Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Tapas Trail, Madrid

Pigging out with the Madrileños.

As mentioned in my previous post I was lucky enough to spend a few days in one of the greatest cities in the world along with the Ewing, my sister Em and our friends Beth and Ellen.  Our guide for the trip was the wonderful Tom, an old school mate, local resident and, luckily for us, fluent Spanish speaker. While my poor attempts at schoolgirl Spanish always seem to end up with being offered cups of lukewarm tea, no matter what I'm actually attempting to order, Tom guided us seamlessly through some of the coolest markets, bars and restaurants in the city.

I have always found the food here to be almost uniformly excellent.  From the simple tapas plates of superb ham, tortilla,chorizo and olives to traditional feasts of suckling pig, cocido (a chickpea and meat stew) and callos (tripe, luckily we didn't have time for any on this trip!).  For a landlocked city there is plenty of seafood,  MercaMadrid is the largest wholesale market for perishable goods in Europe and the second largest fish market in the world.

With such a great variety of choice, and lovely company I couldn't wait to get stuck in to some delicious Iberian treats.

Museo del Jamon: The first stop every time I visit this is still one of my favourite places in the whole of Madrid. The 'Museum of Ham' combines a perfect place for a cold beer and a few tapas with the visual spectacle of seeing multiple cured pig's legs hanging from the ceiling.  My favourite branch is on the Carrera san Jeronimo, just off the Plaza del Sol, and we called in here every day on this most recent visit.

The pan tomaca, a ferociously garlicky tomato mixture served on toast and topped serrano ham, accompanied with a cafe solo and a glass of freshly squeezed zumo de naranja became my daily breakfast.  There is no finer way to pass the time than propped up against the u-shaped zinc counter, drinking a cold caña and eating chunks of chorizo and green olives.

The Mercado San Miguel.  This indoor market has only recently opened after extensive refurbishment and I was very excited about finally visiting.  I was not disappointed.  While rather small and pretty expensive the buzzy atmosphere and range of food and drink is excellent. On our two trips we enjoyed some lovely fishy pintxos, including salt cod with fish roe, tuna belly with anchovy and polpo gallego, We also sampled mini fois gras burgers, squid ink croquettas in a violent dark violet hue and prawn and pineapple skewers for the Ewing.

The pickled snack stall was also pretty fab; the highlight being some spicy chillies and an amazing creation that involved stuffing a gherkin with tuna and roasted peppers and then securing it with cocktail sticks speared with pickled onions and olives.

I shall definitely be saving some room on the next visit for the amazing looking scratchings, available in 'bacon rasher' or 'Iberican ham' flavour.  Perhaps washed down with something from the sherry stall opposite. 

Mercado de San Anton is enough new foodie addition that features a modern, multi leveled space with market stalls, bars and a restaurant with terrace on the top floor. On our visit the bottom floors were closing for the evening, but we enjoyed an nice aperitif of white wine and oysters on the middle level before going up dinner in the restaurant.

The food was good, if a little restrained in portion size. Probably a good thing, given our habit of over ordering.  We shared some mussels, salad and octopus to start before I enjoyed a lovely pork burger, made from pigs from 'the mountains of Jabugo'.  The juicy, lean meat was served slightly pink and was gorgeously dense and meaty in a way like no other pork burger I have tried.  It was served with those lovely, greasy slightly soggy, chips that seem to taste amazing when you're on holiday (less so at three o'clock in the morning outside the kebab van). The Ewing, along with a couple of the others, enjoyed a big piece of flaky bacalao, served with a langoustine and a little fish risotto.

A shared cheese board deserves a mention for being vast and having a good selection of perfectly ripe, stinking specimens, as well as a great goat and the obligatory, but lovely, Manchego.  A chocolate desert, with a strange orange sauce, was not a success, but they saved the best for last as my favourite part of a good meal was my rather unphotogenic arroz con leche.  A perfectly sweet and creamy cold rice pudding with lots of cinnamon.  Absolutely fabulous.

A lunch stop in the bustling Plaza Santa Ana.  As well as albondigas (meatballs),  tortilla and croquettas we enjoyed amazing Jamon Iberico with picos de pan and this rather lovely dish of fried aubegine slices with a salmorjo (bread, tomato garlic and vinegar garnished with chopped boiled egg) sauce.

Another night of great food, cocktails and company started with a refreshing summer drink featuring pineapple and basil  at a bar in Malasaña . We then moved down the road to La Musa for mojitos followed by red wine and vast, beautifully charred venison skewers, pictured here with my lovely sister Emily. 

We also enjoyed some 'bomba', with three slasas, which seemed to be meatballs that had been half breaded and topped with a tomato sauce and soured cream, fried green tomatoes with goats cheese, carpaccio beef rolls and baba ganouch with an alarming amount of garlic.

An afternoon stop at el Rincon for what Tom proclaimed 'the greatest tortilla in Madrid'.  As the Ewing and I had got caught in a rainstorm walking from the Reine Sofia gallery they very kindly nabbed us the last piece.  It was certainly worth getting wet for, beautifully light and creamy, just set it the midle with lots of sweet onions and potato.

The red vermouth was on tap, and came in little glasses with ice and orange.  Perfect with a dish of salty green olives.

Our final night was spent in the dark and lovely lamucca, a great little restaurant with a mixed menu of pizzas, tapas, fish and meat.  After sharing a cheese and meat platter, served with membrillo and pan con tomate, and some moreish padron peppers (my sister picking the only hot one) The Ewing enjoyed the fabulous seared tuna with a ginger sauce and spinach salad.  Although rather minimalist in its appearance the piece of fish was enormous, with a lovely texture and perfectly cooked.  I had the Pulpo Pizza featuring a incongruous sounding mixture of octopus, potatoes and paprika.  This was truly outstanding, slightly blistered on the bottom, smoky from the spices and loaded with cheese and seafood. 

Packs of Iberico ham bones, choritzo and pig fat to make Cocido madrileño at the el Corte Ingles supermercado, a favourite foodie stop.  No room in the suitcase this time but I did manage to pick up a mini wheel of Manchego cheese and some lomo embuchado (dry-cured pork loin).

My lovely friend (and sugar fiend) Tom with his froyo. This was from Cherry Pop, a fun, pay by weight, self serve frozen yogurt bar with a variety of different fruit, nut and chocolate toppings. We were lucky that the sun had just come out so we could enjoy eating our frozen treats in the sun on the Plaza Mayor.

Finally, I find myself immortalised in chocolate and sugar!  We found these eponymous doughnuts, as well as turron, sugared violets and polverones (a very crumbly almond shortbread), in the window of Casa Mira on the Carrera de San Jeronimo.

And finally, what night on the tiles in Madrid would be complete without some chocolate con churros on the way home.  The most famous purveyor of the deep fried batter sticks is the Chocolateria San Ginés; a traditional cafe with green wooden panelling, mirrored walls, and marble tables that that can be found hidden down a passageway close to San Ginés church near Plaza del Sol.  Although the churros are a little too oily for me the Spanish style chocolate is a triumph.  Rich and thick with a slight bitterness that make it perfect for dunking your donuts.


  1. We have just read this and are blown away by your attention to detail on the food. Laura is already searching for flights to Madrid! Keep it up and catch up soon xx

  2. Thanks Will, it's hard work eating all that pork and drinking all that wine, but someone's got to do it! Madrid's still great, well worth another trip if you can. See you all soon xx