Tucked in the quiet San Blas Street midway between the Reina Sofia and Prado Museums in the Barrio de Las Letras, you will be blown away once you go through the
unassuming door and descend the steps into the Secretos
By Josephine Cooke
Photos: J. Cooke and Bodega de los Secretos
The Restaurante Bodega de los Secretos (Cellar of Secrets Restaurant) is a hidden gem, just as the name suggests. Located seven metres below the ground in Madrid’s oldest winery. Built arguably by Freemasons. Used by the clerics of the San Felipe Neri order, a society of secular clergy founded by Filippo Romolo Neri (1515 – 1595), a.k.a. the Third Apostle of Rome after Saints Peter and Paul.
Not only is one walking amongst history but also pop culture when one descends in on Secretos; many famous films have been filmed here.
History surrounds you. Since centuries ago the cellars of Bodega de los Secretos were used to ferment and age wine. Today, with the closing of the chimneys, only the aging process still takes place. The Freemasons have left their mark on the site, with 27 triangles encrusted into the walls of the cellar. The iconic symbol suggests their involvement in the construction of the tunnels in the bodega.
Hanging on the wall is a gun that was found during the restoration of the winery, an FN1920 dating back to 1936 when the Spanish Civil War broke out. A bayonet from the Napoleonic Wars was also found, unsurprising due to the proximity of the restaurant to the building that the Reina Sofia Museum now occupies but which served as the headquarters of Napoleon’s troops in Madrid during the Wars. (The origins of the Reina Sofia building could be traced back to the reign of Philip II, King of the Spaniards from 1556 to 1598, who founded the San Carlos General Hospital where the museum is now headquartered.)
A map on the wall showing the limits of Madrid in 1656 highlights the underground passageways below the Atocha area, conduit of the illegal trade where “resourceful” and tax-evading merchants from the outskirts of the city smuggled their goods into Madrid during the time of Philip IV (reign: 1621 – 1665).
The walls of Bodega de los Secretos simply ooze history!
However, it would do the restaurant an injustice to only focus on its long and intriguing history because the present is just as fabulous. The menu is thrilling and to taste the food, which I can only describe as traditional Mediterranean with a modern and exciting twist, is a gastronomic delight. The waiters and waitresses are knowledgeable, advising on wine and the best way to eat the mini steak tartar starter dish. The meal I had was simply exquisite from beginning to end and I would highly recommend the Duck Confit to anyone. Most definitely fine dining without the pomposity.
The food and the surroundings speak for themselves; there is no need for Bodega de los Secretos to show off with fancy tricks.
Tucked in the quiet San Blas Street midway between the Reina Sofia and Prado Museums in the Barrio de Las Letras, you will be blown away once you go through the unassuming door and descend the steps into the restaurant. The layout creates an intimate setting for one to enjoy their meal and soak up the history. This is not your average restaurant and this is understandably reflected in the price range of a meal. However for its quality and enjoyability of the meal is most definitely not overpriced.
A load of food & ambience!
Josephine has studied at the University of Birmingham in the UK as well as Concordia University in Montreal, Canada. right now she’s doing human Geography, specialising in social, cultural and political geographies, specifically focussing on European society and politics. When taking a break from hard-hitting politics, Josephine can be found exploring the food, drink and fashion scene wherever she goes.