The AVE from Malaga to Madrid was such a luxury compared to the stress and unpredictabiltiy of air travel. The train left on time, we had no problem with our luggage and we were served complimentary drinks, snacks and newspapers in Preferente class. We arrived exactly as scheduled at Atocha station in downtown Madrid and took a very short taxi ride to the Ritz hotel where we would be staying for three nights. Check-in at the hotel was a breeze and we were upgraded to a junior suite on the smoke-free fourth floor which overlookeed the Prado museum and the convent of San Jeronimo.
After unpacking, we crossed the street to the Westin Palace hotel where we had dinner at Asia Gallery. The food was disappointing – spring rolls that had pieces of roast pork and cabbage – a very strange combination, the kung pao chicken was made with bland chicken breast and served with soggy peanuts and a cornstarch-thickened sauce, shrimps in black bean sauce had a handful of shrimps and an abundance of red peppers. The only decent dish was the crispy shredded beef and even that had a hint of curry flavour instead of the usual sweet-spicy Szechuan sauce. It was a mistake to eat there but we were hungry, it was nearby and we were craving for some Chinese food. Asia Gallery is definitely going on my restaurant black list. We went to bed early after that.
The next morning we had a wonderful breakfast at the Goya restaurant with the tables laid with silver, starched linen and crystal. We had croissants, café con leche, poached eggs on brown toast with bacon and fresh orange juice to start the day.
As we were Madrid with our six-year old, our plans were made to accomodate him so we went on a tour of the Santiago Bernabeu football stadium which is the home of Real Madrid. It was a well-organized and comprehensive tour. We saw the bleachers and the special boxes, the trophy room and the football pitch, the bench where the players sat during games and even the changing rooms which had power showers and a jacuzzi. After that, we headed off for some lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. The burgers were good and the children’s menu was a steal at €9.45 including a drink and a scoop of ice cream. We all had a nap after lunch then got ready at around seven. I went downstairs to the intimate wood-panelled Velazquez Bar to have a drink with my good friend, Therese, then the boys joined us (my husband and son) shortly after. We decided to walk to the Gran Via where we had a reservation at Madrid’s oldest Japanese restaurant – Robata. What a change from our dinner the previous evening – the food was authentic – the sushi and sashimi were fresh, the yakitori was very good, the prawns and vegetables tempura were crispy and light and the agedashi tofu was delicious. Robata has been on the same location off Gran Via on Calle Reina since 1992 and is a favorite with both locals and the Japanes community of Madrid. We walked off our yummy dinner and returned to the hotel close to midnight.