Madrid's Hot New 'Hood
A little over a decade ago, Chueca was one of the city's most run-down neighborhoods; now it's one of the most fashionable.
A former hangout for Ava Gardner and Grace Kelly, Museo Chicote has been in business since 1931 and famously stayed open through the Spanish Civil War. Today, it's one of Madrid's top cocktail bars, with wood paneling, green leather chairs, and walls lined with photos of its celebrity clientele. Gran Vía 12, 011-34/91-532-6737, museo-chicote.com, cocktails from $11.
The newest addition to the Room Mate Hotel brand is Oscar, which opened this fall. Interior designer Tomás Alía is behind the avant-garde look, with rooms that range from the relatively tame (except for the erotic wallpaper) to the futuristic (one resembles the inside of a lava lamp). Plaza Vázquez de Mella 12, 011-34/91-548-8548, room-matehotels.com, from $116.
Madrileñas flock to H.A.N.D.-Have a Nice Day for their French fashion fix. Owners Thierry Bonafé and Stephane Tremoulet travel to Paris every three weeks to stock up on feminine skirts and blouses with poufed sleeves and floral motifs by Stella Forest, Paul & Joe, and Les Petites, among other designers. Hortaleza 26, 011-34/91-521-5152.
By day, the small marble tables at Mama Inés Café are populated by locals who sip café con leche while talking intensely or reading the free newspapers and magazines. By night, the long and narrow room--with a maroon ceiling, avocado walls, and lots of exposed brick--attracts passersby from outside the neighborhood, who stop in for una copa de vino after a day of shopping. Hortaleza 22, 011-34/91-523-2333, mamaines.com.
A popular chain of tapas bars, Lateral is modern and upscale without the prices to match. The menu is stocked with traditional dishes such as jamón ibérico, a ham made from the acorn-fed pigs of Andalusia. The Chueca outpost is next door to the Mercado de Fuencarral, a mall with three levels of funky tees and vintage jewelry. Fuencarral 43, 011-34/91-531-6877, tapas from $4.
Fundación Patrimonio Comunal Olivarero sells more than 200 brands of Spanish olive oils. Olive oil is classified by olive variety--at last count, there were 262--and region; most are produced in Andalusia. The L'Estornell Quincentenary, made from arbequina olives grown on 500-year-old trees, is one of the store's most exquisite olive oils ($52 for one liter). Mejía Lequerica 1, 011-34/91-308-0505, pco.es.
Cacao Sampaka is a high-end chocolate shop with an assortment of both traditional flavors--hazelnut, milk chocolate, raspberry--and more off-the-wall innovations, such as black olive. There's also a café in the back. Orellana 4, 011-34/91-319-5840, cacaosampaka.com, box of 16 chocolates from $12.
In summer, you can smell the sweet aroma of La Abeja Egipcia from a block away. The shop specializes in products derived from bees, including more than 30 varieties of honey. Owner Eva González Cobos can explain the medicinal properties of her honeys, like one with rosemary for clearing up colds. Fernando VI 8, 011-34/91-319-6170, laabejaegipcia.com, honey from $6.
The whimsical ballerina flats and kitten heels on display at Mónica García incorporate bows, tufts of fur, and floral motifs. The tiny store is easy to miss--down a set of stairs on the northern side of Piamonte--but worth seeking out. Piamonte 19, 011-34/91-319-9069, monica-garcia.com, from $190.
Businessmen and fashionistas like Kikuyu for its light Mediterranean fare and minimalist interior, including black slate floors and blond wood chairs. The queso de cabra (goat cheese) is served with a pile of caramelized onions, atop peasant bread; it's a massive dish that is easily shared by a table of four. The inventive entrées include a paella made with black rice, shrimp, and baby squid. Bárbara de Braganza 4, 011-34/91-319-6611, kikuyu.es, entrées from $17.