Home » Madrid: Ex-pat Experiences & Thoughts » The ‘Real’ Madrid Experience – Foodie Heaven

The ‘Real’ Madrid Experience – Foodie Heaven


OK, Madrid has so many places to eat and drink, you could, in theory, eat out in a different restaurant or bar every night of the week! Whilst discussing food, I could therefore list hundreds of places to eat, but then you’d be bored, so whenever I talk about food I only want to include those good restaurants which have something different to offer the customer. At the end of this post, I will include a few more good places.

In this post I really wanted to present food from a different angle, looking at some varied types of places to visit, which will offer a different vibe and experience, which, I personally like visiting.

A note to add: I do try to keep any recommendations for places as informal as I can. I know that ‘top class’ food joints aren’t everyone’s cup of tea! They are, every now and again though, nice to at least try once! There are a few places I mention that might be seen as for ‘posh’ clientele only, but there are no V.I.P sections! The key in Madrid is to try anything at least once and form your own opinions.

Hints and tips, and my thoughts are added into the sections. Hope you enjoy reading, and it makes you feel as hungry as I felt typing out the information!

MARKETS:

Two words needed here; Mercado Torrijos!!! This market is situated on Calle del General Díaz Porlier, tucked in behind the large El Corte Ingles in Goya.

I found this market by chance wandering off the main roads of Goya. I love the vibe and culture surrounding the food markets here in Madrid. I enjoy visiting San Anton and San Miguel markets, (to be discussed later on in this post), but they are often crowded and bustling places, linked closely to the tourist trail, especially the latter. San Miguel can become so crowded that often it is a case of walking in and then out again! I wanted to find something more authentic, and nearer to my home!

I was naturally concerned, as even at home in the UK I use markets infrequently for shopping, such is the convenience of the wonderful world of supermarkets, but Madrid supermarkets are to me very frustrating! People assume supermarkets are the same all over the world, but they are not. The queues here are often a nightmare, especially in Carrefour. Even self-service at the larger Carrefour supermarkets are more inefficient than their counterparts in the UK. Therefore, knowing where there are reliable and friendly markets is a must.

I say friendly, because Mercado Torrijos is just that, and it is a relatively new to market in Madrid too; so quieter. I went there on my own, with what I’d class as a pretty basic command of spoken Spanish, but I got buy. I actually was surprised how eager the vendors there were to speak to me at length! I have to say I was impressed with the butcher stalls available, I bought some beautiful pork and the price was fantastic. Every-time I return the vendors remember who I am and chat away as though I have lived here all my life; a real treat for me as often I feel constraint because of my lack of Spanish communication skills!

The market has plenty of options; fish, fruit and veg, dried fruit (the largest dates I have ever seen in Madrid!) all types of meat, eggs, bread and also a health food shop too. There is also places to eat and sit and chat on the 2nd level, they sell food and drink so customers can have some time out from their shopping!

I cannot recommend this place enough!

Wesite: http://www.mercadodetorrijos.es/

San Anton Market, Chueca; situated really close to Chueca Metro Station.

This sprawling market covers 3 floors. First floor comprises of the traditional market where they sell meats, cheeses, fish, fruit and veg from all over the world. In fact this is one of the first places I actually bought Blueberries from, as in Madrid they are scare! Albeit, the Blueberries here tend to be very expensive; tiny pack for roughly 6 euros! I was desperate for my fix though!

The 2nd floor is where you can sample food from the mini restaurant stalls; Japanese, Italian and Greek specialties, seafood, chocolate, cakes and juices are all available to buy and then sit down and eat. The Sushi is lovely here; the staff are helpful too, as my Spanish isn’t word perfect. Oh, also the cakes and pastries here are to die for; just like in every place that sells such goodies though, utterly irresistible!

On the 3rd floor there is a terraced restaurant, La Cocina de San Antón. You can actually choose the product you want from the market stalls (meat or fish), and this restaurant will cook it for you! The staff of St. Anthony’s Kitchen will even advise you on the best way to prepare your purchase, what spices to use and even what sauces they recommend.

They also offer an extensive menu for lunch or dinner, either inside the restaurant or on its magnificent terrace, located looking out over the rooftops of Chueca. It is like entering some hidden inner sanctum, and although popular in the daytime it is pretty quiet. Nice to sit and relax sipping on one of their lovely Mojitos!

San Miguel Market, Plaza San Miguel (leading directly off the Plaza Mayor).

You cannot really miss this exquisite, and imposing structure built in glass and iron. Open Sunday to Wednesday 10am to 12pm, Thursday/ Friday and Saturday 10am to 2am.

