Get a taste of Madrid

Belfast Telegraph - Weekend - - TRAVEL -

Rau­cous, at times even ri­otous, a tour of Madrid’s tapas bars is ev­ery bit as worth­while as see­ing pow­er­house art gallery Museo del Prado and the colon­naded Plaza Mayor. The loud-mouthed, bois­ter­ous city may not lay claim to its own dish, but you’ll find restau­rants, bars and delis serv­ing some of the best re­gional Span­ish food. Ex­per­i­ment with cecina (cured beef ) from Leon, mo­jama (salt-cured tuna) from Cadiz and sherry from Jerez.

For a true taste of Madrid, these are the foodie ex­pe­ri­ences you must sam­ple. GET YOUR FILL OF HIS­TORY Where: Botin Din­ing in this rick­ety four-floor war­ren of a res­tau­rant is sam­pling a slice of his­tory. Founded in 1725, it’s been named the world’s old­est res­tau­rant by The Guin­ness Book of Records.

A dap­per waiter slices Iberico ham in the re­cep­tion, while the orig­i­nal wood-burn­ing oven slow roasts about 50 piglets a day. The ten­der pork dish is a clas­sic and fea­tures on a rec­om­mended three-course house menu (€45 in­clud­ing half a bot­tle of wine).

Duck your head to creep down creak­ing stairs to the cel­lar, where se­cret tun­nels once con­nected to the Royal Palace, or re­serve a corner table on the sec­ond floor, where Ernest Hem­ing­way used to sit. If you ar­rive half an hour be­fore the res­tau­rant opens at 1pm, friendly staff from the fam­ily-run busi­ness might give you a pri­vate tour. Visit botin.es/en SNAP UP SOME FOODIE BAR­GAINS Where: San Miguel and An­ton Martin mar­kets Re­vamped and ren­o­vated, the cov­ered San Miguel mar­ket, just off Plaza Mayor, is filled with deli de­lights. Fried cala­mari rings in pa­per cones, fresh spi­der crabs on ice and fried chur­ros are all beau­ti­fully dis­played. Many peo­ple come here sim­ply to snap pho­tos and gaze up at the curl­ing wrought iron roof. Prices re­flect the venue’s pop­u­lar­ity, although a cheaper (and more au­then­tic) al­ter­na­tive mar­ket is an easy 20-minute walk away. Set be­low a fla­menco school (worth a snoop if you get a chance), An­ton Martin (on Calle de Santa Is­abel) has stalls sell­ing hams and veg­eta­bles from Mon­day to Satur­day. Head to the sec­ond floor to find sev­eral colour­ful restau­rants, in­clud­ing Ce­real Lovers (left) ,a quirky homage to break­fast giants Kel­logg’s and Quaker (bowls from €4), and Latazo, where you can fill up on dishes made with tinned fish (tapas from €1.50). LUNCH LIKE A TRUE LO­CAL Where: Prada a Tope Spe­cial­is­ing in pre­served figs, pep­pers and meats from the Bierzo re­gion in north-west Spain, this well-priced, wood-pan­elled res­tau­rant is a favourite with Madrilenos — es­pe­cially for (late) lunch. Turn up from 2pm if you want to join the noisy throng (although they do start serv­ing from mid­day).

Although not al­ways In­sta­gram-wor­thy, the gen­er­ous, belly-stretch­ing dishes are su­perb — par­tic­u­larly the salt-crusted, thin-sliced but­tery steak with zoupieros figs and fries (€18).

pradaatope­madrid.com BOOK A GUIDED TAPAS CRAWL Where: around the city cen­tre An un­spo­ken code gov­erns the eti­quette of tapas din­ing in Madrid, which can be in­tim­i­dat­ing for the unini­ti­ated. Menus (if any) will gen­er­ally be Span­ish chalk-scrawls on black­boards, and get­ting an or­der in re­quires deft el­bow ma­noeu­vres to se­cure a space at the bar.

Let some­one else do all the hard work by book­ing a food tour. York­shire lass Jo Wiv­ell moved to Spain many years ago to fol­low her pas­sion for fla­menco, and now runs the ex­cel­lent In­sider’s Madrid (in­sid­er­s­madrid.com).

Book a be­spoke tour with Jo and she’ ll show you all the best spots, in­clud­ing La Ve­nen­cia, where grumpy staff serve sherry in a mag­i­cal space stacked with wooden casks, and Emma Cocina (op­po­site the San Miguel mar­ket), a rare place to find sal­ads in the city (from €10).

A three-hour tour with all you can eat and drink in four stops costs from £144 per per­son (min­i­mum two peo­ple). Dis­counts ap­ply for big­ger groups.

Jo might even treat you to an im­promptu dance per­for­mance!

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