Madrid, what a historical place to visit with tavernas that date back to the 1600 where you still find locals sipping on vermouth and tapas flying here and there. Let me start of by being honest and admit that this trip has great sentimental value for me, as all of those with my father are special.
Madrid, what a historical place to visit with active tavernas that date back to the 16th century where you still find locals sipping on vermouth and tapas flying here and there. The concept of sharing small plates of traditional variety really opens the doorway to the endless possibilities of trying an entire menu. Let me start of by being honest and admit that this trip has great sentimental value for me, as all of those with my farther do. We only get to meet about twice a year, he lives in Bermuda, and we try to make it special to make up for lost time. Last February he chose to meet me in Madrid and surprisingly left me the honors of organizing everything. My father doesn’t understand why I love the food industry, or even take the time to write about it, even if he was the one who introduced me to this world luckily. I felt this was my time to take my father on a different journey showcasing how I percieve the world and why I always feel the urge to connect with people through anything culturally related and food always seems to be the best start.
My father has been in the hospitality industry since very young. He tells me his favorite childhood stories over our meals while pointing out to either mistakes or attentiveness during the waiter’s service. I can see his eyes glister with pride as he explains how hard he has worked, but his eyes shine the most when he reminds me that no matter what you do in life to always remain humble and help others. Some who work in the hospitality industry somewhat have a hard time enjoying a meal out as they of course want a break from their everyday environment, well at least my dad. He prefers a home cooked meal and some peace and quiet and states that after 40 years he loves his breaks and is not a party pooper. I was determined to show him that our industry is always enjoyable and that we must encourage and thank others for their service as they fight for their dreams and tell us their stories. So, Madrid has become this sacred place for me now as me and my father did exactly that; dined, talked, experienced, listened while enjoying quite a few tapas and copa’s along the way. Our food itinerary went something like this:
1. Let an Italian in Madrid have his espresso at La Mallorquina
When you find a good espresso on holiday you stick to it, that’s our rule. For five days straight we pushed our way through the line to enjoy not only the view of local pastries but to be surrounded by people expressing their love for a sugar rush. It is quite impossible to just enjoy a coffee when staring at pastries literally the smartest idea ever. The commotion is incredible in this place and the staff has everything under control at every moment. This caffe has been open since 1894 and the locals are still very present. It yes has become a bit touristy but there are great reasons why and the locals seem to appreciate and take the time to actually recommend what to try and tips for the city. What to try here? Good luck choosing…
2. Make a reservation prior to the oldest restaurant in the world Botin
This is my cheesy moment where I can state that I shared a so delicious meal with my father in the world’s oldest restaurant founded in 1725 however the actual record of the building dates back to 1590. It is said that Casa Botín has also served meals to numerous literary personalities. Ernest Hemingway, Benito Pérez Galdós, Graham Greene and María Dueñas, among many others. The specialties here to try are two: the delicious Segovia suckling pig and Castilian style roasted lamb still cooked in the same oven since its foundation. How special is that? Even more special is the fact that the restaurant feels like a museum everything catches your eyes and you want to know more and more. It honestly feels like walking into another era and that you’re simply not wearing the right outfit. This is a cheesy experience served on a silver platter. If you can only have one thing go for the suckling pig with a glass of Rioja to smoothly push that fat down.
3. The locals said wonder down Cava Baja, the street of taberna and tapas
I was suggested to try the following, but I will need to be back to give them all a go. In the meantime, please let me know if you do.
Taberna Diaz Y Larroy
Taverna la Concha (for wine)
La posada de la Villa since 1643
Taverna Tempranillo (known for the duck thigh).
4. Taberna Diaz Y Larroy remains in my heart for my first Jamón Ibérico while cheers to La Concha for introducing me to the Verdejo grape. Mucho Gracias!
It was finally time to try some Jamón Ibérico, Spain’s most renowned prosciutto from Ibérico pigs. I wanted that first moment to be special, yes seriously, I wanted to associate this moment with a specific time and place and it was given to me. Being the loudest place on the street I was compelled to be surrounded by locals who were just happy to be out and about. The bartender was the gem of all gems with a contagious smile, the woman I will always associate with my Jamón, suggested I try it over a spread of sun-dried tomatoes with a glass of Tempranillo. It will never be the same this is the combination… Speaking of wine, pretty much right across the street at La Concha you can try the amazing Verdejo grape that I am quite fond of for a day drinking white wine. You can also unite with the locals for a vermouth. For now, I remain a wine gal.
