I don’t know about you but every time a member of your family comes to visit, it’s always an exciting time. It’s the perfect opportunity to catch up on what’s been happening and it’s also the time to showcase the adventures you’ve been having in good old Spain. No guest is more deserving of an extra special time and no guest is more demanding than mum. While you’ve been away, she hasn’t stopped wondering when you’re coming back home. So now that she’s taken the plunge to visit you in your newly found life, you want to amaze her and leave her with peace of mind that todo esta bien en Madrid. What better way to impress mum than with a few, well chosen culinary adventures?
I’ve been asked a few times about my mum’s in town picks, so here I have them. These places not only provide great food, but also give the chance to catch a unique glimpse into what Spanish gastronomy is becoming. I had to bear in mind that eating out in Madrid is always a battle between typically Spanish bars and tabernas and the burgeoning hip and happening restaurants with fanciful decor that everyone seems to be talking about. As you well know, a typically Spanish “bar de toda la vida” is great but the informal eating style is a culture shock that can leave our guest uneasy and some of the fanciful nouveaux places fall very short of mum worthy gastronomy. Therefore, I present a non-exhaustive list but all encompassing nonetheless.
PROYECTO LOS AIRES: Olive Grove Tour
Since you will be eating a lot of olive oil, one of the things I highly recommend is starting with a tour of an olive grove. When I go back home, I always take some extra virgin olive oil for my mum, so it would be so appreciated to have an educative tour of the whole process. At Proyecto Los Aires, you will meet two young biologists, Guillermo and Laura, who will explain to you the ins and outs of olive oil production. You will learn much about organic farming and the different types, the ways of harvesting the fruit and how to differentiate between good quality and bad quality oil. I certainly appreciated the enhanced understanding of what “extra virgin” really meant. The tour is on their olive groves located in Arcicollar, Toledo. In the open fields, not only do you get to enjoy fresh air and nature, but you will also marvel at some of their 200 year old trees and see clearly the difference between well-cared for trees and abandoned trees.
The trip is rounded off with a session on how to distinguish olive oil types and a tasting session of artisan and organic products from around the Toledo region. You and mum will taste some manchego cheese, olive pate, Spanish cured meats, among other things. This tour is definitely a fantastic introduction to life in Spain as it touches on the product that mum will see everywhere in fruit and oil form.
The journey to Toledo is an hour or so away by bus going through some villages and the rolling countryside of Castilla La Mancha with stunning views of other olive groves and vineyards. Therein lies the opportunity to see Spain as it truly is away from the centre. If you plan your trip carefully, you can combine a visit to Proyecto Los Aires with a visit to the historic city of Toledo.
I don’t know about your country, but both of my countries are not synonymous with fresh, high quality fish. So when mum is in town, it is a must to sample the fish from the seas around Spain. El Chiringuito is the perfect place for everyone to lose themselves in delicious fish, all the while eating in a beach style environment. This was the first place in Madrid were I ate a tuna tartare that was actually a tuna tartare. They balanced fresh red tuna with the mild flavours of spring onions, olive oil and other bits and bobs. Thankfully, their tartare was not lost in unwarranted marinades of vinegar and lemon juice. The menu is so varied and all the options delight the tastebuds. Try not to miss the Mediterranean gambas with black garlic. As the waiter described to me, the flavour is neither sweet no savoury but rather tailored to activate the unique senses to your tastebuds. All this is recommended with sparkling Cavas and white wines. As El Chiringuito is in the heart of Madrid, the Sol area, this definitely is the perfect launch pad for touristic ventures in Madrid. I urge you to visit El Mercado De San Miguel after eating to see the El Señor Martin gourmet fish stall that acts as the supplier for this great restaurant.
From El Chiringuito, you will be in the prime location to venture out onto the sights of Madrid such as the Royal Palace and the Royal Theatre. In my opinion, it would be a must to walk down Calle Segovia until after crossing the Puente de Segovia for some unparalleled views of the Palace and the Almudena Cathedral and of course, el Rio Manzanares.
EL CORTE INGLES TERRAZA Serrano 52
Yes, I know that I am publicly recommending that you take your mum to El Corte Ingles. There is a reason to this apparent madness. Unlike its Callao cousin, this particular rooftop experience offers spectacular views of Madrid untainted by the hoards of people only there for a photo op. Serrano 52, in addition to the views, has the Rocambolesc ice cream parlour. This ice cream is delicious owing to its Michelin starred creator, Jodi Roca. The flavours are very creative including the likes of violet sorbet and baked apple. They even do a brioche ice cream sandwich; cold in the middle and hot and crispy on the outside. They also have a fridge close by where you can get some ice cream to take away, offering everything from vanilla flavour to truffle oil flavour!
