After Paris, the parentals and I flew to Madrid where we spent the most time during our trip–8 days! Luckily, the last time I was there was almost 20 years ago, so definitely there was a lot to reacquaint myself with :).
We were billeted at a hotel called Hotel de Las Letras on the main road, Gran Via. It was a super nice hotel! I loved that the interiors were very modern and streamlined, yet the hotel itself was housed in a restored, historical building.
The location was also very ideal as it was near a lot of shopping areas, restaurants, and many of the tourist attractions. We were pretty much within walking distance of everything! Definitely this is a major requirement for my family when we travel and book a place to stay :).
So what did we do during our 8 days in Madrid? Because we had quite some time to spend, we pretty much did a little bit of everything We ate, we shopped, and we toured, ofcourse! I have so many wonderful experiences to share with you all! However, this post will focus more specifically on the food, though, otherwise it will be a terribly looooooong article. Hahaha! More on my adventures in another post nalang :).
Anyway, unfortunately for my waistline, we ate a LOT on this trip (good thing we walked a lot too!). We gorged on tapas and other traditional Spanish fare. We definitely could not pass up on having some authentic churros con chocolate as well. Spanish food is soooooo good! It still is no match for Pinoy food in my opinion, but good nevertheless :).
Of all the places we dined at in Madrid, here are the ones I enjoyed the most and would definitely recommend you try:
1. Mercado de la Reina
Situated just right outside and across the street from our hotel, this tapas bar was such a delightful place! Nicely designed interiors, great tasting food, and fast, friendly service are their winning combination! And being our first stop upon arrival, we were definitely grateful for that!
2. El Asador de Aranda
As opposed to the Mercado de La Reina, this was a more traditional type of Spanish restaurant. From the looks of it (even just looking at their plates and flatware!), it has been operated by a single family for many, many years and throughout several generations! Located on Calle Preciados right by the Teatro Callao, it serves time-honored Spanish dishes cooked via asador or oven–hence, the name. We were able to try their lechal–suckling lamb–and it was sooooo yummy! I can’t actually believe I enjoyed this dish, especially since I’m not particularly fond of lamb. But this did not taste at all like lamb but more like crispy pata (crispy pork knuckles)! It was fall-off-the-bone and melt-in-your-mouth soft, and so simply cooked yet bursting with flavor! Eating this dish was definitely memorable for me. I was truly impressed!
3. La Paella
Paella is a must when visiting Spain! On our third day there, the craving struck, and it struck hard, so I definitely had to satisfy it! Hahaha! La Paella came highly recommended by our hotel concierge. When we entered the restaurant, the fact that it was fully packed only served to reinforce that it was popular amongst both tourists and locals alike.
My mom and I shared the house specialty paella, some chorizo, and a pitcher of sangria. All their servings were huuuuuuge! The paella could have totally served a party of 4, but it was indicated for 2 only. I felt a bit ashamed though when my mom and I totally wiped out every bit of the paella :(. Yup, it was that good! Hahaha!
If you are definitely in the mood for some paella, consider giving this place a try. Do come with an empty stomach, or at least be ready to get your belly filled. This is one restaurant where diets need to be left behind :).
4. Mercado de San Miguel
I just looooove food markets! I love the hustle and bustle of people milling about, I love moving from stall to stall, sampling the different delicacies or specialties on display… There’s something about a marketplace that makes it such a fun and unique experience!
And fun is exactly what we had when my folks and I went to the Mercado San Miguel near the Plaza Mayor in Madrid.
If I’m not mistaken, this is the oldest food market in Madrid, although you will not be able to tell since it recently underwent renovation. Compared to La Boqueria of Barcelona, the Mercado San Miguel is not as big, but definitely much cleaner, and more modern inside.
As you enter, stalls upon stalls of different types of Spanish food will greet you. It’s up to you to choose which ones deserve a try, and which ones deserve some precious real estate in your tummy. Hahaha!
