Gastronomy in Madrid

6 April 2017 0 Comments Category: James Logue, Living in Spain

Ask any Madrileño living away from home what they miss most about their city and with a nostalgic reply they’ll say the weather and without doubt the food. Some might long for their mum’s Spanish tortilla (which is always the best they’ve ever tried), and others the custom of having after-work cañas on a terrace with a steady flow of free tapas; lucky for us we have it right on our doorstep. With fresh produce from all parts of Spain coming into the capital every day, the Madrilenian cuisine is rich and varied. From rustic tabernas that take you back in time serving traditional raciones, to cosmopolitan food markets offering national and foreign dishes alike.

“I’m going to Madrid for the weekend next month. I can’t wait for some paella,” says a guiri most likely every day (admittedly myself included back in the day), but what that guiri doesn’t know is that paella is not the capital’s forte, but rather a regional dish from the east of Spain. In saying that, a lot of the typical dishes in the capital stem from other regions throughout the country and serve as historical reminders of its humble times.

You might come across callos a la madrileña (tripe normally accompanied with chorizo and black pudding) or oreja a la plancha (literally ‘grilled ear’), which I assume for many are an acquired taste. Fret not, though, they’re not all peculiar concoctions; despite welcoming other cultures and cuisines, naturally as a capital does, Madrid has kept a firm grip of its distinguishing traditional dishes.

So, there’s cocido madrileño (a chickpea-based stew), which is possibly one of the most complete dishes in the world, with poultry, various meats, legumes, vegetables, pasta. Yep, sounds bonkers, right?!…Except it’s so tasty and perfect for cold afternoons/evenings. I would even go as far to say that my mother-in-law’s take on the classic is one of the best I’ve ever tried. Neck and neck for the top place for cocido in Madrid, in my opinion, would have to be La Bola or Malacatín. Word of advice: starve yourself before going or you’ll struggle.

Then strangely enough there’s the bocata de calamares (squid sandwich), I say strangely since Madrid is landlocked and a few hours away from the sea. In Plaza Mayor you’ll be spoiled for choice, although a personal favourite is Cervecería Plaza Mayor – reasonably priced, authentic and delicious!!

If you’ve got more of a sweet tooth, then Madrid’s got it covered too. A typical breakfast in Madrid would consist of coffee with churros or porras (a long & fried doughnut-style snack sometimes accompanied with thick, hot chocolate). Just a wee walk from Sol, down a side street, the undisputed champion of churros –Chocolatería San Ginés– will not disappoint in this department. Churros aren’t only popular for breakfast, though, you can grab a few in the same spot in the early hours of the morning following a night on the tiles and one too many beers.

Now that we’re on the topic of tipples, it seems fitting to mention wine’s sweeter sister, vermouth. Although not originally from the capital, it has become typical to meet up with friends at the weekend at midday and have a few glasses with a pincho of tortilla. I took my parents to Taberna Ángel Sierra in Chueca to have a few glasses and they instantly fell in love with the authenticity of the place.

Having decided to settle down in Madrid I’m obviously a fan of the culture and cuisine, but this doesn’t mean that I’m restricted to all things Spanish. I personally love trying food from all over the world, so instead of ranting and raving about each and every place, here are my top picks:

  • Sala de Despiece – a concept restaurant with interior inspired by a meat processing plant. Try the Madrilenian beef steak to INCREDIBLE flavours.
  • Mercado San Miguel – declared as “Heritage of Cultural Interest”, this market is a must-see (especially at night). With traditional Madrilenian delicacies and dishes from the rest of Spain, you’ll be spoiled for choice.
  • Yatai Market – A new addition to the numerous food markets in the capital, but with Asian dishes including ramen and various types of curry.
  • La Mazmorra – My boyfriend took me here when we first moved to Madrid and I fell in love with it. The name means ‘dungeon’ in Spanish so get ready for a step back into the Middle Ages, only with tasty Spanish tapas at a reasonable price.
  • Platea – A restored cinema turned modern food market with a wide range of impeccably made dishes. If you have family coming to visit, this gem won’t disappoint.

So, regardless of your level of adventure when it comes to sampling food, whether you opt for traditional dishes over innovative cuisine, or sweet over savoury, the diverse gastronomy of Madrid will always deliver.



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