Oh Madrid. The ‘other’ city in Spain. Well, I have to let you in on a little secret- I am Team Madrid. All. The. Way. Barcelona can keep its beach, its Gaudi, and its Ramblas. In Madrid you have beautiful architecture, grand plazas, and some absolutely unmissable foodie experiences. Here are 5 you should investigate:
Cocido is a chickpea and meat stew served traditionally in the wintertime, which probably has Jewish origins. Tradition dictates that the ingredients of the stew are served separately- this means you eat the soup, then the chickpeas and vegetables, then the meat. Talk about complicated! But this dish is such a point of pride in Madrid that some restaurants serve nothing but. Try it at La Bola, opened in 1870, with the unofficial title ‘the temple of cocido madrileño.’
Madrid’s markets are unbeatable, and as diverse as they are numerous. Number one is undoubtedly the centrally located Mercado San Miguel- right outside the Plaza Mayor, San Miguel is where hip locals come for wine, oysters and tapas to kick off an evening. But of course it’s buzzing earlier in the day too. Tempting displays of fruit, chocolate and tapas live alongside more international antipasti and plenty of seafood.
St Anton, in the heart of Chueca (the gay district), boasts a 4 level market, complete with supermarket in the basement and a ground floor full of locals stocking up on fruit, veg, meat, fish, and gourmet products. The upper levels feature chic wine bars serving tapas, a few international options, and a great view.Mercado de la Cebada in the trendy La Latina district is grungy and local feeling. It’s mostly for grocery shopping, but with a few meal options.
For cooking up a storm in the kitchen of Uhostel, Busabout’s recommended accommodation in Madrid, hit up the Barcelo market, just one block behind the hostel. It also has a very local feel, with plenty of fruit and veg stalls, as well as an Israeli bakery and a tapas joint.
The bocadillo calamares is a Madrid institution: fresh, crispy fried calamari rings stuffed inside a nice piece of baguette. That’s it. In my opinion, it tastes best when washed down with a nice cold glass of cider from Asturias, fresh from the tap. A sandwich will run you a sweet €2.80-€3.50, unless you want to experience a more gourmet version- in which case hit up my next suggestion…
The Gourmet Experience
The top floor of renowned department store El Corte Ingles (right near Callao metro station) is a foodie’s dream. Thought there was only one kind of salt? Wrong. There are at least twenty kinds of flavoured salt, each one more hipster than the last, and they can be found here- as well as chocolate from Belgium, , a huge selection of wines, beers, champagnes and ciders, and much, much more. But the best thing about it? The view. Oh, and the various food outlets selling experimental fusion dumplings, giant gourmet pizza slices, tapas, cheese, sangria, tinto de verano, wine, cocktails… you get the picture. This is one of the best views in Madrid, and best of all- it’s free.
Chocolateria San Gines
If there’s anything that’s an institution in Madrid, it’s San Gines- serving up chocolate con churros since 1894, 24 hours a day. Down a small passageway near San Gines church, you’re sure to see the line before you see the door- they’re that popular. The chocolate is thick, dark and strong, and the churros are freshly fried, cut in half, ready for dunking. San Gines also serves up another typical Spanish doughnut, the porra- slightly fatter and softer than the churro. Ask for half and half if you want to give it a try. Find it all at Pasadizo de San Ginés, 5.