Like any capital city, Madrid is full of restaurants offering cuisine from all over the world. While this has its benefits, it’s wonderful to explore a culture through its food in order to truly understand a place and the years of tradition that have led to dishes becoming firm favourites in the households and local eateries of your destination.
With this in mind, be sure to try some of the food enjoyed by generations of Madrilenos over the years. Step away from dishes that have been created in parts of Spain and further afield and eat like a local. This is Madrid and this is what you should order.
Start your gastronomical journey through Madrid with a soup that is bound to blow the cobwebs away. Made with three main ingredients, sopa Castellana is a combination of bread, garlic and water with the overriding flavour being that of the garlic.
Vegetarians beware that among the ingredients that can be added, bacon is fairly common, so it may not be the meat-free sensation you could be expecting. Another item that often makes its way onto sopa Castellana is a boiled egg, which is exactly how it is served at Botin.
The people of Madrid are so proud of this hearty stew that they’ve put their name to it. A rich combination of pork, chorizo, chickpeas, vegetables and whichever other ingredients are included in the family recipe, cocido Madrileno is brought together through its dark and tasty broth.
When you enjoy a steaming bowl of this classic dish, you are not experiencing fast food, but a delicacy that has taken a significant amount of time to prepare. It takes a least four hours to cook the meat to perfection and develop the flavours into something greater than the sum of their parts.
To be guaranteed a wonderful example of cocido Madrileno head to La Bola Taberna, where the fourth generation of the Verdasco family cooks individual portions in clay pots. It’s been going since 1870 and has served the likes of Alfonso XII and Princess Isabel.
Roast suckling pig with tender meat and crispy crackling is something to be savoured, making it an event in itself. This dish, which is usually accompanied by roasted potatoes and the cooking juices, is best served at the table, so diners can choose the pieces they wish to eat and marvel at it before it is carved.
El Sobrino de Botin, or just Botin as it is known locally, is the place to dine on cochinillo. Recognised as the oldest restaurant in the world, it has been cooking up meals for Madrilenos since 1725 and its famous guests have included Francisco Goya and Ernest Hemingway.
Bocadillo de calamares
Anybody who has eaten with a Spaniard will know that a meal is not complete without the bread. When it comes to Madrid’s classic sandwich, or bocadillo, the fresh, crusty bread is more than an afterthought. Fill this with crisp battered squid and you’ve got the perfect lunchtime treat.
Of course, many of the establishments that serve up this true taste of Madrid add a little touch of their own. Whether this is tomato and paprika or homemade alioli, it only enhances the deliciousness of the core ingredients.
There are lots of calamari bars in the vicinity of Plaza Mayor, so you can take your pick, although Casa Maria comes highly recommended. Alternatively, stop by El Brillante after a morning at the Reina Sofia Museum or before catching a train from Atocha Station.
Chocolate con churros
It cannot be said that the Spanish don’t have a sweet tooth and boy do they know how to attend to it. Long fluffy donuts known as churros are perfectly shaped for dipping into cups of hot, molten chocolate. It’s the perfect food to help fuel a day of sightseeing.
Many of Madrid’s partygoers like to indulge in this sumptuous treat after a big night out, but you don’t have to have taken part in the fiesta to enjoy churros and its accompanying chocolate. Have it as an afternoon snack or go for the ultimate decadent experience and start the day with a sugar rush.
Chocalateria San Gines is open 24 hours a day to satisfy your churros cravings no matter what time you decide to eat them. It has been deep frying churros since 1894 and serving it with the smoothest chocolate you can imagine, earning fans from across the globe.
If you can’t visit Madrid this summer, why not add a touch of Spanish flavour to your kitchen with this delicious breakfast recipe?