I have just returned from Drink Dine Discover’s inaugural trip to Madrid, a whirlwind of tapas and Tempranillo, history and jamón. If you have never visited Spain’s oft-overlooked capital and you consider yourself a bit of a foodie, then you need to get over to Madrid and explore the delights of eating and drinking in Europe’s city that never sleeps.
Madrileños are often referred to as gatos by the rest of the country, cats who roam the streets at night and don’t return home until dawn. Even by Spanish standards the capital’s residents are extreme in their eating habits – dinner is regularly not served until midnight and topping into the abundant bars for a caña (small beer) and a tapa is a daily ritual. Life here seems to centre around socialising and for the residents of Madrid, socialising means one thing; eating out.
To acquaint you with the Madrid philosophy when it comes to gastronomy, I would head first, as we did, to the Mercado San Miguel, a glass and wrought iron structure handily situated just off Plaza Mayor. I guarantee that any foodie walking in will feel like a kid in a sweet shop (quite literally at some of the chocolate stalls). Wander between fantastic displays of vegetables, cheese, fish and meats interspersed with bars and tasting stations serving beer, wine, vermut (the classic Madrid aperitif), sherry, Champagne and sangria with plates of delicacies made from anything and everything, all on offer under one roof. Open from 10am to 2am, this mouth-watering spot in the Old Town is so much more than simply a place to buy your groceries. Mercado San Miguel is a unique experience of social shopping, with tables and stalls in the centre and the buzz of people eating, drinking and chatting as they taste before, whilst and after they buy.
After a few hours of acclimatising to the volume of Spanish conversation, the speed of service and abundance of regional flavours, you should be perfectly set up to explore the rest of the city’s gastronomic offerings. As they say in Spain; “que aproveche!”