how to eat and drink like a local

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<p><figcaption class=‘Gran Vía could easily take its place next to Fifth Avenue in terms of scale and elegance’. Photo: Sean Pavone/Alamy

Freshly fried churros, golden and crisp; a cup of velvety hot chocolate alongside; aubergine circles striped from the grid; silky mushrooms with chorizo; Jelly of potatoes smeared in a spicy sauce; handmade crisps, crunchy and salty; slices of jamón serrano; plump Nocera olives; and crumbly, herby morcilla … By the end of our first day in Madrid, my sister Penny and I have eaten all these things. A touch indulgent, perhaps, but when you are staying in a city that runs on its stomach, it seems rude not to go with the flow.

Madrileños are famous for eating late, mainly because the mid-afternoon supper is the last of five meals

Madrileños are famous for eating late, mainly because the mid-afternoon supper is the last of five meals, starting with a light breakfast – often coffee and pastry on the fly, before an early lunchtime snack (almuerzo), a full sit-down lunch, usually between 2 and 4pm (we keep), then coffee and cake (sailor) and finally supper. Once you understand this, Madrid starts to make sense: a city of centuries-old pasticceria, hole-in-the-wall tapas bars, neighborhood markets and unlit bodegas, all packed with diners. Someone is always eating somewhere. During our visit, he was usually with us.

Things start well with the discovery that Los Artesanos 1902 ( – arguably the most loved people in the city fresher – it’s just around the corner from our hotel. History and tradition are a big part of Madrid’s food culture, with many restaurants run by the same family for generations. The IS churros we eat – dipped in rich mahogany colored chocolate – made by the grandson of the original owner; they are fried to perfection and dusted with sugar and cinnamon. All around us, everyone from groups of teenagers to elderly couples are eating and drinking the same thing.

Restaurants specializing in one dish are popular in the city, from chorizo-stuffed mushrooms at Mesón del Champiñón (, his finger-singing bowls of gambas al ajillo at La Casa del Abuelo ( – another institution in Madrid, owned by the same family since 1906. Nightly gatherings are usually wandering between bars, each chosen for one particular dish. We learn all this on the Devour Madrid four-hour food tour ( that wraps 2,000 years of Spanish history around four tapas stops, fueled by tinto of it verano – the city’s simplified version of sangria, red wine with light lemonade (unusual, but occasionally drunk).

I’m not always sure about food tours – you can eat a strange selection of things – but this was a winner. Our guide, Ana, whisked us through Moorish reefs, Habsburg rule and the harsh realities of Franco-era Spain, leaving us with full stomachs, a new appreciation of Spain’s volatile past and the strong sense that the pioneering culinary city. scene (currently it has 26 Michelin star restaurants), it is in the markets, bodegas and tapas bars where you really eat like a local.

The churros – dipped in mahogany-coloured chocolate – are fried to perfection and dusted with sugar and cinnamon

With this in mind, we set out the next morning to explore the city. Madrid is a great sprawl of capital; Gran Vía could easily take its place next to Fifth Avenue in terms of scale and elegance, while Retiro Park expands around the sweeping colonnade of the Monument to Alfonso XII – a stunning backdrop to the sparkling lake. It’s too cold for the boats to be out, but warm enough to sit with a cup of thick black coffee while we por over maps and decide which market to visit for lunch.

We settle on the Mercado de San Fernando ( in the hip area of ​​Lavapies. Every neighborhood has a market – the most famous, the Mercado de San Miguel, now attracts more visitors than the Prado gallery. San Fernando is more under the radar; A nondescript building housing a ramshackle maze of market stalls selling everything from meat and cheese to books and electrical appliances. We settle among the patchwork of microbreweries and food stalls at El Colmado, where huge empanadas the size of A4 pads are on the counter, waiting to be cut into chunks and heated. I go for bacon and chorizo, the light, buttery delicious pastry against the spicy meat, and wash it down with cane, the city’s sensible little beer, served in 200ml glasses. Later, wandering back to the hotel, we dip into Mercado de San Miguel, but it feels like a Selfridges food hall and we don’t stop.

Between meals, we find time to see some of the city’s great art, choosing the more manageable Thyssen-Bornemisza over the Gargantuan Prado – one of the most extraordinary private collections in the world, which includes works by everyone from Titian and Tintoretto to Warhol and Pollog. But the real joy is the Sorolla Museum, Joaquín Sorolla’s former home and exquisite garden, kept much as it was when he lived there and filled with many of his works. The paintings are a lesson in Spanish history as well as art; he was commissioned by various organizations, including the Hispanic Association of America, to travel the country and paint everywhere from Andalusia to the Valencian coast, giving an insight into rural life at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century.

From the museum, we walk to the leafy Salamanca district, famous for its designer boutiques and high-end restaurants, for our final lunch. Even here, there is a market to discover: Mercado de la Paz (, although all seats are taken at the bar counters that slot between the food stalls. Instead, we pop up at an outdoor table at Jurucha (, a simple tapas bar with a few cañas and a selection of them croquetas and free pinchos, (baguette slices with béchamel and melted cheese) less than €20 (£17).

When we have to wait, we show that despite our best efforts, we have barely scratched the surface of these foodie cities. We didn’t try el cocidothe city’s iconic stew, where the broth is served first and the meat and stewed vegetables as the main course, or freshness rota, fried eggs served on chips and ham. But happily, that can only mean one thing. We’ll have to go back for a second helping.

A five-night stay, including hotels and travel by Eurostar and rail via Barcelona, ​​as well as a food and drink tasting tour in Madrid, starts from £1,486pp with Kirker Holidays (

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