restaurant on the block. Fantastic salmorejo, delicious tostas, a great wine selection and friendly service all in a warm atmosphere. Do yourself and the parental units a favour and get an order of the papas con mojo.

Plaza Conde de Miranda, 4 (Metro: Sol). Tel: 91 559 08 97. Closed Mondays.

For adventurous parents

Marisqueria Ribeira do Miño
If your parents aren’t faint-hearted about shelling their own dinner, this is the place to enjoy a Galician seafood bonanza. Pimientos de Padrón are a great starter before a ‘mariscada’, or ‘ginormous pile of sea creatures’, which includes crab, a few types of prawns and goose barnacles. Mum and dad can roll up their sleeves and dig in, then chase it all with a lethal liquor-and-coffee after-dinner drink that will loosen them up enough to promise you a hefty inheritance.

C/Santa Brígida, 1 (Metro: Tribunal). Tel: 91 521 98 54 / 91 531 33 93 www.marisqueriaribeira.aliste.info  Closed Mondays.
El Buey
When your parents booked that ticket to Spain, I’ll bet they thought to themselves, ‘Boy, I hope we cook a nice slab of ox on this holiday!’ At El Buey, friendly waiters bring marinated or raw strips of high-quality ox meat sprinkled with sea salt to your table. You grill them to your liking on a hot clay plate and enjoy the interactive sizzle while you swill the above-average house wine.

Plaza de la Marina Española, 1 (Metro: Plaza España). Tel: 91 541 30 41.
Second, smaller location at C/General Diaz Porlier, 9 (Metro: Goya). Tel: 91 575 80 66. www.restauranteelbuey.com

For the view

Gaudeamus Café
Lavapiés seems so tame from four storeys up. Gaudeamus Café offers a designer tapas or a tasting menu for EUR 26, lovely ambience and an even better view. Perfect for spring visitors. Check out the art exhibitions on the lower floors.

C/Tribulete, 14 (Metro: Lavapiés). Tel: 91 528 25 94. www.gaudeamuscafe.com

Café del Círculo de Bellas Artes
In addition to hosting art exhibitions, fascinating speakers, concerts and other events, the Círculo de Bellas Artes has a sprawling, beautiful café with a painted ceiling and picture windows that faces Gran Vía. Enjoy a weekday menu del día or a light tapa. There’s a EUR 1 entry fee, but hey – it’s for the arts.

C/Marqués de Casa Riera, 2 (Metro: Sevilla/Banco de España). Tel: 91 360 54 00. www.circulobellasartes.com

Honourable view mention: El Viajero Plaza Cebada, 11. (Metro: La Latina). Tel: 91 366 90 64

If mum and dad have done very well for themselves

El Asador Real
Juan Carlos I himself has been known to swing by for his roast lamb or suckling pig fix. Visitors can get a close-up view of the brick oven where the delectable little piggies spend their time. Definitely make a reservation.

Plaza de Isabel II, 1 (Metro: Ópera). Tel: 91 547 11 11/91 559 85 85. www.asadorreal.com

Casa Lucio
Calle Cava Baja has some of the best restaurants in the city all together on one charming street, but if you want to splurge, Casa Lucio is the place to do it. The King dined here as well, alongside Bill Clinton, enjoying traditional madrileño dishes such as callos and cocido stew. Closed Saturday for dinner.

C/Cava Baja, 35 (Metro: La Latina). Tel: 91 365 82 17. www.casalucio.es

El Botín
Though sceptics deny it, this claims to be the oldest restaurant in the world, having originally begun as a bread shop in the early 17th century. Whatever the case, El Botín is certainly one of the best. Down in a brick-lined dining room, some of the most courteous waiters in Madrid serve up mouthwatering starters, such as roasted red peppers with cod and the finest Iberian ham, followed by juicy, oven-roasted meat dishes such as veal, lamb and suckling pig. Reserve at the weekend, but you may be able to walk in during the week.

C/Cuchilleros, 17-19 (Metro: La Latina). Tel: 91 366 42 17. www.casabotin.com

Kristen Bernardi / Expatica
photos credit: websites of restaurants mentioned in the blog and Tomas Fano

Kristen Bernardi is an American journalist living in Madrid. She has contributed to various travel publications including Fodor's, TimeOut, The Insider's Guide, Spain Magazine and InMadrid, and most recently assisted in 2008 Spanish presidential election coverage for CNN International. She is on a constant search for the perfect tortilla española, and will consider returning to US soil once the Pittsburgh Pirates make the World Series. Kristen writes a blog, Oye, rubia, on a wide range of topics for Expatica on fortnightly Fridays.

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