MADRID – From authentic recipes to innovative preparations, experiences like having a vermouth leaning on an age-old bar counter with a “tapa” such as a squid sandwich or other Michelin-star delights, Madrid’s gastronomic menu is endless.
According to official data, nine million tourists visit Spain’s capital city of Madrid each year to experience its charms, and gastronomic tourism alone brings 23 percent of the total visitors.
Food shopping is a must before sitting down at a table, and one of the best options is to explore the San Miguel Market, a market that has become one of the most popular routes to the Plaza Mayor square; many of Madrid’s traditional markets have been renovated and become authentic gastronomic attractions.
There are all kinds of gastronomical delights on offer and places to enjoy them, and any food-loving tourist can find something that appeals.
A typical Madrid custom is to start with vermouth, or aperitif, which presents itself as a time to enjoy one of the stars of Spanish and Madrid cuisine, the “tapa” – a small portion of savory food – that can be found in most traditional eateries.
These places include La Ardosa bar, set up in 1882 and where the dish “patatas bravas” (potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce) is the queen of the kitchen, “Anciano Rey de los Vinos” (established 1886), in the heart of the tourist zone between the Royal Palace and the Almudena Cathedral, and the “Casa del Abuelo,” set up in 1906, and which has had many famous patrons, including Andy Warhol.
The first course includes traditional dishes like “cocido” (stew), “los callos” (tripe), “las gallinejas” (fried lamb chitterlings) and squid sandwiches.
Cocido has its own etiquette, and is said to be eaten in the following three-course sequence: first the broth, followed by chickpeas with vegetables, and finally the meat.
These customs are ancient, just like the centuries-old restaurants dotting the center of the capital.
Among them stands Botin, the oldest restaurant in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, which started in 1725 and has inspired several literary figures and poets through its food.
The German origin Lhardy has also acquired a mythical status, and “Los Galayos” on Plaza Mayor, is the historical venue where the famous “Generation of ’27” of poets and artists was disbanded.
For the second course, the renowned Michelin guide recommends different Michelin-starred restaurants in Madrid, like DiverXO whose revolutionary chef David Muńoz recently received his third Michelin star.
A good menu should never lack in dessert and the sweeter the better; that is why there is an important tradition of chocolatiers and bakers in Madrid, such as the traditional “Chocolateria de San Gines” or the “San Onofre” bakery where one can have a coffee and something sweet.
If one wants to linger on at the table after a main meal, also a typical Spanish custom, it is time for a “digestive,” perhaps in one of the classic places like “Museo Chicote,” or the Tony 2 piano-bar in the early hours of the morning.
The Madrid menu, therefore, is a heady cocktail, from the most traditional to the most innovative. Bon Appetite!