Everything I saw definitely made my mouth water. From various types of croquetas and cured meats, to cheeses, paellas and all the kinds of postres that you can imagine–this place is the bomb!!!
Mom, Dad and I had a blast trying out the different offerings. It was like having an indoor picnic, with some vino too! It was one of the best meals of our trip indeed!
5. Mercado de San Anton
Mercado de San Anton is another food market but with a slightly different twist. It is a multi-level building located on Calle de Augusto Figueroa housing a supermarket, a market, food stalls and a restaurant. The first floor is where the raw meats, seafood, fresh vegetables and other produce are sold. The second floor is where you can find the prepared foods.
While I prefer the selection of Mercado San Miguel, the food stalls in San Anton were also quite yummy. Mom and I especially liked the pulpo or octopus cooked with spring onion and tomato sauce. We also enjoyed the carrot cake we had for dessert.
I think that the feature of Mercado San Anton is the third level, which houses an outdoor, rooftop restaurant. Unfortunately, during the time of our visit, it looked closed. I heard that at night, though, it attracts quite a posh crowd. I would have loved to experience the scene for myself but sadly, I never found the time to.
6. Chocolateria San Gines
For authentic churros con chocolate, the natives swear by Chocolateria San Gines.
Established in 1894, it is hidden in an alley near the Puerto del Sol that makes it quite easy to miss. In fact, I didn’t know that I had actually walked past it already, on my way to the Plaza Mayor! There is nothing fancy about San Gines, nothing that would make me stop and take notice–considering it is Madrid’s most well-known chocolateria. However, once you step inside, you’ll find photos of alot of people, both famous and not, who have enjoyed their churros con chocolate throughout the years.
For a one-product establishment, San Gines is pretty much busy all hours of the day. It is quite amusing to know that they are open from 9AM to 6AM! Apparently, Madrilenos enjoy having their churros early in the morning as a snack, after an all-night party session :). I so can’t relate. Hahaha!
When my parents and I arrived at San Gines, both indoor and outdoor seating were packed! Luckily, after we ordered our serving of churros, a table cleared up just in time.
I couldn’t wait to dip the hot fried dough into the chocolatey melted goodness. I was surprised though that it tasted quite different from the churros that I am familiar with, but this version happily did not disappoint :). I noticed, however, that the chocolate was slightly runny, and it was quite sweet! I was expecting it to be bitter and thicker, the way I know Spanish chocolate to be. Oh well. It was still an enjoyable treat, though, and a great way for us to end our evening :).
Valor is a very popular brand in Spain. They’ve been in the chocolate making business since 1881, and most of their products can be purchased in supermarkets and convenience stores throughout Madrid.
Their chocolateria is located right by the Teatro Callao. I was very excited to try their version of churros con chocolate, and see how it fared against San Gines.
The verdict? Definitely, the chocolate trumps the San Gines version. It was darker, thicker, chocolatier, bitter, but with a good measure of sweet. It was sooooo yummy, I could have licked my cup clean! Hahaha!
For the churros dough, while I liked its consistency, I found it extremely greasy! I actually had to dab it several times with a tissue to remove all the excess oil. It also did not have the usual “gear” shape but was long and smooth. I guess Valor’s churros must have their own unique recipe :).
So that’s basically it :).
I am very sure that these establishments are but a small speck in Madrid’s thriving culinary scene. Looking through this list, however, I think we were quite lucky to be able to experience an entire range of dishes from the most typical and traditionally prepared, to the more modern fusion but still very delicioso types.
It is a must for me that when I visit a place, that I get to sample the local cuisine, especially the ones they are known throughout the world for. In some way, like culture, it is a type of education–this time for my tastebuds, though. Hahaha!
And despite the fact that I am now a couple of pounds heavier because of my eating adventures, I console myself with the fact that these adventures made my vacation in Madrid all the more enjoyable and memorable :).