Spanish version

La Bola Tavern - Cocido Madrileño

Four Generations

Since 1870 La Bola tavern belongs to the Verdasco family. They also own the restaurant La Cañada and the flamenco tablao El Café de Chinitas.

The tavern is located at La Bola street, 5, close to the Royal Palace.

Mara Verdasco explains that since her great-grandmother came to Madrid, four generations have been in charge of the restaurant. Always women but in the 3rd generation.

An enterprising woman

Candida Santos came with her husband and children from Asturias. Like many others they were trying to find a better future. And they did. From being a housewife Candida became the cook of a popular restaurant. They had the chance to get a small tavern at La Bola street. In those days there were not many restaurants and Mara´s great-grandmother thought it would be a good idea to cook for all those Madrilians that swarmed around this area.

First she thought up what dish could attract more people: the Madrilian cocido. Afterwards she knew how to atract different clients: she prepared cocidos with more or less ingredients so that their price was also different. She had three main types of clients. At midday they served a cocido for 1,15 pesetas for workmen and employees; one hour later students used to pay 1,25 pesetas for a cocido that included hen and the most distinguished guests came after 14:00, most of them polititians and journalists. Their cocido included meat and

It is said that quite frequently one could see a royal carriage in front of La Bola. They came to pick up the cocido for Princess Isabel, la Chata and her brother King Alfonso XII.

In this area of Madrid there used to live many people from Asturias who came to stay at their countrywoman´s. She was well known for her kindness, generosity and goodness.

Since the day La Bola opened it has never been closed, not even during the Civil War.

The Tavern Today

La Bola takes us back in time just after entering the place. The first diningroom was the original one and it still presents the original decoration. It is quite small with about ten tables and a beautiful wooden bar. The wooden frieze was made by the artists who painted the carriages of the Royal Household.

In fact, on one of the walls we can see a shield that belonged to one of these carriages.

The lamp hanging from the ceiling was originally in the Casón del Buen Retiro. Cela´s table

We can imagine how people were sitting at the tables, enjoying their cocido, while the next turn stood waiting at the bar, lookind fervourishly at the casserole with the delicious stew.

Currently there are many photographies on the walls. We can see famous people that visit La Bola. Among its most loyal clients is the family of the composer Cristóbal Halfter. The third generation is already coming to the tavern.

There is also a special table where Camilo José Cela used to sit.

La Bola now has two more big rooms so that about 120 people can have lunch at the same time.

Among its clients there are all kinds of people: tourists, Madrilians, families, friends or businessmen. It is quite clear that everybody likes the cocido. That is why it is advisable to reserve in advance, sometimes even two or three weeks.

La Bola also offers other typical Castillian dishes. The most popular ones are roasted lamb, callos a la madrileña (Madrid typical sticky casserole of veal tripe and cheeks) and lamb brains. Different salads, soups and, of course, meat and fish are also part of its menu. Another dish with chickpeas is a tasty salad with vinaigrette and a dish called "Ropa vieja" - Old clothes, made with the ingredients of the cocido.

The Cocido Madrileño

There are many restaurants offering this dish, but La Bola has an important difference. They have always prepared the cocido in individual clay stewpots on a holm oak charcoal grill. This preparation is very laborious and there is a person who is the whole time adding stock to the stewpots as it evaporates quickly. There is no other place where the cocido is prepared in this way, as has been done for over hundred years.

First you will have the cocido soup. On a plate they serve you noodles. They empty the soup contained in the stewpot over these noodles.

Afterwards, the rest of the stewpot is emptied on your plate adding, if you wish, cabbage fried lightly with garlic. The cocido goes with a tomato cumin sauce, chili and spring onion.
It is a wonderful experience.

The ingredients are top quality and, as Mara explains, there is nothing like the water in Madrid to prepare this dish. In fact, when they take part in any gastronomical event outside of Madrid, they always take some water with them to prepare their cocido. The chickpeas come from Fuentesauco, the best in Spain.

Every day they cook about 30kg of chickpeas.

There are two lunch-shifts, from 13:00 to 16:00. In the evening the restaurant is open from 20:30 to 23:00. People have cocido at lunchtime, but also for dinner. And although during the summer less people eat it, some say it is as good for the heat as for the cold.

At La Bola they have always tried to maintain reasonable prices for all kinds of clients.
What is quite clear is that the cocido at La Bola is a must when coming to Madrid.

Recipe of La Bola

For four people:

Soak 800gr of chickpeas the night before.

Put in a clay stewpot:

- 4 ham bones

- 480gr shin

- 160gr bacon

- 160gr chorizo (typical Spanish saussage)

- 400gr hen

Add chickpeas and simmer 4 hours on holm oak charcoal grill

Add stock as it evaporates

After 3 hours add 160gr potatoes

Cook cabbage and fry it lightly in olive oil and garlic.

Cook noodles in water with chorizo.

Serve the noodles with the cocido soup. Afterwards serve the rest of ingredients with the cabbage. Serve tomato with cumin sauce, chili and spring onions.

@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
Sponsored by Keydomo S.L.