Madrid, Spain’s capital, is a melting pot of Iberian culture and cuisine… So what should you eat and drink while you’re there?
To answer this vital question, we talk with Lauren Aloise from Madrid Food Tours… If anyone knows, she does!
What to eat
Madrid is a planned capital in the centre of the country and people have migrated there from every region of Spain. It’s not just a melting pot of Iberian culture, it’s a tasting platter of its cuisine. But just because everything’s available, doesn’t mean everything’s great.
Take tapas for example: they seem like the quintessential Spanish dish. But this Andalusian speciality is best tried there. The Basque immigrants have been much more successful at introducing pinxtos — a similar idea, but always served on a slice of bread. Many ‘tapas’ you find on central Madrid menus deserve those accusatory quotation marks: they’re just smaller portions of main dishes rather than real tapas, so head to a pinxtos bar instead.
Madrid’s many taverns make up for the lack of tapas bars: you can try the organ meats of old Madrid, peppers from Galicia in the north, and the ever-present tortilla española. Word on the street is that Madrid gets some of the freshest seafood in Spain too, so you can enjoy the fried fish and calamari without worries.
Don’t eat at restaurants near the Plaza Major. There might be a few good ones in there, but the majority are overpriced and serve low-quality food. Lauren’s only exception to that rule is to try a couple of the smaller bars, and their bocadillo de calamaris – the calamari baguette is a Madrid favourite.
Do eat near the La Latina metro stop. Your first stop will be one of the bars or restaurants along the street Cava Baja. This area has lots of tourists, but the price/quality ratio is not too bad. After your first stop or two, explore the side streets for cheaper prices with food quality as good or better than the main drag.
Do visit the markets, as well! The local neighbourhood markets, the fish markets, the more boutique artisan markets… There are lots to choose from.
Make sure you try…
Spain’s wine scene is vibrant, but many people don’t get past Rioja. Lauren recommends the lighter Ribera del Duero for red drinkers; and either an albariño or godello for white drinkers… If you can find the latter.
About Lauren and Madrid Food Tours
Lauren first visited Spain to study abroad in Grenada, and was quite underwhelmed by the food. When she moved back to Spain — Seville this time — a few friends sat her down and ordered a selection of tapas that changed her life. Now she lives in Madrid, writing about its food and running the fast-growing business Madrid Food Tours — Look her up when you next visit.
All photos from Madridfoodtour.com unless otherwise watermarked.