I spent a wonderful weekend in Madrid and came home with a camera filled with food photos and a stomach yearning for more pata negra. I was primarily in Madrid to see El Clásico (that’s the top match between Real Madrid – Barcelona, for you who are less enthused about football) but of course, I also managed to explore a lot of Madrid’s cucina tipica. You can say I exercised food tourism at its best.
Normally I turn sightseeing into a wild race of of museums, monuments and “local treasures” (meaning every tourist flocks to it). This usually leaves little time to visit cafés, restaurants and bars – hunger comes second hand. Not so when you’re travelling with an Italian. Pitstops for espressos and a walking pace that makes your grandma look like a marathon champ, are what you have to get used to. At first, I nearly broke down in a moment of stress (how were we supposed to see Guernica AND Las Meninas!?), but then I took a deep breath and realised – there was more time for eating.
So, apart from seeing nice buildings,
getting rid of my Victorian pale skin look in the park,
and cheering on Real Madrid, Madrid offered a smörgåsbord of culinary highlights.
We had lunch at the indoor food market San Miguel, which is a colourful space crammed with fresh fruit, croquetas, baking delights and enticing seafood. I couldn’t get enough of the dill-cured cod on toast.
Meson 5J (an indicator of the quality of Iberico ham) is an expanding chain of restaurants, specialising in tender and nutty-tasting pata negra. We dined in the Salamanca district, which sadly, is one of those areas you know you’ll never be able to afford unless you’re on a Gordon Gekko salary. I would definitely avoid Plaza del Sol and go here for a stroll, just to admire the architecture and to avoid the tourist crowds with fanny packs.
After watching El Clásico on Saturday night, we were starving. Sure, I’d nearly finished a bag of roasted corn, but proper dinner had not passed my lips. So at 12 o clock at night, we headed up north to Meson Txistu, a traditional Spanish restaurants that is not afraid to show off. Show off photos of celebrities that is. David Beckham, Tom Cruise and Cristiano Ronaldo have eaten here, and I wonder if they too had the pimientos de Padrón, they were a knock-out. Not a soul was there when we turned up, but as we left at 2am, the place was heaving. Txistu is excellent for stodgy, Spanish food and I mean that in the most positive sense. Don’t expect anyone to speak English however.
Madrid exceeded my expectations by far and I would return with an empty stomach, detoxed liver and bigger wallet. And maybe, just maybe – next time Guernica will be on the itinerary.