The building alone is a must see, completed in 1916 it has gone through various refurbishment to accommodate the modern day requirements of the people of Madrid.

This market offers a range of high quality foods; fruit, veg, bocadillos, tortillas, cakes, juices, wines, sangria, fish, seafood, cheeses, meats, and sushi! It has over 33 vendors to choose from. What makes this experience a must is the crazy atmosphere, it is busy as it is popular with tourists and natives of Madrid alike.

It is a look, choose and taste environment unlike anything on offer in the UK! From the vendors you can order a little bit of whatever you want, and taste it there and then. There is a central eating area in the markets; seating and tables available for customers. You can order drinks too, and stay all night filling up your hungry stomach by just trying bits and bobs.

There are separate and smaller vendors dotted throughout the market too, who also sell small delicacies. There is one that sells amazing salted baked potatoes with a ‘special and secret’ spicy sauce which is to die for! There are so many interesting little canapés on offer from; salmon and caviar, an amazing selection of olives, cakes including macaroons and little biscuits.

There is so much variety of ‘tapas’ to choose from, and then eat as you walk onto the next vendor. Usually 1 euro will buy you a little item to eat, but it is worth it, as I have already mentioned the atmosphere is a must as it is what makes Madrid, Madrid! You have to experience this, just like you should experience tapas, Museo del Jamon and the Plaza del Sol!

The seating areas however, do become extremely busy as the time ticks by. Sometimes you are merely stuck in a crowd, and cannot really move about freely or get near the stalls to see and be served. That is the price you pay for popularity!

Below pic: Some of food options at San Miguel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SUPERMARKETS:

This may seem a mundane topic of discussion, but these are things rarely, if ever covered by travel information. I feel it is good to know where you can purchase snacks, water, alcohol and even toiletries.

As I have mentioned previously the supermarkets in Madrid are not like those in the UK. If you want something similar then you would have to visit one of the hyper markets outside the city limits! Carrefour, Dia, Simply and Open Cor (owned by El Corte Ingles) and Lidl are good options to purchase things cheaply, whilst in Madrid. They often have great quality wines, olive oils, conserves and chocolate for a reasonable price; think of gifts to return home with!

Dia and Simply are probably the best for price. If you are looking to buy whatever you may need then these are handy to know of. No need to worry about not speaking Spanish to order things either.

Carrefour have a good selection of products too, usually all supermarkets have some ‘deli-esque’ counters where you can choose your fresh meat and fish from. In Carrefour you have to weigh and price up your own fruit and veg though, so make sure you do it or they won’t sell it to you at the check-out!

Carrefour is usually busy, and the service in most supermarkets is slow, but at Carrefour there are self- service check-outs available, which have English speaking options. Notably the large Carrefour in Goya.

All supermarkets are usually open until 10pm, but Opencor closes at 2am. This again is a good option, but the goods here are mostly higher end food stuffs, and are more expensive than anywhere else. The thing to note is that buying alcohol after 10pm is not permitted in Madrid, so just in-case you feel like a late evening drink, buy it in earlier! Or, visit one of the many bars.

El Corte Ingles food court (Goya) is popular to have a drink at. I have never tried the food available in their restaurants so I cannot comment on service and so on. They also sell food stuffs too, though they are expensive! They do however sell British goods, and my beloved Macaroons! Though cheaper than some cake shops, the quality is not as good as the fresh versions. For fabulous cakes and pastries visit one of the many pastelerías or reposterías in Madrid.

While mentioning Macaroons, as ridiculous as it sounds, McDonalds near Atocha Station has a cake and coffee stand. Theirs are the cheapest Macaroons I have found in Madrid, instead of the usual 1 euro each or 26 euros (plus) a pack, they are 80 cents each! They taste great too. I love Macaroons!

Below pic: MACAROONS!!!!!!!!

CAFÉ SOCIETY:

VAIT, just on the junction of Calle Alcalá and Calle Alfonso XI.

It is a café, restaurant and cake shop. They sell the most fabulous Irish coffee; only one and you begin to feel tipsy! They also sell lovely sandwiches, a welcomed refreshment after a wander around Parque del Retiro! I really like this little place. It feels up-market, but the prices are good, the portions are plenty, the service is prompt and the staff are polite.

As I mentioned they are a cake shop too, and yes they sell Macaroons!

Faborit, various locations around Madrid.

