We each had left the other couple some ideas of local restaurants that we thought the other might like. On Saturday afternoon, we followed Ivan and Pilar's suggestion and walked three blocks up the street to Alpujarra!
We are slowly learning that nothing happens here (especially in nice restaurants) between 4:00 pm and 8:00 pm, and have started adjusting our eating habits and times accordingly. So on a beautiful autumn day, we strolled up to Plaza de Peru for a nice early afternoon meal.
As we entered the restaurant, there was a bar so we sat at one of the tables in the bar, thinking this was probably what was open for lunch. As soon as we asked for menus, the waiter motioned for us to come with him and we were led to a beautiful dining area in the back of the restaurant.
The decor was Moorish and beautiful. The service was warm and gracious. Our server spoke no English and I struggled with my "un poquito" Espanol! But smiles and attitudes (good ones) will get you far in a foreign city.
Our meal started as many do here with a small tray of olives. Now - I will tell you - I love olives. Most of all the green olives, but I have never had olives like I have had in Madrid. I could make a meal of nothing but olives and crusty, rustic breads! Ellos son increibles!
We ordered from the menu paying attention to the foods we recognized. I am allergic to scallops so we always try to be super vigilant about ordering certain seafood dishes, taking care that we do not get something with scallops hidden away in it. Barrie recognized one fish as Hake and I knew the word for onions (cebolla) so I ordered Hake with onions! Barrie ordered Sea Bass in a type of stew with shellfish.
Two ladies were seated at a table across from us and we watched the waiter bring them mussels, then a plate of fish and what looked like calamari. The presentation was so beautiful:- the fish was filleted at the table and the other accompaniments added to their plates before serving. They were clearly enjoying their wine, conversation and food.
I asked the waiter what they were having and because our communication was limited, he brought the menu back to the table and pointed at what they were eating - it was Sea Bass, but prepared totally different from Barrie's and it looked wonderful!
The ladies saw me smiling at them and I gave them the thumbs up sign to show I liked their meal. One of them (the lady in the red scarf), cut off a piece of her fish, pushed it to the side of her plate, motioned for me that she had not "touched" it and called me over to their table! So with my plate in my hand, I went to their table and she generously shared a lovely piece of her Sea Bass with me. My heart was overflowing! What do you say to that type of kindness and warmth? Muchas gracias!
Next came dessert. The waiter told us what the "postres" were, but we were struggling with the words. He said something and walked away. The "lady in the red scarf" motioned me to get up and follow him! It turns out he had asked me to go with him - as he was leading me to a small buffet cabinet that held their desserts. He was so kind and walked through each one giving me the Spanish word for it. We chose "pina" - pineapple! Beautiful, golden yellow and sweet pina!
You might have noticed by now that a lot of "motioning" goes on while attempting to communicate! It almost always works!
As our meal slowly ended, I wanted so much to communicate with the lady who had been more than kind, but did not know how to tell her she had made a lovely memory for me. She created a moment that took my breath away. There was no "motion" for that message.
I went to their table before I left and shook hands, then tried to communicate what her act of kindness had meant to me. So, in my broken Spanish I said, "Tu corazon es en mi cabeza"! They both looked a little puzzled at one another and then smiled. My attempt to tell her that she had made a memory for me was actually telling her, "your heart is in my head"! I hope she knew what I meant!
This is the REAL Madrid. These lovely, kind, generous people that share their food and their passion for life. That want you to experience their favorite foods. That try to break down the language barrier from their side as we try from our side. This is the REAL Madrid!
Te amo, Madrid.
P.S. The wine was excellent, but that's Barrie's department! I just drink it!