Spanish cuisine is definitely Top3 things to see, do and experience while you spend your time in Spain. Tortilla, tapas, gazpacho, churos, paella, amazing wine, jamon along with the other specialities makes it one of the most diverse and bold cuisines in the world. And can i be frank, it is still a bit of a mystery what is real Spanish cuisine. Thought most of us are familiar with some typical dishes, there are way more than that. Spanish cuisine is so complicated and have so much to try, that it’s almost impossible to learn about it in a short period of time. The reason is simple: you technically couldn’t eat so much to be able to do it!
The more i explore Spain, the more i realise that the food here is amazing. Each time i open new dishes and new ways to serve, taste it, feel it and experience it. Yes, food in Spain is not only food, it’s an experience. You can go to the restaurant and order paella (but please, don’t do it in touristy places), you can go to the tapas bar, you can eat calamari sandwich at plaza Mayor (and hate it in most of the occasions), you can visit any mercado and try a bit of everything, you can try chocolate in Zaragoza to do it in a birthplace of it, you can go to the supermarket and buy amazing baguet, jamon, cheese, tortilla and wine for just 5-6$ and have the best meal ever. I can go on and on and on! Every meal in Spain is special! Sometimes i feel that food is the main reason to go to Spain for me (for sure, i still have another reasons).
The only issue is that to experience Spanish cuisine it in a right way you need to spend some time in Spain as the rhythm of life here could be tricky at first. Even when i was in Spain for the 5th time i had very bad meal at Plaza Mayor in Madrid to learned that this is the worst food place in the city. Madrid itself is not very easy city to be true: it is big and very crowded and you need time to dig through the main tourist buzz and to understand how it works. Unfortunately, most of the time the tourists goes to the touristy places. People who work there don’t care too much about the quality in most of the occasions: they know you would never go back, so they can easily serve you «heated paella» or something kind of it.
Yes, food in Spain is not only food, it’s an experience.
As i had some not very good food experiences in Madrid before, i decided that i need to fix it. This time i had a food tour with the Devour Madrid Tapas Tour and has explored this side of Madrid with the professional foodie. If you want a bit more and want to learn about food in Madrid, food tour could be really a great solution whether it’s your first time in Madrid or you have spend a lot of time in Spain before.
In this article i will share my experience and also will share the places we have visited during 3 hours. So whether you are looking for a good food guide in Madrid or off the beaten path places to eat in Madrid this article can work for you.
We came to eat, not to count calories!
My tour started even before arriving: i made my reservation in advance at Devour tours web site. Everything works automatically and i got several e-mails before the tour with the reminders and all the practical information regarding the place and time of the tour, the foto of the guide (which is really very handy) etc. The starting point was right in the city centre, not far from Plaza del Sol and it was really easy to spot it.
It feels like there is cheese inside, but there is no cheese!
The tour started at 7.30pm with a short introduction from our guide. He was a really enthusiastic and energetic guy, who has done a great job to introduce everyone to each other and help to build some bridges within the group. This is one of the key elements of really good food tour: the group should be no more than 10 people and it’s important to communicate and talk with each other as socialising is a big part of every meal, especially in Spain. You know, we are humans and we eat not only to eat, but food for us is a major social event from the early days.
The more garbage on the floor the better: it means that the place is popular and worth visiting.
Our tour lasted for 3 hours and we had 4 stops along the way. All of the places were located in the city centre within walking distance. I need to say, that it took me by surprise, but thought i walked along those streets few times, i never have noticed these places before. So it was great to see it from different perspective. Probably that’s because food time in Spain is a bit special and dinner starts after 8pm. Some good place could be simply closed during the day.
Few minutes walk from the meeting point and we made it to the first stop: Casa Libra. It was a place for an «apperetivo» and a small bite. We had a shot of vermouth and potato croquet. This potato croquet is something really unbelievable: it feels like there is cheese inside, but there is no cheese! It’s a bit of mystery how they have done it, but i can feel the texture of potato and the taste of a cheese. The other thing to mention here was that famous Spanish tradition to throw all the garbage and napkins to the floor. The more garbage on the floor the better: it means that the place is popular and worth visiting.
