Food is never a problem in Madrid. There must be hundreds of restaurants, tapas bars and the like – some are new and chic, while others seemed to have changed little from days of old. Here are a couple of places that I visited.
First stop was the Mercado de la Reina (Gran Via 12). Lucky for me this was directly across my hotel, so I didn’t have to spend too much time finding a good bar for my first tapas in Madrid. The bad thing is it’s always packed, popular with business types and a youngish crowd and entirely consistent with the Mercado’s modern interior. The main restaurant was still closed by the time I dropped by, so I opted to sit at the bar and order a pincho tortilla (Spanish tortilla) followed by a pulpo con vignaretta (baby octopus). The latter didn’t exactly go down well with my cerveza, but the former was the best tortilla I’ve had in years – just the right texture and weight of flavours to tease the palette for my next stop.
El Veintidos de San Marco (cnr. C. de San Marco and C. de San Bartolome) isn’t for those looking to be seen in a hip and happening joint. But here, at least you’ll get your fill. In my case, it was very much just an accident. Within a minute of me ordering a ham on melted cheese bocadillo (€4.50), the barman plonks down in front of me a tiny little piece of bread with exactly a ham and cheese. It’s so tiny that I’m basically able to gulp it in one go.
I thought, that was it? For four euros? Of course, at the time I hadn’t yet realised that it was just one of those free stuff they give you!
Unperturbed by the cost, and curious, I order another one, this time tuna with hot peppers on top. Sounds good. The bar man hesitates for a moment. He flashes the two sign with his fingers and, I think, he was asking me if I really wanted to order two. Of course, I nod my head to say yes.
Minutes later, to my shock, the bar man returns with 2 plates of fairly sizable pieces of toasted bread, one with the tuna and the other with the ham! I struggled, but not wanting to embarrass myself anymore than I had, I finish the plates clean. I’m so tired from all the eating that I head straight back for my room and doze off.
In the next post, I’ll talk about a couple of more places worth seeing. For the time being, I’m going to see Barcelona, where I landed yesterday.