This is a re-post of a piece from October 3, 2010, when we spent two amazing weeks in the Spanish capital:
The Circulo de Bellas Artes is a venerable institution on the Madrid arts scene and as its name suggests (Circle of Fine Arts) the place has a clubby atmosphere about it. We had seen a few photos of its elegant cafe and decided that a post gallery-viewing lunch was in order. The weather was spectacular and the streetside terrace gracious and inviting, but we could not pass up the opportunity to dine in the grand salon.
The crowd was largely of the Ladies (& Gentlemen) Who Lunch set, of a certain age and well established members of cafe society. No doubt there were individuals amongst them who took their lunch here, alone, every day.
There was a surprisingly strong representation though by the business lunch crowd, and of course there were those like us who were visitors to the institution. And finally, most endearingly, "real artists" (!), those grungy, wiry, well-pierced young folks in their torn up, paint stained black tee's & black jeans. Here in the Circle of Fine Arts the artists were welcomed with arms as wide open as those for the ladies with pearls and cashmere.
The menu decidedly favoured the principal patrons- Old Lady Food one might bluntly call it- but it was executed with classic competence.
One of the many charms of Madrid is the Menu del Dia, a lunchtime offering of first course, entree, beverage and dessert or coffee for a highly affordable price. We have taken to making this our main meal of the day and today was no different. For 12 euros we started on the one hand with an excellent gazpacho, served with finely diced condiments (peppers, cucumber, etc) and on the other, a vegetable paella which in itself could have constituted a main course.
We followed with sliced roast beef in a lovely port reduction sauce, served with classic vegetables and piped potatoes mixed to within an inch of their lives with cheese. See, we told you it was Old Lady Food!
Oh, and did we mention that the beverage that's included in the price is as much as you care to drink of the bottle of wine placed at your table? One could get very used to this! Two people, two substantial courses, a coffee and most of a bottle of vino tinto for about $35CDN. This three hour siesta thing is really growing on us!
More on the Circulo de Bellas Artes in a future post.