If staying for a while, it is the perfect place to enjoy your ice cream and a glass of wine or the typical Mahou beer. If mum is in town for a while, then only go during the weekdays as at the weekends it can be una barbaridad as the locals say. Seeing that you will be in Serrano, it would be great to do a spot of shopping, window or otherwise. The Main Street is littered with high street favourites such as Zara, Massimo Dutti and Mango. If you go to the back streets, you will find smaller, boutique style brands. Also, don’t miss Calle Ortega y Gasset, home to all your luxury brands. Even if you’re not buying anything, aprovecha the opportunity to show mum all aspects of your beloved city.
This is a beautiful and elegant restaurant located in the Diego De Leon area of Madrid. The elegant interior design with carefully chosen cutlery and crockery neatly placed on the tables adds to the welcoming nature of the restaurant. This is definitely a place to go for a special occasion while mumsy is in town. Here, everyone can enjoy well chosen specialities from Galicia with the likes of fresh fish, pulpo and Galician beef. The restaurant has an excellent wine selection including their own, specially made Albariño from a vineyard in Galicia. The pre and post dinner cocktails are fabulous. I sampled a smoked cloves cocktail with whiskey and mango liquor concocted by Flavio the resident barmen. The menu is well translated into English and the head waitress, Rocio, speaks excellent English and gives exceptional service. The owner of Los Montes de Galicia is named Jose and is warm and friendly in the Galician meaning of the description. During dinner times he makes his way around the restaurant chatting with diners and making sure that all is well. He told me that he was the restaurant’s head chef when it first opened almost 17 years ago but now he dedicates his time to making sure that nothing unacceptable comes out of the kitchen. I couldn’t tell you to visit this place fast enough even if I tried. This place will ensure that your mum falls in love in Madrid and it will keep her coming every so often (if that’s what you want of course).
This restaurant is located on the soon to be world famous Calle Ponzano. It is a brilliant place to showcase the marvels of tapas. Every tapa is carefully chosen before being included on the menu. The owners of the restaurant have made sure to use seasonal ingredients so the menu changes regularly during the year. This place has some delicious Spanish dishes that you cannot miss, among which would include their own version of the Spanish tortilla en tres texturas, the fresh, zesty flavours of the cocha exotica and the grilled octopus “leg.” Even more delightful is the sheer number of wines that they offer by the glass. So you and our guest can enjoy a variety of Spanish wines from the different regions up and down the country. You could even go all out and do a different wine per tapa. The waiter or waitress would be more than happy to make a few recommendations.
Zitty is a contemporary restaurant offering Mediterranean style cuisine. Before we get to the food, the place has much to say for itself. Upon entering, there is a small bar area that I would definitely recommend you to have a pre-dinner (alcoholic) beverage at. From there, walking up the stairs, you encounter a spacious restaurant area, fully equipped with a library and a modern, glass panelled wine cellar. The main wall on the far end has a grandiose aerial view picture of New York (I did say contemporary)
The food itself is noteworthy. I would definitely recommend some calamari croquetas with the squid ink worked into the béchamel. These have a rich flavour of the sea which is great as delicious, freshly made croquetas are a must on any visit to Spain. Other noteworthy items would be their fresh burrata with sundried tomatoes and pesto. Though this is not a Spanish cuisine item, it still carries the Mediterranean banner, so equally delightful. The duck Margaret and the oxtail in filo pastry I would also recommend. The great thing about Zitty is that the menu is varied and the chef has spent time making sure every item is up to scratch. They also offer a small selection of international dishes just in case mum is not feeling mightily adventurous on that day. But honestly, I should hardly think you’ll have to resort to that as you would have been doing a marvellous job at amazing her with Spanish cuisine that she just can’t get enough.
As Zitty in on corner Calle Velazquez and Maria Molina, a meander towards Plaza Gregorio Marañon followed by a walk down Calle Castellana will offer another view of the city where modern meets old.
Having said all this, I could go on to mention other of my favourites in La Latina, Malasaña, Lavapies etc etc, but alas, all good things must come to an end. Feel free to write me a message on FB, Instagram or Twitter for other recommendations. Also, check this post out as the restaurants are also mum worthy! And of course, don’t forget to make sure mum gets a good breakfast that she would find back home.