Thursday, November 02, 2006

Sassy Madrid

Plaza Mayor. Photo & Graphics by Equalizer

Madrid has been for years a forgotten city, atleast from the point of view of visitors. Other cities like Barcelona and Bilbao have captivated most of the seasoned jettsetters for anything from the famous Frank Gehry designed Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao and Gaudi's Sagrada Familia to everything from up and rising Basque cuisine and the ever developing Catalan cuisine of Ferran Adria. Madrid however, is trying to carve out its own niche smacked between two cultural polars of Bilbao and Barcelona, and is succeeding at every attemp.

Madrid has no geographical significance other than it used to be the permanent garrison at which King Phillip and Queen Isabella lauched their destructive campaign against the last remaining bastion of the Arabs in Granada in 1492. The year Christopher Columbus "discovered" America. The key event that ultimately made Spain an empire, savagely cutting their way through the American continents. The wealth that subsequently built the Madrid, could still be seen through the lavishly built edifices of golden spires and large metal gates.

The infamous terror struck Atocha train station. Photo & Graphics by Equalizer

Most people probably remember Madrid by the bloody train bombing of 7/7 which took more than a 100 innocent souls. That is as far as most people would know, but the city is trying to change all that. Heavy investments are made to restore the city to its original glamour and new areas are being developed as well.

Brushstroke by Roy Lichtenstein at Reina Sofia Art Center. Photo by Equalizer.

The first thing any world class city emphasizes is usually the artistic treasure it holds and therefore build huge museums to house such treasures. The Prado museum is where all the classic arts are housed and the largest collection of the famous Spanish artist Goya. The Reina Sophia Art Center however is the one that I greatly enjoyed. It has the largest collection of Picassos as well as the eccentric Salvador Dali. Other wonderful peices by Kandinsky and Miro were also on show. What is also fascinating about this museum is the new annex designed by world famous Jean Nouvelle that houses a library, an extension and a restaurant as well as a cover for the courtyard.

Jean Nouvelle designed Library @ Reina Sofia. Photo by Equalizer.
KIO Towers. Photo by Equalizer.

One of the most surprising aspect of this trip, was the fact that one of the local architectural icons, KIO towers, is named after Kuwait Investment Office, the independent investment arm of Kuwait Investment Authority. Like most of you would have suspected, it is a result of a large embezzelment scandal by the real estate company that developed the tower. What is sad is that such developments could not be seen anywhere on Kuwaits turf.

Madrid is infamous for its nightlife that goes all the way into the morning. It is normal to have employees go straight to work from nightclubs and late night bars. Tapas on the other hand are scattered all over the place. The most memorable tapas joint was Cisne Azul in the boho-chic quarter of Chueca, which specializes in seasonal wild mushrooms, with a list of more than 15 varieties. The preparation is simple and is the same, all you have to do is pick the type of mushroom. All mushrooms are quickly sauteed in olive oil with a bit of onions and topped with fried egg, its simply incredible. The best variety that we tried was chanterelle and black trumpet. Served with a side of fresh baguette to soak up all the juices left behind, and return the plates sparkling clean. However the best tapa dishs that you can easily find in every bar and joint are the whole goat cheese topped with onion marmalade and raspberry, the second is duck liver with pedro ximenez sauce, and the third is crispy fried asparagus with sea salt.
I also had the chance to try Ferran Adria's Fast Good concept which is like a cross between Pret a Manger and a burger joint with lots of healthy stuff. I really loved their burgers, a bit salty though, and the salad was nothing amazing, just fresh. The fries are supposed to be cooked in olive oil, I think I felt some. To be honest, I had expected better from a Ferran Adria concept. Maybe it was because my expectation were too high that I didn't enjoy it as much as I should, or my taste buds are better than Ferran Adria.


Anonymous Lady H. said...

Insightfull blog about Mardrid. In one of your blogs you were looking from a Morroccan Spice called Ras Hanoot are still looking because I found a source.

11/02/2006 06:49:00 PM  
Blogger Equalizer said...

Lady H.: Well I hope it covers all aspects about Madrid, but this is just a glimpse. As for Ras El Hanoot, I would be glad if you share it with us or you can e-mail it to me. I'm always on the lookout for exotic ingredients.

11/02/2006 07:04:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

yay! Its been one of my top cities to visit for years now. Now i want to go more! :D Lovely photography btw.

11/03/2006 03:02:00 AM  
Blogger Erzulie said...

Yeah I didn't read it but I love the pics. I never went to Madrid. I like my Spain with a little beach on the side.

11/03/2006 08:05:00 AM  
Blogger Equalizer said...

Ora Najwa: Yeah you should definately do it again! thanks :)

Erzulie: You should visit! Talk about stereotypical :p

11/08/2006 12:18:00 PM  
Blogger ray said...

Roy Lichtenstein <--- i LOVE his prints

11/09/2006 02:41:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually there are a lot of developments in Kuwait at the moment which are as good as KIO towers if not better.

Check this website out:

1/06/2007 09:49:00 PM  

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