These cafes are a similar set up to Star Bucks, but cheaper and they sell more food and drink options. You have a vast menu to choose from! There are a variety of hot or iced coffee and tea, juices, Frappe (Frappuccino), hot chocolates, yoghurts, vitamin juices, salads, sandwiches, bocadillos, wraps, cakes and biscuits.

NIGHT TIME:

Irish bars in Madrid, for those who cannot leave the taste of the UK behind!

Molly Malones, near the Metro Station Bilbao, around 12 minutes’ walk from Gran Via in central Madrid.

The bar has a wide selection of international beers (draft and bottle), whiskies and spirits. They also televise live sporting events and hold language exchange events every Thursday night. This is where people from all over the world come to speak English, and in-turn you can pick up Spanish, German, French, Italian and so on!

O’Neils, in the centre of Madrid, very close to Puerta del Sol.

Again similar to Molly Malones on the alcohol and sporting front! They also offer language exchanges too, helping anyone who wants to improve their Spanish. This a good place to meet new people from Madrid and from all over the world! The events run on Tuesdays after 9.00pm, just ask for David who organises the ‘intercambios’ or language exchanges.

You are also able to contact them prior to attending by sending an email to: intercambio@oneills.es.

O’Donnels, near the Metro Station Tribunal, around 12 minutes’ walk from Gran Via in central Madrid.

They run different promotions on food and drinks daily. All live sporting events are shown. Pacha nightclub is a few meters away; Metro Tribunal is just across the road.

What I will say is that the beer and spirits at these bars are expensive, as they are imports! For example a Guinness will be anything from 5 to 8 euros a pint.  Stick to any deals on offer, Cañas or local beers like San Miguel to save some money!

J & J Books and Coffee, Calle Espiritu Santo, 47 a short walk from Noviciado Metro Station.

This is a café come bar which opens 11am and on Fridays closes at 1.30am. They speak English, and this is a place where anyone who wants to improve their English can visit. However, Wednesday and Thursday nights are their ‘intercambio’ evenings, so anyone wanting to improve English or Spanish can visit and practice to their hearts content over a beer, cocktail or coffee.

They also have thousands, and I mean thousands of books printed in English, which can be borrowed. They have quiz nights, special offers and you can even trade in your own spare books!

Check out their website for further information:  http://www.jandjbooksandcoffee.com

Mala Fe Rock Bar, Calle del Escorial, 4

Open Thursday 9pm – 2am, Friday and Saturdays 10pm – 3:30am. The music is as it states; Rock, Metal and Indie. It is perhaps something different for the weekend! A good atmosphere, people are friendly. Only draw-back are the toilets; they are inadequate! There is only one ladies and one gent’s loo! This bar gets very busy too, so expect to queue to use the loo!

Check out their website for listings of what is coming up: http://www.malaferockbar.com/

Café 40, Gran Via

This place is something a Little different. A mix between a club and a restaurant. They have different events, gigs and DJs here. The food is good, but expensive; however they do have a weekend menu that offers a starter, main, desert and drink for 16.50 euros. They also offer a variety of food; Japanese and Chinese as well as salads and novelty beef burgers (with neon coloured buns). Not all the food portions are as large as they seem to be on the menu, so choose wisely as the prices may not be worth the meal! I usually choose from the ‘Salteados’ section of the menu – the Japanese dish listed there, which I have with egg noddles. This is a large portion, and very tasty!

Check out their website for events listings and menus: 40cafe.es/

Café Central, Plaza del Angel –

This is a great place to hear Jazz music in Madrid. The atmosphere is intimate and engaging. The stage is in close quarters to the audience; with tables and chairs all packed in tight together. You can also sit or stand at the bar. They sell food, which I have not tried. The drinks are quite reasonable, and waiters do come to your table to serve you, which is a benefit when the music begins to play!

I enjoyed it here, very relaxed and vibrant atmosphere. You will need to pay a ‘cover charge’ or entrance fee to watch the acts perform, usually 15 euros (give or take) I suggest getting there before 9pm to get a good seat.

Restaurant Kasanova, Alcalde Sainz de Baranda 25, near Ibiza Metro Station.

This is an Italian restaurant, but it is the drinks that attract me more than the food! Great selection of alcohol on offer, they house over 550 spirits here! Good news to all!

Cerveceria 100 Montaditos, various locations around Madrid.

A cheap place to grab a little bite to eat and a beer. They do ‘Jarras de Cerveza’ or large ‘pitchers’ of beer for a euro! They offer fries, crisps/chips and nachos, also bocadillos in vast varieties (though small portions, just enough as accompaniment to the beer). You order by usually filling out little paper dockets, marking what you, and then passing them to the bar. They will check your order with you. When your food is ready your name will be called out over the tannoy, you pick up your order from a little serving hatch! You can order however much you want, so although one little bocadillo is as cheap a 1.50 euros; it will obviously bump the price up the more you order.

