Hungry in Madrid

If there is one thing I regret about our trip to Madrid, it was not trying enough of the local delicacies. Don’t get me wrong, we did try a lot of different food in Madrid (and I feel like we ate our way through Madrid), but I wish we had more time to try even more of the delicious Spanish food.

The food in Madrid did not disappoint – it was fresh, tasty, full of flavour and made with love. The pastries were freshly baked out of the oven, juices freshly squeezed (the orange juice had the right balance between sweetness and sourness), seafood so fresh (tasted like it was just out of the sea), paella cooked to perfection (had the perfect amount of crustiness/crispiness on the outer layer with rice in the centre cooked to the perfect softness) and coffees that hit the spot.   

Some of the food that I recommend trying in Madrid include:

·         Freshly baked pastries and cakes

Makes sure you go to cafes that bake their own pastries or at least source freshly baked pastries daily (we tried to avoid the chain cafes). Chocolate and custard croissants were one of my favourites – I think I had one of each every day I was in Madrid. Cheese and ham croissants were also really tasty – unlike the ham used in toasties in Australia, most of them used prosciutto. There were also other sweet and savoury pastries to try. The range of cakes that most cafes had were quite extensive, from your typical moist chocolate cake to delicious fruit cakes and because it was the Christmas season, these was also Christmas cake/bread. Make sure you try at least one cake and one pastry every day! The best part about these pastries and cakes was that they cost only € 1-2 each, so you can eat them without worrying too much about the damage to your wallet 😊

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Pastries/cakes in Madrid!

·         Churros and porras

Porra is just a larger version of a churro. You can get these from most cafes. When we were in Madrid, there were many Christmas/winter markets which sold churros and porras, so we ate from the stalls in the markets rather going to a café. Unlike churros in Australia, churros in Madrid were lightly dusted with confectionary sugar and most locals have it plain without the chocolate sauce. Of course, you could still get churros with chocolate sauce, some even coated with white chocolate and others coated with strawberry icing.

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Trying some porra at a Christmas market.

·         Coffee with milk

I usually don’t drink coffee as the caffeine does nothing for my body. But when in Madrid, you got to try what the locals drink. Instead of asking for cappuccino or latte, ask for coffee with milk. Not only is it lighter on your wallet, but the cappuccino/latte they make are not as good as the ones you get back home. Alternatively, if you are in a rush, you can do what locals do and get a shot of coffee from any café – they serve the shot of coffee in tiny cup and you drink it in one go, no need for takeaway coffee!

·         Try some seafood

Although Madrid is located inland, the seafood is fresh and relatively cheap. So, make sure you try some seafood – calamari/squid, fish and prawns are good options. Cod fish is usually a staple in most restaurants/food shops – they make everything with cod!

·         Cured Meat

If you like cured meat (which I don’t), make sure you try the vast selection of cured meat sold by many shops along the streets of Madrid, from chorizo to prosciutto.

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Typical cured meat shop with cured meat baguette/sandwich too.

·         Empanada

For those of you who don’t know what an empanada is, it is baked pastry with meat/vegetable filling. It is delish! There are a variety of empanadas you can get in Madrid from cod filled ones to vegetarian ones. They are especially delicious fresh out of the oven.

·         Tortilla

Tortillas are Spanish eggs. They are usually omelettes with pan fried potatoes and onions. Again, its mouth-watering.

·         Paella

Paella is a traditional Spanish rice dish originated from the Valencia region. It is typically made with seafood, but the vegetarian and chicken/chorizo options are also very popular. If you want quality paella, you need to go to a restaurant which is known for paella rather than those stalls/small cafes which advertise paella on their billboard.

·         Sangria

Sangria is a Spanish alcoholic punch, traditionally made with red wine, chopped fruit (typically oranges and apples) and orange juice or brandy. Most food stalls/shops and restaurants have sangria, even if it is not on the menu, just ask for it, chances are they actually can make it for you 😊

 Some cafes/restaurants worth trying in Madrid:

One thing to note about dinner in Spain/Portugal, locals tend to have dinner later than what we are used to in Australia. This is because the locals have a ‘siesta’ (nap) between 2pm and 5pm. So, most restaurants tend to have their first dinner seating at 7.30pm (some even later at 8/8.30pm) and second dinner seating around 9.30pm (10/10.30pm). So, if you are used to having dinner early, make sure you book in for the first dinner seating.

Also, in most finer dining restaurants, they tend to give you freshly baked bread rolls (with butter) before entrée. These bread rolls are not free – so, do not eat the bread roll if you do not want it and they won’t charge you for it.

1.       Amazonico Restaurante

Amazonico is located in the Salamanca district of Madrid (restaurant/café district). It has a jungle themed décor (presumably from the Amazon region) and the area we were seated in was quite cosy. There are two parts to the restaurant, the Japanese bar and the Room. We had dinner at the Room, which is a formal dining area.

