Tuesday, January 4, 2011
Madrid: Lunch Menu at La Vegana
It is called La Vegana, but it is not a vegan, or even a vegetarian, restaurant. They have three lunch menu options. A word now, a brief digression, if you will, about the lunch menus of Spain. Most restaurants in Spain offer a lunch menu. The traditional Spanish lunch time in the middle of the day is long, and allows time to eat a full meal. The idea of an hour for lunch is shocking to the Spanish sensibility, and the thought of only a half-hour is, quite simply, beyond the pale. Most restaurants, therefore, cater to the lunch crowd not by offering some sort of "express meal," where they guarantee that your food is thrown in front of you within five minutes, but by offering a full, fixed price meal of several courses. These typically include an appetizer, like legumes, a salad or a soup, followed by a main course, followed by dessert or coffee, plus bread and wine (or beer or a soft drink). These vary in price from the low end of about 8 euros to fancier meals costing twice that. There are places, of course, where you can spend as much as you want.
The room is decorated in Restaurant Clutter style, in which every flat surface has been covered with some unusual item, and the walls are hung with interesting, if not obviously related, photos. There are old typewriters on ledges, sitting next to cigar humidors, with empty beer bottles from years past behind them. The photos on the wall show scenes of Madrid from 100 years ago, next to old advertisements. The tables and the chairs are wooden and sturdy. The staff are attentive and friendly.
I ordered the lentils and chorizo to start with, while Ana got the mixed vegetables. For the main course, I got the fried breaded cod, while Ana chose the steaks. A bottle of wine was brought to take table, along with a pitcher of water and a large basket of bread. The wine which is served with many cheap menus in Madrid is not very good. The traditional way of drinking such wine is to mix it with casera, a sweet, colorless soda. I'm not fond of this beverage. At La Vegana, the wine is fine to drink without such adulteration, which generally improves the spirit of the meal.
A broad, shallow bowl was set before me, and a tureen was brought out. The waitress spooned lentils in a brown broth into the bowl, and asked if I wanted more chorizo in it. When the bowl was full, she asked if that was good, and I said it was. Ana was brought a plate of mixed vegetables had been steamed or boiled. The lentils and the chorizo were great. They were like a hot stew, and it was perfect for the cold January weather. It was filled with the strong flavor of the chorizo, and had a rich smokey taste. Ana shared it with me, and she liked it, too. The mixed vegetables were a bit overcooked.
Then the main courses were served. I had a big piece of cod, fried with a light breading, accompanied by a pile of fried onions and peppers. Ana had two big, thin slices of steak with french fried potatoes. The fish was very good. It was not greasy at all, and it was not overcooked either. It was fresh and made for a good lunch. Ana's steaks were still pink inside, despite their thinness which was kind of an impressive achievement. They had a gravy on them, and they were very good.
A peculiarity of the menu in general (to me) is that it offers dessert or coffee, not both. I generally would like both, but one must make choices in this life. Ana and I both chose coffee, because the dessert option was canned pineapple, which did not sound very interesting. The coffee was very good, though. It was a great break from the work, and a good meal, and I'm glad we've been to this fine place.
The lunch for two was 19 euros.
La Vegana, c/ Moscatelar, 1-5, Madrid, http://www.laveganademadrid.es/