When I was in Madrid in October, my sister took me to Lavinia. I loved it. So after a fabulous morning at the Prado enjoying all the European Masters, we strolled along the Calle Alfonso XII to the chic shopping area of Salamanca and to Calle Jose Ortega Y Gasset where Lavinia lies. For those of you who live in Vancouver, imagine walking into the Cambie Street Liquor Store (wine section only) and having an elegant restaurant upstairs. As you arrive, they bring you a complimentary glass of Cava which you can sip while nibbling on their delicious almonds, olives and small cured saucisson type sausages.
Put yourself in the hands of the Sommelier at Lavinia. I don't know how he knows...but he just does. There is no wine list. You just tell him roughly what you want and he brings something nice for you. Ordinarily I'd be terrified in this situation that I'd be brought the most expensive wine on the list but no worries here. He brought a delicious Albarinho at a modest price of 14.40 euros. Delicious. And a lovely man to boot. When we told him we lived in Canada he told us he had been in Montreal for the World Sommelier Championship in 2000, representing Spain no less. So of course we felt in good hands.
We called this our 'health' meal, mostly fish, so we shared a few things:
The food and atmosphere is delicious and the clientele are well heeled tourists and some Spanish power-broker types. One of the men at the next table, ordered steak tartare to start followed by rare fillet of beef as red as the shirt he was wearing...By the look of him, I'm pretty sure he ran with the bulls in Pamplona this morning and high tailed it to Lavinia at 170km/hr in his Porsche.
Beside us a lovely couple ordered what appeared to be an enormous dessert of mille feuille pastry but we were assured they had had it before and it was mostly air.
Downstairs, you can browse the wine selection which is extensive, focussing mostly on Spanish wines of course. They even have a sort of tasting kiosk where members can use a pre-paid tasting card in demoninations of 10, 20 or 50 euros that will automatically dispense sips of even such special things as Vega Sicilia.
If you are in Madrid and want something different than the usual Spanish fare and tourist experience, this is a great stop. The neighbourhood is a lovely shopping area and after you have a few glasses, you never know, you just might feel a bit more comfortable dropping some cash on that new pair of shoes. :)