Qype: Madame Geisha in Brighton

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I can’t believe that more people haven’t reviewed this place, it’s got to be one of the most genuinely original and artistic spaces in all of Brighton. On walking in the door, the first thing to strike you is the rough-hewn wooden frame separating a section of the seating area which is adorned with the most beautiful, original artworks from Geisha Arts, the art gallery above the bar area.

The predominant red and black theme is incredibly striking and cohesive amidst the haphazard mis-match of sofas, tables and chairs. If you look behind the bar, which is overhung by enormous multicoloured, neon-lit crosses, you’ll see the most enormous selection of spirits I’ve ever seen in my life. I felt distinctly boring just opting for a Bacardi and Coke. Drinks prices are pretty high-end – about £6-7 for a double spirit & mixer – but when I have a drink in a place like this, I’m happy to think I’m at least in part paying for the privilege of the venue in the price.

Madame Geisha host club nights in the evening but have recently, since Geisha Arts opened up above, started opening in the day time for tea and coffee with spaces available to book for meetings. It’s clear to see that this would be an incredible space for creatives – now I just need some meetings to hold…

Check out my review of Madame Geisha – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

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Qype: la Torre del Oro in Madrid

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Right in the middle of the wonderful Plaza Mayor, la Torre del Oro is a very odd but brilliant little place. My one little gripe is that according to our guide book, they give you free tapas with your drink – but we didn’t get any and were too unsure of our Spanish to enquire about it. We were sitting outside on the terrace (and overpaid on our glass of chilled white wine for the privilege), so maybe you only get it if you’re actually sat inside or at the bar. Or maybe they’ve stopped doing it and Eyewitness Travel Guides need to get their facts up-to-date.

If you want to sit inside of “Madrid’s famous bullfighting bar”, you’d better be the kind of person that isn’t intimidated easily. And the kind of person that isn’t vegetarian as the first thing you see when you walk in is an enormous mounted bull’s head that takes up half the entrance – followed another one, then another one, then by yet more crazy bull-fighting paraphernalia.

If that sounds just too weird for you, we found la Torre del Oro’s terrace by contrast an open, sunny area to sit and observe the crazy activity taking place within the Plaza Mayor including buskers, people pretending to be statues and waiters from the restaurants beating pigeons away from their diners.

Check out my review of la Torre del Oro – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Qype: Taberna de Conspiradores in Madrid

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Taberna de Conspiradores

Situated in the heart of the fantastic Calle de Cava Baja, the Taberna de Conspiradores was undoubtedly our favourite discovery in Old Madrid. We stumbled across this place quite by accident on our first night in the city and it was the only bar we visited on more than one occasion during the holiday.

Rioja and nibbles in the back room

Serving ‘raciones’ (large tapas dishes for sharing), this place offers a fantastic and unique atmosphere in which to have a decent bottle of wine and a bite to eat. The first time we came here, we ordered a racion of chorizo in red wine, along a racion of patatas con ajo (potatoes with garlic). The portions were generous, tasty and at around €6-8, excellent value for money. The wine we had here was fantastic too – the Eqqus Rioja at €11 per bottle. When we went back here for our second bottle of Eqqus three days later, we were served a little bowl of bread and chorizo along with a portion of olives. This is another thing about Spain that I loved: whenever you order a drink you get a little snack-sized portion of food along with it.

Inside the Taberna

As I mentioned, the Taberna has the most unique atmosphere. Divided into three narrow rooms (the bar leads through to two more areas), we nestled ourselves in the tiny back room, which we had to ourselves on both visits. In here, the walls are covered from floor to ceiling in Spanish political graffiti which I thought was fantastic, even though I had absolutely no idea what any of it meant. Where the walls aren’t covered in writing, they’re full of unusual little and paintings. I could see a little place like this being right at home in Brighton’s Lanes – and it would be the coolest place there. A fantastic home-from-home for any Brightonian, you have simply got to head to this place for a drink if you ever visit Madrid. I can’t recommend it enough.

Check out my review of Taberna de Conspiradores – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype

Qype: Almendro 13 in Old Madrid

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Outside Almendro 13

This place came highly recommended by our ‘Top 10 Madrid’ tour guide as one of the best places to eat and drink in Old Madrid, so on our first evening in this city we knew nothing about, we decided to track it down and sample its Tapas and Vinos Finos.

We arrived here at about 8pm and sat ourselves in the basement as the upstairs was starting to get busy. We got there at just the right time, as within about 15 minutes the place absolutely packed without a table to spare. Dimly lit over two levels with a highly traditional, rustic feel of Old Madrid about the place, this is a great place to soak up the atmosphere of the city. Almendro 13 is also great value for money, despite the horrendousness of the Pound to Euro exchange rate at the moment.

Our delicious patatas fritas-based supper

One of the first things you realise about Spain is that when you order ‘Patatas Fritas’ on any menu, you can never be quite sure what you’re going to get: cubed fried potatoes, French fries, chips… or hot crisps. Bizarrely, the tapas menu we ordered from here revolved around the latter. Sounds a bit odd, looks a bit odd, but is fantastically tasty.

The second thing we were very quick to realise is that the bars and restaurants worth going to (i.e. the ones that aren’t overpriced and geared towards tourists) don’t tend to print their menus in English. So after an amusing exchange of sign language with an extremely friendly and helpful waitress, we established that ‘pimienta’ is pepper, ‘huevo’ means egg, ‘lomo’ means pork and ordered accordingly. We also made sure to sample the ‘jamon iberico’, which is quite pricey but worth it.

Almendro 13's very own white wine

For drinks, we ordered their very own white wine – Vina Almendro 13 – which we drank from tiny double measure shot glasses; not sure why, but it was certainly a novel way to enjoy this is delicious, crisp, fruity wine.

If you ever find yourself in Old Madrid of an evening, Almendro 13’s atmosphere, food and wine comes very highly recommended. Just don’t forget your Spanish to English menu decoder!

Check out my review of Almendro 13 – I am Alice_Reeves – on Qype