Sunday November 18, 2012
Known as the “city of the three cultures”, because Christians, Arabs, and Jews lived together here for centuries, Toledo was once the capital of Spain. It’s a picturesque city with lots of charm, central sites and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1986.
As I’d imagine with most of Europe, Spaniards love their manual transmission, so it can be difficult to find an automatic at non-airport locations. We rented from Hertz near our hotel and, as our luck would have it, they had no automatics. It’s been over 10 years since Jen’s driven stick and I was still a virgin, so she had the pleasure of befriending a cherry red Mini Cooper. We could have taken the train to Toledo, but we wanted to stop by Illescas for a late lunch at El Bohio.
(Driving in Toledo, Spain)
Toledo is known for its game meat, Manchego and mazapan. We saved the game for lunch and opted to try mazapan for our morning snack. There are several options and we went with the famous Pasteleria Santo Tome, which was founded in 1856 and it tasted like it, not in a good way. Jen has long been a fan of mazapan, but I have never really acquired a taste for it. After this snack, we both agreed it was underwhelming. I would still recommend trying a few pieces as it is the city specialty.
Pastelería Santo Tomé
Calle Santo Tome, 3
45002, Toledo, Sapin
After our snack, it was off to sightseeing and taking in what Toledo had to offer. The cathedrals in Spain are some of the most spectacular we have seen and Toledo’s was no exception. Aside from that, the sights in the interior part of the city could best be described as B attractions. Overall, I would still recommend Toledo for a day trip from Madrid. The city does have a charm and the architecture warrants a visit.
Avenida de Castilla la Mancha, 85
45200 Illescas, Spain
Located midway between Toledo and Madrid, El Bohio makes for an ideal stop for lunch after enjoying Toledo. It was awarded a Michelin star and is probably the most well regarded restaurant in the vicinity. The restaurant is owned by two brothers. Diego is in charge of the front of the house and his brother Pepe Rodriguez Ray is the chef. I opted for the degustation and Jen went with the shorter Ontono menu. The caramel flan was the highlight of the meal and a few of the meat dishes were very well prepared. If you’re in the area, this is a great option, but I wouldn’t pass on Madrid’s two star Michelin restaurants to come here. They did a great job translating the menu for us, who wouldn’t love starting out a meal with old clothes and finish with macaroni.
At this point we were dead beat. The flight and an early day in Toledo had taken its toll. There were several times during lunch where I just dozed off. I felt at some point the maître d’ was going to escort me outside. I made it through the meal and we headed back to Madrid for a much needed nap. We woke up late in the evening, but luckily it was before midnight and we were able to fit in a few more calories. We hosed each other down and grabbed a quick cab to Le Cabrera.
Le Cabrera Gastrobar
Calle Barbara de Braganza 2
Le Cabrera was mentioned in a few articles regarding the best places to eat in Madrid now. It is Michelin starred chef Sergi Arola’s new bar and is run by French head chef Benjamin Bensoussan. It was fairly quiet for a Saturday night, there were only two other people dining upstairs and a handful of people drinking in the downstairs bar. But, chef Bensoussan was welcoming once we took our seats. Rather than order, he offered to send out his best dishes. So, we just sat back, ordered a couple drinks and conversed with him while he prepared our meal. There was a lot of small talk that lead into the politics of Spain. He talked about the corruption in the nation and mentioned that government officials get paid on deals that they manage for their jurisdictions. But, they have to find a way to account for their earnings. Apparently the mayor of Valencia has won the lottery three times. It’s conversations like these that make me appreciate our government. I’ll take Goldman Sachs and predatory mortgage lending any day.
On to the food, this place really surprised us. For some reason, perhaps it was the lack of pictures, we didn’t expect that much. The meal started out with a bang, the sardinas limadas were near perfect. We also enjoyed the patatas bravas and the eggplant with cheese. If he could get the meat a bit more tender on the bombon de carne, he would have another near perfect dish as the truffle mouse on top was heavenly. The drinks were better than any bar in LA and would embarrass the speak-easy trend that is sweeping the U.S.