Our Madrid Food Tour: A Gastronomic Guide
It’s not just the sights you should take time to savour in Madrid. Get a taste of the city’s culinary scene with our guide to its most traditional delicacies.
Like any other cosmopolitan city, Madrid’s food scene runs the gamut; tabernas perched on street corners rub shoulders with quirky cafes, sleek Pan-Asian establishments and distinguished Michelin-star restaurants. There’s also no use in denying that our eyes are always bigger than our stomachs, so if you’re looking to savour the flavourful dishes most associated with Spain, you need to know where to start. That’s where Plum Guide's meticulously researched food tour comes in – complete with the city's typical delicacies and the best Madrid neighbourhoods in which to find them. (Just don’t blame us if you’re slightly horrified at what the scales say post-getaway…)
A Neighbourhood Guide
While it’s common sense that you’ll want to research the best restaurants within walking distance of your centrally located Madrid home, venturing out to different districts is essential to feel like you’ve made the most out of your Madrid food tour. Not only do they reflect distinct facets of the city’s history and culture; the culinary highlights in each vary greatly, too.
North of the city centre, the neighbourhoods of Malasaña and Chueca are best known for their vibrant nightlife scene, but they’re also a hotspot for some of the best Asian restaurants in the city (worth bearing in mind if you find yourself going into tapas overload). Chueca and the adjacent Salamanca district are home to Mercado de San Antón and Mercado de la Paz respectively; both are key places you should aim to hit on your food tour of Madrid - even if it’s just to stock up on edible souvenirs.
The area of the city directly south of Puerta del Sol is divided into four key neighbourhoods. La Latina, Lavapiés and Barrio de las Letras are buzzing with people congregating at hazy cafe-bars or lively Flamenco tablaos, whereas chocolatiers, chic pastry shops and chain restaurants are the name of the game in Sol. Regardless of how much time you have to explore Madrid, one thing is certain; each evening will see you waddling home to revel in (or suffer) the mother of all food comas. You have nobody to blame but yourself.
Typical Dishes (and where to find them)
Callos at Los Galayos and Taberna San Mamés
Love it or hate it, there’s no denying that callos a la madrileña - tripe cooked Madrid-style, stewed with garlic, paprika, chorizo and other tasty ingredients - holds an important place in the hearts of locals and on the city’s food scene. If it is to your taste (or if you’re sceptical, but willing to be converted) your best bet is to head to one of the older locales. Though there’s close competition, it’s widely considered that Taberna San Mamés and Los Galayos are two that reign supreme; while the former’s specialty is callos, the latter serves them up with a side of literature and history - you simply can’t go wrong at a restaurant once frequented by the Generation of ’27.
Cochinillo Asado at Sobrino de Botín
We’ll admit it - Sobrino de Botín is one of the more touristy spots on this Madrid food tour. There’s a reason for this though, so you might want to think twice about foregoing a visit; not only is it reported to be the oldest restaurant in the world (founded in 1725 as an inn, no less - we wonder whether our home critics would have approved had they been around at the time), its cochinillo asado (suckling pig) is to die for. Slow-roasted in the establishment’s 300-year-old wood-fired oven, the skin is crisped to perfection, melting in the mouth and allowing you to savour the tender meat underneath. It’s accompanied by a generous amount of roast potatoes to boot. Bear in mind your cochinillo is best enjoyed with a glass of vino tinto too.
Cocido at Malacatín
If there’s one delicacy that needs to be tried during your Madrid food tour, it’s cocido madrileño, a hearty chickpea-based stew similar to callos but without the tripe. The dish has been around since at least the Middle Ages, so it’s no wonder that it has firmly established itself as a national treasure over the centuries. Enjoy one of Madrid’s best cocidos at Malacatín, which draws in patrons with a particular challenge: ‘si te lo comes todo, no pagas’ (‘if you eat it all, you don’t pay’). It’s no small feat - the platters are brimming with food rich in flavour - so a word of advice; wear the stretchy trousers for this one.
Tortilla de Patatas at Casa Dani
A much-loved staple of Spanish cuisine, the tortilla de patata (Spanish omelette) has somehow garnered a reputation for being a mere tapas dish. Located in Mercado de la Paz, Casa Dani is a tiny bar that goes above and beyond to show you this misconception couldn’t be further from the truth. Here, spongy tortillas are served up whole, by the slice or even stuffed into baguettes ready to be wolfed down by starving patrons. The award-winning restaurant even offers different variations - no doubt to make peace between those who prefer theirs with onions and those who’d rather go without (the Spanish version of the pineapple on pizza debate - and trust us, it gets pretty heated).
Churros at Chocolateria San Ginés
No Madrid food tour would be complete without a mention of Spain’s greatest breakfast food - the humble churro. Often the comfort food of choice for early risers (and those returning home in the not-so-early hours of the morning after a wild night out) churros consist of loops of deep-fried dough accompanied by a thick chocolate dipping sauce. Head to Chocolateria San Ginés - tucked away just off Puerta del Sol - for some of the best in town. Just make sure to get there early; the crowds can be unforgiving if you’re starving first thing in the morning.
Zapatillas at Melo’s
Let’s face it, toasties wouldn’t strike anyone as a must-try dish in Madrid, but hear us out. Melo’s, a cafe-bar deep in the heart of the city’s Lavapies district, has concocted a gargantuan variation of the much-loved toasted sandwich. Dubbed zapatillas (slippers) due to their shape and size, their filling is simple; stacks of ham held together by an unimaginable amount of cheese that practically oozes everywhere. Delicious… but don’t just take our word for it.
And if the sound of this food tour has you sold on a city break to Madrid (it wouldn't surprise us), then time to start planning your trip with our expertly designed 4-day Madrid itinerary.