Madrid is a serious food city. It is also a city that parties hard and keeps extremely late hours. I went to bed early each night over the weekend that I was there, at 3am. Woah, Madrid! Madrileños eat as they drink, and that eating is a serious business. Their expectations are high, and so they should be, quality abounds, and once you steer clear of the tourist joints, you will eat well.
This list is based on my last trip there, a week ago. It is well researched and sampled, but not exhaustive. Madrid is brilliant and exciting in that it has an enviable list of great places to eat. Which is why I plan to go back there as soon as I can manage it. For this trip, I asked the locals, as only people who live there can have the full breadth of experience required to pick a sample for a weekend.
Conspicuously absent on this list until my return is Callos Madrileños (Madrid style tripe), Cocido Madrileño (a heavy chickpea based stew) and DiverXO (Madrid’s exciting 3* restaurant). The first two seemed more wintry, so I decided to save them for a trip in a colder time, and DiverX0 needs very early booking and a day dedicated to it.
Eat Cochinillo (Suckling Pig) at Los Galayos & Santceloni
I enquired of a local, where should I eat suckling pig in Madrid? He replied, well of course I don’t eat it in Madrid, I head to the small villages in the Sierras where it is the best. I despaired a little, I didn’t have time to go to the Sierras. But, where should I eat it in Madrid? OK: Los Galayos is best, and that is where the locals go, was what he disclosed. There is also Botín, the oldest restaurant in the world (according to the Guinness Book of Records) and where Hemmingway is said to have eaten two suckling pigs with two bottles of rioja in one seating. It is supposed to be excellent, but it is firmly on the tourist map, so I chose the local alternative, which was just around the corner. The suckling pig (less than one month old) was tender and sublime, with a thin crisp crackling surfing a rich glorious fat. A large portion, it was very well priced at €21.75. At the other end of the scale, the suckling pig loin at two michelin starred Santceloni is steeper at €53, but it is excellently executed. It is served as racks of ribs and loin which are roasted to the point where the flesh is moist and luscious and there is a perfect crisp skin.
Eat Anything (Everything?) at StreetXo
StreetXo, the street food offering from DiverXO’s 3 star chef David Muñoz in El Corte Inglés, is one of the most exciting restaurants that I have eaten at this year. Creative and inspired, each dish was sharp, elegant and full of flavour. There is one u shaped counter around the open kitchen, with some stools. I chose to stand. I stood there for 3 hours, and ate as much as I could. No dish disappointed and there was lots of surprises.
David happened to be there on the night that I visited, and he said that the menu changes all the time, so while I can’t say for sure that these dishes will be on when you visit, try anything, and if the peking dumpling with pigs ear or the butter fish are on, dive in. I ate too much and had a few glasses of wine, and my bill was still less than €50. It opens at 8.30, and I arrived 5 minutes later. All the seats were gone, but I got a space at the counter. Anyone who arrived after had to wait, so do get there early. (Note: StreetXO relocates from El Corte Inglés to a bigger premises in Madrid in November).
Eat Churros & Porras with Coffee or Chocolate
I am sure you are all familiar with churros but when in Madrid you must also have the local version, porras. Porras translates as truncheon, and reflects the larger size, which is even better for absorbing what you dip it into. It is common in Spain to dip churros in hot thick chocolate, but in Madrid, locals prefer to dip it in coffee, which became my perfect regular breakfast while I was there. Seek out a Fabrica de Churros & Patatas Fritas, most neighbourhoods have them, and it is where locals go to buy fresh patatas fritas (crisps!), churros and porras. Chocolatería San Ginés, one of Madrid’s oldest cafés, is very popular with tourists but is still very good, and locals love it too. Go there to have them with chocolate.
Go to Madrid’s Markets
Madrid has many local markets. Each one will have a small tapas bar to power the locals through their grocery shopping or to offer them a break. These are perfect places to go to have great simple tapas, sample jamon, cheese etc, but also to stock up for home (most places can vac pack). Some markets have been modernised and are more of a trendy tapas experience. You don’t need to worry, trendy in Madrid still means good food, so head to Mercado San Miguel and fill your boots. Later on, join the hipsters at Mercado San Ildefonso for Madrid’s take on street food. The food is primarily local and traders have been well chosen. The market is split over 3 floors with a large bar. It is open late and gets busy, so get there early for food and stay late for drinks. I loved the steak – don’t miss that – although everything I tried was good. Finally, there is Platea Madrid. I discovered this through the food shop at the front (which has an excellent range and selection). More of a club meets market, Platea has live music, a swish cocktail bar and restaurant (which I didn’t try) tiered and overlooking the stage, with a solid selection of tapas downstairs.
Madrid is inland but it has a fantastic selection of fresh seafood via the enormous local seafood market, Mercamadrid. Be sure to try the carabinieros (large red prawns), razor clams, octopus, Galician native oysters and the fried squid sandwiches (bocadillos de calamares). Salt cod is a favourite, as expected, and the best I had was at Revuelta. You need to get to Revuelta early as it is packed full of locals and usually has a queue out the door. They come for the battered and fried salt cod (€2.80 a piece), which with a small glass of white wine, costs only €3.60. This is what Madrid excels at, small bars specialising in one dish, and doing it brilliantly.
What, no other tapas? Well, yes, of course, but they deserve a whole post of their own, which will be my next post on Madrid.
I visited Madrid as part of the #MustSeeMadrid blog trip, created and managed by iambassador and in partnership with Spain Tourism. I maintain full editorial control of the content published on this site.