We dined at Amazonico with Dorian’s aunt and her partner. We had an assortment seafood for entrée and for mains, the ladies had vegetables and fish whilst the men had vegetables and ribeye fillet. Amazonico is known for its delicious meat, so if unlike me you do not dislike meat, make sure you try the meat that they have to offer. We did not try the desserts (as we were stuffed), but the braised pineapple with coconut ice cream sounded divine.

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Ribeye fillet.

Overall, we were wow-ed by the food here. But do bear in mind that this restaurant is on the pricier end of things and be prepared to pay approximately €70 per person.

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Pineapples being braised for the dessert.

2.       Selfie Restaurante

Selfie is also located in the Salamanca district. It serves traditional Valencian food and is well-known for its paella (which is the main reason we visited this restaurant) and tapas. It has a cosy and modern dining setting.

We had lunch at Selfie after walking around Madrid for close to 4 hours. So, we were starving when we arrived at the restaurant. I wanted to order one of everything on the menu. But we settled for the monkfish, prawns and squid paella. The paella was relatively large (2 servings per person) and the best one I had in Madrid. We did not have any entrée but we hadfreshly baked bread rolls which were soft on the centre and crusty on the outside, yum! I also tried their sangria and it was relatively boozy.

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Our paella at Selfie 🙂
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Boozy sangria at Selfie!

3.       La Mallorquina Café

La Mallorquina is a bakery and café with an extensive range of pastries and cakes located in the heart of Madrid, near Puerta del Sol. This is the perfect place to go for breakfast or morning/afternoon tea. There are two floors in the café. The first floor is for takeaway and quick stand up coffee drinking/pastry eating and the second floor is for table service. The prices of food/drinks for table service is slightly higher than takeaway/stand up eating/drinking.

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La Mallorquina Café.

We had breakfast at this café one morning. But you have to be early, otherwise you will be waiting in line for a table. We had the coffee with milk, fruit tea and a range of pastries (chocolate croissant, ham & cheese croissant, trufa (like rum balls) and ham, egg & cheese sweet croissant). The breakfast was definitely tasty, filling and value for money.

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Our breakfast at La Mallorquina.

4.       La Excentrinca

La Excentrinca is located in the heart of Madrid, near Mercado de San Miguel. It is tavern that serves traditional Spanish food. We sat in the bar area which was quite hip and modern. It also has a play/ball area for children.

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Bar area at La Excentrinca.

We decided to go with the tapas menu and got the special with five tapas and two drinks for €20! We selected the tortilla, eggs with fries and chorizo, fried squid, empanadas and croquettes off the tapas menu. It was definitely value for money.    

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Our tapas at La Excentrinca.

5.       Mercado de San Miguel

Mercado de San Miguel is a gourmet tapas market located in the heart of Madrid, just off Plaza Mayor. It has 30 to 40 stalls selling a variety of freshly made Spanish tapas, cured meat, pastries, juices, coffee and of course, alcoholic beverages. They even have sushi, caviar and pizza stalls.

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Bustling Mercado de San Miguel during dinner.

We had a light dinner here one night after eating our way through Madrid during the day. We tried the cod empanada, chicken and chorizo paella, raspberry salted caramel macaron, baklava and gelato. It was worth the night market experience but a little pricey for what we got and the quality of the food was not always 100%.

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Our light dinner at Mercado de San Miguel.

I hope you get to try these food and places when you are in Madrid.

But for now, happy travelling.

For places to visit in Madrid, check out my blog post here.

Xxx

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Make sure you try some cakes/pastries in Madrid! 🙂

  

 

 

 

My Guide to Madrid

I have always wanted to go Europe, but the opportunity did not present itself until the recent (feels like a lifetime ago though) Christmas/New Year’s holiday period. I wanted to go somewhere warm and sunny during this holiday period and so I suggested Cairns. I was looking forward to relaxing on the beach and sipping on cocktails as well as visiting the Great Barrier Reef. However, Dorian did not think this was exciting enough and suggested Japan. But flight tickets and accommodation were going to be too costly during this holiday period and we quickly scrapped this idea.

Whilst doing some holiday research online, I came across Western/Southern Europe being relatively affordable and low tourist season during the Christmas/New Year’s break due to the winter season. I jumped at the idea of visiting Europe but had to choose between Spain, Portugal and Italy due to our limited time (we had about 2.5 weeks). After a little more research, we chose Portugal as it typically has the warmest winters as well as being the most affordable.

However, before starting our Portuguese adventure, we had a little stopover in Madrid to try out the Paella and Sangria the whole world raves about when they visit Spain! And the whole world is NOT wrong 😊

So, what is there to see/do in Madrid during the Christmas/New Year’s holiday period?

