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Alfonso XII, 6, Madrid, Spain 28014
+34 91 522 07 31
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It's More Than a Meal; It's an Experience
January 6, 2009
Best of IgoUgo
Horcher is easily one of the finest restaurants on the European continent. Its history and style are well-known to experienced travelers.I made our reservations by phone about a month before our visit; I'm unsure if the man on the other end of the ...
Horcher is easily one of the finest restaurants on the European continent. Its history and style are well-known to experienced travelers.
I made our reservations by phone about a month before our visit; I'm unsure if the man on the other end of the phone really didn't speak English or was just enjoying my hilarious broken Spanglish, but we managed. At least he had a sense of humor : )
When we arrived, we were about 10 minutes early for our 8:00 p.m. reservation. We didn't realize that the restaurant doesn't even open until 8:00 and did a little door rattling because we thought the door was actually broken instead of locked. A man came to the door and politely told us they were indeed locked on purpose : ) We were directed to wait on a bench on the sidewalk and when the doors were opened, the man came outside and congenially escorted us inside.
Once inside, our coats and umbrellas were collected at the entryway and we were immediately shown to our table in the far corner, with a lovely mullioned window at our elbow.
My next delight was the overstuffed cushion brought for me to rest my little tootsies on. My companion, who had visited some 40 years ago, had told me about this quaint custom. Otherwise, I'd have been a bit put off by the man who wordlessly knelt at my side, removed my shoes, and slid the cushion under my feet. Instead, I was made to feel like a queen and my gender-handicapped companion just had to suffer through the meal with his footwear intact! : )
The restaurant isn't very large; there is a main room and a smaller room off to one side for large parties. There are about a dozen tables in the main dining room, which can seat one to four persons each, and one larger table that can seat 8-10 people. While we were the first guests to arrive, by 9:00 p.m., the place was full. There was a group of about 15 business persons at the long table in the private room and one large family group at the big table in the main room, with couples or smaller groups at all the other tables. There is a profusion of staff constantly circulating. I don't think I ever looked up without seeing at least two tables being attended by staff.
The decorations are old world, dark and heavy, but well-suited to the old-fashioned dining experience. Dark wood, heavy chairs, and lots of brocade abound. The gilt mirrors and abundant soft lighting fixtures keep things from getting oppressive or claustrophobic.
The actual meal was, of course, perfect. I had roast pigeon, my companion had lamb, and we shared two bottles of Spanish red wine (I still buy that wine every time I see it in a duty-free shop). The side dishes of various vegetables were arranged well, properly cooked (not soggy masses or overly seasoned), and portioned appropriately. Desert (a cream and fruit torte) was delightful, light and tasty instead of heavy and dull.
The service was top notch. Without actually hovering, there was always someone there to see to our every request, clear plates without being obtrusive, and keep wine and water glasses full.
The entire meal took a little over two hours, which actually surprised me when I realized it. It seemed to go much quicker.
I believe we were the only Americans in the restaurant; we're told it's a favorite of the well-heeled locals and that was definitely true the night we visited.
My companion's Spanish is quite good, but mine is rough; all the staff (with the exception of a very elderly somalier) spoke flawless English.
My request for "la dola rosa" when it came time to ask for the check brought gales of laughter from our otherwise dignified and austere wait staff as well as the two adjacent tables.
The most fascinating part of this visit came at the end when we actually tried to pay the bill. After a few moments of confusion, our waiter returned to our table and asked if we had any other credit cards. He said it wasn't a problem with our card per se, but their machine was acting up. He thought perhaps a different card would work. We went through every card we had, but none would work. He then asked if we had enough euros to pay in cash. We did not. After more hushed discussion among the staff, we were asked if we had any way to obtain the cash. I said if there was an ATM nearby, I could get the cash. The doorman then drove me in his personal car (my first -- and so far only -- ride in a Smart Car) to a nearby ATM. However, I had forgotten that I'd already withdrawn my limit for the day and I was unable to obtain any more cash. Returning to the restaurant, I explained that I had been unable to get any additional cash. Another discussion ensued, and then the manager came and explained that they would come by our hotel the next morning to collect the cash. We were asked to give a specific time when the money would be ready. We did this, gave our name and the name of our hotel and left the restaurant. The next morning, I ran across the street from our hotel and got the cash, put it in an envelope, and left it at the front desk before we went out for the day. When we came back that evening, the envelope had been collected. Since our total bill was over 300 euro, we were quite surprised that the restaurant had allowed us to leave without at least giving them some sort of security. While I'm sure they had at least some of our credit card information, I'm still surprised (and pleased) that they didn't pursue immediate payment more aggressively.
While I was gone, my companion had been served two free drinks and a small fruit/nut plate free of charge. There was a similar drink/nibbles plate waiting for me when I got back. Since the payment issue was something outside our control, this seemed a very courteous way to compensate us for the extra hassle.
All-in-all, even despite the bizarre arrangement to pay for our meal, a fantastic place for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience. Men, if you want to impress the lady in your life, take her to Horcher!