Let's take a stroll down Calle Jorge Juan and around the general vicinity in search of interesting characters, businesses, restaurants and terraces oozing personality and charm. This is a vibrant thoroughfare in the ever-booming Salamanca district.
"It's a secluded street, with its own special appeal. Its shop windows are a real magnet". Chef Alberto Chicote confesses to loving Calle Jorge Juan and the whole area around it. We are in the heart of the Salamanca district, with its stately façades and buzzing trade and restaurants that set up their terraces as soon as the weather warms up, turning them into popular meeting spots for all those who want to sit back, relax and soak up the pleasant atmosphere.
Sailor, mathematician, astronomer and geographer: a true 18th-century erudite. This was Jorge Juan, who lends his name to this street which, after its recent remodelling, wants to regain its standing. "It's a paradise in the centre of Madrid", says chef Chicote, as he prepares his fantastic semi-dried tomatoes which are already a legend in Pandelujo, a modern restaurant located in a converted bread factory, with a façade that hasn't changed since 1873.
What passers-by see these days through its windows are not sweets or tempting things to eat, but mannequins attired in the latest fashion, as the restaurant has given its enormous front window space over to Gallery, one of the most long-established fashion stores in the area, which has its doors a few metres away. "This year we're celebrating our 20th anniversary," Álvaro Muñoz, one of the owners, tells us. "But we still have the same philosophy we've always had, that of dressing men with an ultra modern look, and showcasing the work of cutting-edge designers to the general public. We are always on the look out for something new."
To celebrate its birthday, the store has opened a women's clothing section, which sits alongside jewellery, perfume, state-of-the-art motorcycle helmets, latest-generation mobiles and much more. Everybody from television presenters wanting to set a trend to bullfighters and international stars such as REM's lead singer Michael Stipe passes through here. "So do the many people who just come here to lose themselves on this street. Calle Jorge Juan represents the best of Madrid, and is a great place for a stroll."
The area is home to Alicante designer Hannibal Laguna and other prestigious brands such as Loewe - on the corner with Calle Serrano -, Barbour and El Ganso. It also accommodates other unique stores, such as If, selling exclusive shoes, Aspesi, with its first shop outside Italy, and Delitto e Castigo, where you can buy fashion labels like Alberta Ferretti, Dolce & Gabbana, Roberto Cavalli and Yves Saint Laurent.
Another must-visit is the store run by Madrid jeweller Joaquín Berao, who has sought to recover "that spirit that jewellers' had on Gran Vía in the 50s", and which he feels fits in perfectly in this neighbourhood. "Many tourists come here; people like to walk through these streets. Now that Calle Jorge Juan and the area around it are experiencing a boom, there are many things to see and do. We are here to offer something interesting, and tasteful to those looking for something different."
And that ‘something different' may well be Berao's signature jewellery. Or the appealing menus offered by trendy places like the modern-style bar Vino Tinto, also ideal for after-work drinks, and restaurants such as El Paraguas, serving up Asturian cuisine, Alkalde, offering traditional Basque dishes, and Sula, a gastro bar where the star attraction is their Joselito Iberian ham. Representing the art world is a wide range of galleries such as Fernando Pradilla, specialising in Latin American art, and Jorge Alcolea, displaying contemporary works.
To round off our tour, there's one last surprise - or rather, two. Anybody who wanders around this area will come across the charming pedestrianised side streets Jorje Juan and Puigcerdá, which have a certain English feel to them. Stores like Rastaa, restaurants such as Mesón Cinco Jotas, and different businesses like the hairdresser's Ángela Navarro add a touch of glamour to this cosmopolitan area of the Salamanca district.