  1. Visit the Palacio Real de Madrid (Royal Palace of Madrid)

The architecture of this palace is something that I have never seen before – it was a pretty surreal experience. If you get the chance, I would highly recommend seeing the sunrise from the palace as it is very pretty. The sunset behind the Royal Palace is also quite spectacular to watch, especially on a clear night.

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Sunrise by the Palacio Real de Madrid.
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Sunset from the back of the Palacio Real de Madrid.

You can also enter the palace and tickets are €11 per person. It took us almost three hours to take in the beauty of the inside of the palace as well as see various exhibitions within the palace, but it could have easily been a half day trip at the palace. There is also a scenic viewpoint within the palace grounds which has one of the most amazing views of Madrid.

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Ticket to the Palacio Real de Madrid.
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Scenic viewpoint from inside the Royal Palace grounds.

There are also interesting random acts outside palace grounds. Some of these acts were pretty remarkable, others were pretty normal and something you would find in Melbourne. If you would like to take a photo with any of these random acts, they would appreciate a gold coin donation.

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Random acts outside the Royal Palace.
  1. Visit the Real Jardín Botánico de Madrid (Madrid’s botanical garden)

This botanical garden is one of the biggest garden I have been to. It is 8 hectares in size and again you can spend as little as an hour to as long as the entire day if you are into plants/trees. We only spent a couple of hours at this garden.

  1. Walk along Gran Via

This street is known as the Spanish Broadway and located in central Madrid. It is one of the streets with the most nightlife in Europe and famous for being the street that never sleeps. It starts at Calle de Alcala, through to Plaza de Cibeles and ending at Plaza de Espana.

The street is filled with shopping areas/malls, some hotels and large movie theatres. When we there, the El Rey Leon (Lion King) musical was on tour (located in the Lope de Vega theatre on Gran Via), but did we did not get the chance to watch it. However, it is highly recommended by the experts even though it is in Spanish!

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Christmas tree in Gran Via.
  1. Visit the many squares of Madrid:
  • Puerta del Sol (Gate of the Sun) – one of Madrid’s busiest squares and it is the exact centre of Spain. There were also many pretty Christmas decorations around this square;
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    Christmas tree in Puerta del Sol.

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    Famous statue in Puerta del Sol.
  • Plaza de Cibeles – located just off Gran Via in one Madrid’s busiest traffic hubs;

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    Plaza de Cibeles.
  • Plaza Mayor – enclosed with nine entrance archways and surrounded by many cafes and restaurants. During the Christmas period, there was a huge Christmas night market and it was decked out with lights and was bustling with locals and tourists;

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    Christmas night market at Plaza Mayor.
  • Plaza del Callao – located in Gran Via with art-deco architecture (check out Callao Cinema building and the Carrion building with the Schweppes billboard);

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    Famous Schweppes/Vodafone building.
  • Plaza de Espana – located in the western end of Gran Via;
  • Plaza Oriente – open square with a backdrop of the Royal Palace. It is the perfect place to take in the beautiful site of the Royal Palace; and

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    Sunrise in Plaza de Oriente with the Royal Palace in the backdrop.
  • Plaza de Paja – located in the La Latina district with a café terrace where you can enjoy a cup of coffee/tea and cakes/pastries.Of course, there are many other squares you could visit, but these were squares we managed to visit during our limited time in Madrid.
  1. Visit the Salamanca district

This district is known for its posh cafes and world class restaurants. We walked to Salamanca from Madrid central and I would highly recommend this walk as you would pass many famous buildings/squares. We started off the walk from Puerta del Sol, via Gran Via, towards Plaza de Cibeles, walked past the famous arch of Recoletos and then walked through Buen Retiro park to get to Salamanca. The walk took a bit over an hour, but could take longer if you spend some time at the various buildings/squares.

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Famous arch of Recoletos which is located in the middle of a roundabout.
  1. Visit the Mercado de San Miguel (San Miguel Market)

This market is great if you are looking for tapas style food as you can get paellas, empanadas, churros/porras, tortillas, fried calamari, sangria and pastries, just to name a few. It can get relatively busy at the market during meal times, so if you are not into queueing up in line patiently, I suggest you go during non-peak times. Otherwise, you would not find the experience pleasant.

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Bustling Mercado de San Miguel during dinner.
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Yummy chicken & chorizo paella at Mercado de San Miguel.

Of course, there are other places you could visit in Madrid. But I believe, if you are pressed for time, these are the must-see places in Madrid. Also, I would recommend spending three nights (four days) in Madrid. But if you are looking for a less jam-packed itinerary, an extra night or two in Madrid would be advisable.

For some good food and cafes/restaurants in Madrid, check out my blog post here.

Happy travelling 🙂

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Palacio Real de Madrid at night.