Calle de Tetuán, 12
Their famous codfish croquette
Spanish sweet red “Iris” vermouth on tap
Our second stop was a bar next to the Plaza Mayor. It is very modern bar called Opolo, specialising in craft beer. I always thought that Spain is more wine country, but in reality mostly people eat tapas or other food here with the beers. Still, wine here could be really good! Here we had some local beer and small bites – Huevos rotos, potato with broken eggs and sausages. The bites feels like a hangover dish and definitely is not made for those on a diet. But we came to eat, not to count calories!
Call e de Zaragoza, 9
Individual tapa of fried quail egg with potatoes and crumbly pork sausage
1 caña of Nómada Nature Pils
What i really love in the tour is the flexibility: almost everyone have their preference or even allergies. Everything here is made to suit everyone’s taste. There was a family with us on the tour and one of the guys was 16 years old and they adapted a menu for him (obviously, no alcohol). I am personally is not a big beer lover and our guide easily switched it to the glass of fine wine.
Our third stop was my favourite one. Make a note for the place La Casa del Abuelo. It is really top food place: super busy, very loud, very authentic and real. As every great place it got only few major dishes. La Casa del Abuelo specialise on shrimps. What they do there is beyond awesomeness: we have tried shrimp prepared in oil with the garlic, served very quickly and very hot. We had it along with the sweet wine and it was heavenly tasty.
I really loved this place: it is loud, bold and super authentic. The only trouble there is that for the first-time visitor it could be a bit of confusion even how to make an order: everyone is running around, crying loud and paying ZERO attention to you. That is big part of fun in Spain: you need to be loud in the places like this. I had a few occasions before in the busy places like this where i simply had to leave because of the pressure: i simply couldn’t understand what i have to do. I have asked our guide how to make it work next time and really love his advice: enter, find your place next to the bar when somebody left, order a drink and have a look around what everyone is eating. Then just point and ask for it. Be loud and bold, it’s part of fun and culture!
La Casa del Abuelo
Calle de la Victoria, 12
Sizzling garlic and chilli shrimp
Red or white wine from the family’s vineyards
Our fourth stop of the tour was the place called Casa Toni. This is very simple food bar, the place kind of «the weirder it looks, the better the food». In our case the cafe had a really simple interior and entrance and had some fresh meat on display. I would definitely never enter it, but for sure it was perfectly fine for food and very exciting. Here we had a glass of Madrid wine and tried way more food as it was our last stop:
Potato with the Bravas sauce (tomato with the pepper) and Ali oli sauce (garlic mayonnaise) – very traditional tapas dish in Spain, Fried ceevisos (sausages), Fried calmary, Berenjena frita con miel (fried aubergine with molasses).
Calle de la Cruz, 14 Hot-off-the-grill raciones:
Spanish paprika pork sausage: chorizo Fried calamari
Classic bravioli potatoes
Fried eggplant with honey Selection of classic Spanish beverages
What i really loved during the tour is that we had a lot of good conversations along the way. You know, it’s really interesting to learn and try to understand each other a bit more. I don’t like to talk about myself, but sometimes really curious to learn other’s people story, that gives such a special perspective of our world. Each of us got some opinions and this kind of sharing could be really important, especially when you are in such a multi-national tourist city as Madrid, where people come from all over the world. That brings special social part of this food experience!
So without no means, i can say that that was 3 hours good spend: good food, good talks, exciting experiences and learning more about culture in Spain through it’s food was a great way to spend my night in Madrid.
If you are in Madrid (or other city in Spain) and interested in having a food tour to learn about local food scene, make sure to check Devour tours as a great option! Apart from Madrid, they got tours in Barcelona, Malaga, Sevilla, Valencia, Granada and other places in Spain.
Disclaimer: This tour was a complimentary for me. Still all opinions here are completely mine!