Spain‘s capital city has become a more popular city break destination over the last few years due to the increased number of flights from the UK. Previously many British visitors to Spain would head to the coastal resorts which provided an initial insight into Spain and it’s culture. Having had a taste of the Costas, it’s natural that some people want to explore the more traditional side of Spain, Madrid is therefore a logical destination for this.
One of the most defining aspects of Spanish culture is food and drink, and Madrid reflects this with some excellent places to sample typical Spanish food and drink.
One surprising fact for the first time visitor to Spain is that the city is home to the oldest restaurant in the world, Botin. This is officially recognised in the Guinness Book of Records, which notes that there has continuously been a restaurant on the premises since 1725 when it was opened by Jean Botin and his wife. When he and his wife passed away without children the restaurant passed to his nephew and it was then subsequently known as “Sobrino de Botin” meaning “Nephew of Botin”. Over the years Botin has had many famous diners, such as Ernest Hemmingway, Charles Dickens, numerous Spanish Kings to name but a few. Today it still attracts famous people from all over the world, and as a visitor to Madrid we would highly recommend you pay a visit. On our visit, our group enjoyed some wonderful fish soup, gazpacho, chicken consomme and their signature dish of suckling pig which was absolutely delicious. Service was attentive, efficient and traditional, and the staff exude a sense of pride in this long established and famous restaurant.
Just up the street from Botin you will find another Spanish gem, Meson del Champinon. This lovely bar, came highly recommended to us and didn’t disappoint. As well has having a fine range of tapas on their menu, the speciality of the house are the mushrooms (champinon). These are more than just a mushroom, stuffed with chorizo, herbs and oil. The locals explained how best to enjoy your mushroom tapas; they are served with two small sticks, to enable you to pick up the whole mushroom and pop it into your mouth, thus savouring all the flavours and avoid spilling the juice.
Further on up the hill, and close to Plaza Mayor, is El Mercado de San Miguel. This former market was purchased by a group of Madrid business men and developed into a market of food and drink stalls, consisting of small bars and tapas counters where you can either stand and enjoy your purchases or take them away. A very trend and sociable place to spend time with friends or just to walk through on your own, however it is a bit of a tourist trap and prices can reflect this. However, don’t let this put you off as it is still a must do on your visit to Madrid.
Right across the road from El Mercado de San Miguel, is a traditional and yet modest Spanish bar called Bar Cerveriz. On first impression this bar is a simple drinking establishment with no outward suggestion of any particular culinary speciality. However, we were reliably informed that it was home to the best tortilla in Madrid, indeed Tortillaffinity have ranked it their number 1. The owner is friendly and hospitable and cooks away in the back making the most delicious potato tortillas, every so often appearing at the kitchen doorway to show the customers how he flips his latest creation to cries of Ole!
Making progress towards the Plaza Mayor we feel obligated to follow the tradition which many visitors to Madrid and head to one of the food shops which sell Calamari (Squid) sandwiches. Our friend Tatiana from Ogo Tours recommended Bar La Campana at Calle Botoneras 6 which is just off Plaza Mayor. Their version of this traditional Madrid food was mouthwatering and tremendous value at only €2.70 (2016 prices) which is a fraction of the price at more tourist focused establishments.
One of the most renowned food establishments in Madrid is open 24/7 all year round – and it’s not McDonald’s! Chocolateria San Gines is a cafe which is world famous for just one thing – Churros with chocolate sauce. Churros are long, slightly crispy doughnuts, which are served with, and then dipped in, a cup of hot chocolate sauce. It is a delicious sweet snack, popular with young Madrilenos who often end their evening out in the early hours indulging in chocolate heaven. As well as the locals, Chocolateria San Ginesa is also extremely popular with visiting celebrities whose photographs adorn the walls of the cafe. Everyone from Maradona to Christopher Lee and many other film stars and politicians has paid a visit to San Ginesa!
The final stop on our gourmet tour of Madrid is El Madroño which is famous for the liquor made from Madrid’s famous strawberry tree. Licor de Madroño is served in an edible chocolate glass as a shot, so you get to taste the delicious drink and then eat the cup in which it is served!
To really experience the wonderful food of Madrid then we suggest you do it with a local. As well as leading the best free Madrid walking tour, Ogo Tours also offer a Madrid Gatronomic Tapas Tour in which you will get to visit many of the food experiences mentioned in this article as well as a few others.