CAKE, BAKERY AND CHOCOLATE SHOPS:

You cannot really walk for five minutes without spotting a cake, bakery or chocolate shop in Madrid! Bad news for those people who are watching their waist-lines; it can be the seventh circle of Hell for temptation! Shops display their tasty treats with utter perfection, luring you to an unexpected stop! The delicate and sumptuous appearances of the cakes, and chocolates in Madrid, will at some point force you to submit to that naughty inner voice and indulge!

La Mallorquina, Plaza de la Puerta del Sol, 8

Pricey, but temptingly, deliciously tasty. I am not a connoisseur of cakes, I haven’t a clue of any of the names of the particular delightful specialities or pastries on offer here, but anything sold here is divine! I just let my eyes do the choosing, and my stomach does the tasting! I am fascinated by the combinations and presentation of the goods though. Just be warned, the cakes and pastries look too good to leave behind, they have a way of calling out to you ‘please buy me’!

Moulin Chocolat (near Parque del Retiro) –

Simply divine gourmet cakes, sweets and macaroons! A little pricey, but so tempting.

Le Pain Quotidien, Calle de Fuencarral, 95

This place appears to be a stylish restaurant, which houses a good bakery and a ‘rustic’ dining area. The menu is something off the beaten track, offering different salads, lighter options, and tasty breads with conserves. The eggs Benedict is delightful! There are no bad food experiences to report here, however, disappointment comes in the form of the service. This place is popular, and they are aware how good their food is, which will make you want to return time and time again; but you can feel undervalued as a customer. It is almost as though you have to perform some type of magic to attract attention from the servers; this is a let-down!

VAIT, junction between Calle Alfonso XI and Calle Alcalá

I have already mentioned this one previously. The cakes, biscuits and pastries are amazing. I certainly cannot go in without stopping to stare at the selection, especially the macaroons. I would recommend a visit, and see how long you can resist purchasing something!

FINALLY; EVEN MORE FOOD:

After the last post I dedicated to food and drink I feel there are few more little gems to add to the list of restaurants.

Taberna Maceiras, Huertas, 66

Galician food; authentic, busy and lively. Not the place for a romantic meal! The food is excellent though, especially the seafood dishes. People are generally queuing to get in, although there are other restaurants nearby, which is a good sign! Locals enjoy it here, so you can get the feel of true Madrid. However, you can only pay in cash.

Carlos Tartiere Sidreria, Calle Menorca, 35,

Food from the Asturias. Need some understanding of spoken Spanish for this one, the menu appears to be printed in Spanish only. The food is excellent however, and generous portions. The staff are friendly too. Try the cider which they pour by holding the bottle above their head, and the glass below their waist. They pour the drink without looking at the glass, so be prepared to get a little cider splashed on you; all part and parcel of the unique dining experience!

The specialities include rice dishes, oven baked fish and meat, fabada (a rich and thick consistency Spanish bean stew with meats in it, and also one with clams in).

Kitchen open 12pm to 12am.

Website: There is an English version so you see in advance what they are serving to save the language barrier:  http://www.restaurantecarlostartiere.com/en_index.php

El colmado, Calle de Juan de Urbieta, 4

Delicious food, served in what seems like it will be a humble setting. Great service, friendly staff. The food is quite daring, very tasty, great flavours. This is ‘fusion’ cuisine incorporating the best Caribbean recipes. Example of one of the dishes on offer; goat (kid) marinated in rum and oregano.

Tanta, Plaza del Peru, 1

Peruvian restaurant. The restaurant seems dark, but it spacious. Authentic food tastes; the grilled butter fish is great (pez mantequilla), try the Pisco sour to drink and also the potato bread. You will need to be able to speak and understand Spanish though, otherwise just wing it with ‘sign language’! It is worth the confusion of the language barrier! This is a busy place, but they don’t accept reservations, although there is plenty of room to accommodate diners. If you are visiting at Lunch time order from menu del dia (which will be cheaper), at night you have to choose from the regular menu, which is 35 euros per person roughly.  The price of your meal can increase significantly if you don’t watch what you are ordering.

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© Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita, 2012. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Bex Houghagen and The Savvy Senorita with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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11 thoughts on “The ‘Real’ Madrid Experience – Foodie Heaven

  1. Pingback: One Year In Madrid | The Savvy Senorita

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