5. Throttle down to the Lavapiés Neighborhood for La Fisna wine bar and shop
I was seduced by the very good wine list offered and really wanted to have a go at a few local wines. I was recommended to try the octopus and meatballs (let me know how it is) but went off topic and ordered their version of spring rolls and my dad was very impressed. The waitress extremely knowledgeable of wine was beyond happy to help and suggested to try Garnacha, a new favourite red. The place is small and intimate with a tiny wine shop in the back. What I love about these taverna’s is that you actually get to hop from one place to another ordering tapas and wine without judgement. In Italy this is not common you must sit for entire courses if you want to be even considered. I appreciate the Spaniards for this way of tasting and sharing meals from one place to another. Miss you guys. On my list of places to try in the neighbourhood was also La Canibal known for having great cheeses and natural wine on tap but it was always too full. Definitely keep this one in mind too. I will be back for you La Canibal.
6. Eating at the bar is the way to go at Entre Santos for contemporary tapas and cocktails
Always absolutely all in for a good seat at the bar. It is quite the supreme experience where you can truly connect with the vibe of the place and most likely make new friends. My father did just that as the Italian bartender told his story and deep down, I knew my dad could see a bit of himself in the young folk who left Italy in search for something new. We were craving a bit of everything, my father also a bit nostalgic of some Italian food by day 4, so we decided to order some familiar plates that made us smile and twirl on our bar stools. We opted for the eggplant parmesan, stuffed squid, and a salmon tartar. Simply all brilliant hitting the happiness spot. The place is fairly new, and the atmosphere is very energetic. The bartender underlined that they are also known for their cocktail list, but you know me I am a wine gal. This would definitely be a habitual spot if I lived in Madrid. A girl can dream. The evening was cut short due to my old man being not so use to the bar stool.
7. A modern Madrileño vibe at La Mucca del Carmen
Me and my father passed by this restaurant for a few days now and we were immensely intrigued by the everyday business of this place. We finally gave in and dined here on our last evening in the Spanish Capital. We really wanted to be part of the cool Madrileño crew. At this point we still had not tried the famous Jamón Croquettas, so why not be as local as possible and try this must have tapas now. You just can’t hardly go wrong with anything fried, so imagine potatoes, cheese and ham together as one fried. Now how could that have a bad ending? For mains we went all fancy. My father ordered fish and I went a little more all in with a beef tartar and bone marrow. Very classic mains however we enjoyed a few details that stood out like the carrot puree hidden under the fish and the meat being local special in its own way. The restaurant design is very modern but industrial it gave me a real New York vibe and really the place was crowded from start to finish. So yeah, definitely try a modern dine out with the Madrileño’s and the owners of the restaurant also have a few more really nice places you can find on the restaurant webpage
8. La Retrasca, the lunch spot before hitting El Retiro Park
This place was recommended to us by my father’s friend who has been living in Madrid for the past 10 years. There was no doubt about this one. The restaurant, first of all, is the cutest it is a mix of various vibes. The design was impeccable really down to detail even the bathroom door was outstanding. The Beatles were playing in the background the whole time, heaven. We strategically were saving some must have tapas for specific moments as I mentioned before to have a memorable moment. Really you just always remember your first of everything. For lunch it seemed appropriate to finally try the Tortillas de Papas ( a spanish omelet) that is magically runny at the right consistency. We thought it would be light, so we also ordered a Bonito that came in this amazing vinaigrette, that forced us to devour two bread baskets, that still gives me goosebumps. We left the restaurant rolling and were so happy to walk it off in the park where all of Madrid seems to spend their free time.
9. Mercado de la Cebada is an even more local market with endless of possibilities
This market was such a good find. It seems to be where the locals actually go food shopping and even food hopping. There were incredible fish stands with ready to eat produce, different tapa stands, even some Portuguese stands. Here you can find all the classic tapas and way more like meat stands with your favourite cold cuts and all this described above is surrounded by a very tranquil ambience. Knowing the Spaniards by now we probably went during a quite time. The San Miguel market it also a must to visit and if you can save time for this market and extend your taste buds all the way here and take a peek at this lovely food haven.
I thank you for this lovely and memorable experience with my father. The people and the energy are vital in this amazing capital. A few quick notes about the city: everything is pretty much walking distance however subways are safe and clean, try as many classic tapas as you can without forgetting the wine, if you’re into that, and try to talk to the locals as they are so proud of their city and want to share it with you. For more behind the scenes about my trip to Madrid you can head over to my Instagram handle where in the highlights there is a complete list of restaurants suggested and researched for you to screenshot and keep for your take on Madrid. Let me know if you try any places on the list I was not able to so that my next take on Madrid will be thanks to you!
Ciao for now,