El Velazquez Restaurant, Madrid
It is not often that you come upon a 'gem' of a restaurant when in another European city, but on our recent trip to Madrid, we wandered out of our hotel and down Calle Velazquez and came upon El Velazquez 17. It looked empty from the outside, not a good sign, but the menu looked inspiring, so we thought we would give it a try.
Eating at 8.00 pm seems quite normal to us Brits, but to the Spanish it must seem very early. Entering an empty El Velazquez just before eight, we clearly caught the one waiter on duty by surprise. He was still laying tables and spoke little English. Showing us to an unlaid table for two he struggled to find the menus written in English (not that we needed them). Thankfully, two more staff arrived on site soon after having the food list thrust into our hands, and the lone waiter began to relax and lay our table by moving cutlery from the other tables.
The menu is quite extensive for such a small cafe bistro of no more than 30 covers on the ground floor - meat, fish, tapas, pizza and pasta dishes and a wide range of wines. Warm fresh bread, olive oil and tomatoes arrived at our table, as did our order of a bottle of local white wine. A birthday gathering of giggling girls took up an adjacent table for drinks and tapas and the manager took his place at the cash desk. The rest of the place remained empty and it was only towards the end of our meal that locals began to fill other tables. A subsequent look on TripAdvisor confirmed that this is a locals eating place, as I was one of the first to write a review in English.
Our mains - tuna on sauteed potatoes for my wife and a 'cowboy' burger for myself looked amazing when they arrived. They tasted equally good. The tuna had been beautifully cooked, rolled in a polenta coating, it had been sealed nicely on the outside but was deliciously raw in the centre. The potatoes were soft and succulent and the accompanying tomato sauce was a lip-smacking delight. As for my burger - one of the best cooked pieces of meat I have had in a long time. A soft fresh bun with large slices of beef tomato, crispy lettuce, mature cheese and sharp salsa. The side of just a few chunky fries was a lovely addition. We both thoroughly enjoyed every mouthful of food and cleared plates found their way to the 'far from busy' kitchen.
I was tempted by a dessert of cheese cake, which arrived with a scoop of ice cream perched alongside. It tasted more of custard than cheese, but it was a very yummy sweetness to finish my excellent meal.
The bill of 60 euros, included a 10% tip, of my choice. We swore that we would definitely return to El Velazquez on our next visit to Madrid. This is a restaurant I would recommend to everyone visiting the Spanish capital, but don't arrive too early!
El Velazqez 17 is in the Salalamaca district of Madrid on Calle Velazquez 28001.