A Foodie's Guide to Madrid

As you saw last month, I saw some fantastic sights in Spain.  But when I wasn’t enjoying daytrips from Madrid, I was eating.  Lots. 🙂  The Spanish capital is one of Europe’s gastronomic stops and in Spain it is second only to Basque Country food.   Here’s some of the great food-inspired experiences I had while in Madrid.

Churros y Chocolat for Breakfast

churros y chocolate

Although Spain is known for flavourful, delicious, tapas-style food, the breakfast scene is a bit different.  Most locals eat breakfast on the run, saving their time/energy for long afternoon lunches and very late, very long dinners.  However, if you do stop for breakfast, beyond the cafe con leche the en vogue treat of choice is a the calorific indulgence of churros and chocolate.  The churros are essentially fried dough, sometimes with cinnamon and sugar.  You dip them in hot chocolate sauce which maximises the calorific effect (and is most certainly a rich wake up call!).    This is not a snack to be had every day, but when in Madrid…. 🙂

Best places to have churros y chocolat are Chocolateria de San Gines (Pasadizo De San Gines 5, near Metro Sol) – one of the most famous chocolaterias in Madrid, or Cafe Commercial (Glorieta de Bilbao 7, near Metro Bilbao), a classic but touristy old world cafe.

Picnic Lunch in Parque del Retiro

parque del retiro

Parque del Retiro was my favourite part of Madrid; skip the lame Botanical Gardens and head here.  It’s free and it’s expansive – hence while you’ll find locals running, walking, and biking here from early afternoon until well after dark.  There’s tons of green space to sit down and relax, so after you’ve spent time exploring the grounds and the various great architecture, find a comfortable spot and have a picnic.  Cafes with sandwiches can be found dotted throughout but why not stop into Corte Engles or another supermarket and grab wine, cheese, and other snacks to get you through the afternoon?  Don’t forget the corkscrew!

Afternoon Shopping at Mercado de San Miguel

mercado de San Miguel

Located just between my hotel and the Plaza Mayor, Mercado de San Miguel was one of those moments where you stroll off the beaten path and find heaven.  (A travel more moment if I do say so myself.)  This place is AMAZING.  The building is an old wrought iron building opened in 1915.  I understand that it has underwent recent refurbishments, and the result is an old world building with a distinctively modern flavour.  From fruit stalls to glorious pastries, chocolates, and a wine bar, I think a real foodie could just camp out here for an entire week.    (I tried but they close.)  Be sure to pop in and check it out, as it really is a hidden gem I think.  Hungry architecture buffs – this one is for you.

Evening Drinks at La Venenecia

sherry and olives

The best way to start off a proper evening in Madrid is to head to a sherry bar.  Our stop was La Venencia (Calle Echagaray), a old world sherry bar.  And I mean old – it’s dusty and quirky.  The bar opened in the 1920s and looks like it hasn’t changed much. It feels like stepping into Andalucia 50 years ago with the dusty sherry bottles on the wall and posters from the spring fair in Jerez from the 50s-60s. Sherry is the only drink served and your bill is written in chalk on the bar just like in the old Andalusian bars whcih you can still find in Seville and Jerez.  Don’t forget to order some snacks, such as the queso manchego, cecina (cured beef), or Campo Real olives.

Tapas in La Latina

Tapas in Madrid
After sunset, the only place in town to see and be seen enjoying the best tapas in Madrid is La Latina.  We started off the La Latina binge at Casa Lucas (Cava Baja 30), a bar which has the “Madrid” tapa: scrambled egg with blood sausage (morcilla), rasins, pine nuts over confit tomato on toast. Probably one of the tastiest tapas in world history! We followed this up with some wonderful croquetas, tasted like homemade.  I was suprised when I saw these; I am of course very familiar with the Dutch croquette (who stole theirs from the French, I do believe) but having these croquetas was a totally mind-blowing experience.  They look the same but couldn’t be more different.  Side point:  the croquetas in the Basque Country are also amazing.
The foodies journey of Madrid is only complete by stopping at Juana La Loca (Plaza Puerta De Moros 4). Here I had what I must say was one of the most incredible food sensations of a lifetime:  pitxo de tortilla española with caramelized onions.  The tortilla is a Spanish staple, and you’ll find it in various incarnations across the country, but these with the onions baked inside is simply divine.  Divide.

Late Night Wine

Plaza Santa Ana

Madrid is a late-night party town, but likely you knew that already.  You’ll have no shortage of places to go and hang out – in fact one could stay in La Latina and continue to live it up.  I’d like to suggest heading over to Plaza Santa Ana to enjoy the fresh evening air and a few classes of wine (and suspect our resident expert Alex Fayle would suggest a glass of Rioja wine).  Some of the area bars have live music while others are a bit quieter, so walk around and see what strikes you fancy.

And that, my friends, is a belly-filling tour of Madrid.  Salud!

Photos by Trubble, Antonio Tajuelo, jlastras, scaredy_kat, anaulin, charlie philips

Special thanks to Janelle Norman, a Madrid local who I met during my trip and who provided endless foodie inspiration.  Travel more, my friend, travel more.  Salud!

A Foodie's Guide to Madrid

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