Well hopefully you will have been following my recent trip to Madrid on Instagram but if not then I am going to put as much information as possible about what we got up to and what we ate along the way.
When we arrived on our first day we were the typical hungry travellers that were straight off the first flight out of Edinburgh. Once we had been to our hotel to drop off our bags we headed to the market: Mercado de San Miguel. This is the place of dreams if you are a fan of food and especially if you are a fan of Spanish food – which I am!
The market if full of stalls to buy food as well as grab something for your lunch, a snack or a tapas dinner. There is paella, seafood, jamon, cheese and so much more! I refer to ham as Jamon as it is nothing like we are used to in Britain. I don’t eat a lot of meat I am on of those fussy only chicken or burnt bacon types but I love jamon. Especially the good stuff!
On the first night, we stopped at one of the tapas bars in the market, offering tapas dishes, hot and cold as well as wine and beer. If you were thinking of heading to the market already stick this on your list of things to try. I am a lover of a dish that is so simple it is perfect – Pimentos de Padron. Peppers fried and then covered in rock salt. I was desperate to try these in Spain as they are a favourite in my house and one of my Dad’s treats when you come in from work on a Friday night. They are perfect with a glass of cold white wine. I got the feeling the ones that were being offered at this stall were worth trying due to the fact that on our travels round the bar to find a spot there were at least 3 sets of locals sipping beer – or as they prefer to midday a caña which is a quarter pint served ice cold – and tucking into plates of the peppers. We grabbed a space and ordered the peppers. Everything comes really quick and we tucked straight in. Yum!
There is a different style of eating in Spain that is completely different from that of Britain. In Spain it is not about eating because you are hungry and then heading, it is a social event and not a rushed one at that. The Spanish love to talk and eat great food and you can just stand at the tapas bars and watch them chat away while eating shared food that brings everyone together. For as long as I can remember my parents have always opted for the type of family meals where the food is placed down the middle of the table and you help yourself. This was admittedly at first to get my sister and me to try different food but it is the same in Spain, as I sat in the Plaza Mayor square I watch Spanish families tucking into tapas at 10pm with children as young as 2 or 3. The children didn’t have any problems with tucking into anything handed their way. I think that’s a great way to eat and introduce children to food! In our house placing the food on the table for dinner allows it to be a social event where all are welcome, there is never a shortfall in food in my family home and that might be exactly where my love for tapas and the Spanish way of eating comes from.
On our second night, we went to a lovely restaurant at the Plaza Mayor, Casa Maria. The previous day we had eaten lunch and dinner at Plaza Mayor but at two restaurants at the other side of the square, which were nice but had nothing on Casa Maria.
When we arrived we were allowed to choose our own seat allowing us to choose a seat we could people watch for the evening. We are both big fans of the Spanish way of eating that is slow and social. Admittedly at first the menu system was a little confusing – there are two picture books and then a menu with numbers that correspond to the numbers in the picture book. It was easy to work out once we got going and it is simply to help people who don’t know Spanish food know what they are ordering. And it allowed you to choose your food from the way it looks. And who doesn’t like to look at what food looks like?
The staff were great, very friendly and happy to help. The service was a little slow but for a Spanish restaurant, I really liked it. In Britain, we like to eat really fast and it takes away from the experience. A trip to Casa Maria allows you to slow down your life for a few hours and eat some great food.
We ordered a bottle of rosé, there is only one available and it is not on the wine menu but we asked and the waitress brought it over. It was delicious! Having tried what was supposed to be the best rosé in a restaurant across the square the night before the one at Casa Maria was much better.
The food was great too, as a couple that knows what we like from Spanish food we didn’t take long to choose. We had fried Manchego, calamari, potatoes with 3 sauces and tortilla with cheese and chorizos. The portions are larger for the potatoes and tortilla as they are not classified as tapas. This amount was ideal for two. You get bread brought to the table which was lovely.
Sitting side by side Marcado de San Miguel and Plaza Mayor is the perfect area for dinner in Madrid. If you are lucky enough like us to be stayig in a hotel within walking distance I bet you find yourselves heading here and rushing to come back!