I went to Madrid for a long weekend with my sister in September 2013 and was amazed by the choice of fresh food markets and fantastic tapas! I had bought my Canon 600d SLR in Heathrow airport on the way to Spain and had no knowledge of photography whatsoever, so my style was to point-and-shoot and hope for the best.
Madrid is a foodie’s paradise! In terms of a ‘feast for the eyes’ I would recommend Marcado de San Miguel. I was bowled over by the beauty of the old restored building, the diversity of products on offer and the sheer energy of the place!
A shining example of a croqembouche at Mercado de San Miguel. Make your own slightly smaller version here. Recipe can be easily increased to make such an impressive tower.
Although the food looks fantastic I would however advise against eating there. It is a tourist trap and all you will get is food which has been sitting in the heat all day then microwaved to an inch of it’s life before being offered a serviette and a plastic fork. There are far better places to eat. A delight to visit though just for the buzz.
For lunch I would recommend catching the Menu del dia at Momo – 3 courses of well cooked (and rather large) meals for only 13 euros! It is in the trendy ‘Soho’ part of the city near Chueca underground station. Look out for menu del dia at lunchtime wherever you are, as you will often get a 3 course evening meal for a fraction of the price. This allows you to then eat as the Spanish do, having some light tapas later on in the evening.
Another favorite market was Mercado San Anton. We stumbled upon this gem after seeking out lunch at Momo. We were very pleasantly surprised to find not only a lovely market which reminded me of Whole Foods in High Street Kensington (one has also just opened in Cheltenham) but a really trendy roof terrace cocktail bar as well.
After wandering around the market, which was far less touristy than Marcado San Miguel and had excellent quality products for local and tourist food enthusiasts alike, we headed up to the terrace bar where we whittled away the afternoon basking in the sunshine sipping frozen strawberry mojitos and soaking up the atmosphere.
The best street we found to get tapas was Cava Baja near La Latina underground station. This street is a mishmash of good and bad tapas bars where it is difficult to know where to go as their is so much choice. After some trial and error we discovered that places that displayed their tapas in the window to tempt you in were just gimmicky tourist bars. They will give you the food that has been sitting in the window all day and nothing will be made to order. We did however find a couple of fantastic bars and I am sure there are far more.
We went to Casa Lucas on our first night where we ordered spinach and leek terrine tapas with skinny fries and a mix of croquettes. The food was unusual and very tasty, all washed down with a lovely light white wine. In Spain you can buy a bottle of wine however if you don’t finish it, you just pay for what you drink. In the UK if you buy a bottle you feel obliged to finish it, often leading to being a little tipsier than anticipated.
We also found a very quaint wine bar called El Tempranillo on Cava Baja which offered delicious freshly made tapas and very good quality wine. The wall of wine and soft lighting was enough to tempt us into the bar and it had a lively atmosphere with friendly staff and customers.
Another favorite drinking spot was a Hendricks bar called Pizkolabi near La Latina underground, which served the best (and largest) gin and tonics I have ever had. The Spanish are famous for free pouring their spirits and I’m not complaining if they are free pouring Hendricks gin served with cucumber slices and fresh rose petals! I highly recommend it for good cocktails and a great atmosphere. Sit in the Plaza San Andrés and watch the world go by.
I would love to go back to Madrid and explore the other markets, sights and restaurants. We only scratched the surface, missing some world famous markets such as the El Rastro flea market or even the legendary night life. Madrid is a foodie’s delight and can’t wait to return.