Salivate at Sargo


The run-up to Christmas is undoubtedly (if you’re anything like me) a social whirlwind. I’m not quite sure where the need came from to see literally *everyone that you know* before Santa arrives; it’s almost as though we feel like the world might implode come December 25th.

In light of this, I often wind up feeling as though I’m over stretched having over committed. And therefore – rather than be filled with “Christmas cheer” – this quickly turns to “Christmas fear” as I realise I’ve spent too much time partying and not enough time purchasing (other people’s gifts that is).

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However, there are some dates in the old diary that are no hardship to keep. In this case, it was dinner at the recently opened Sargo. Located in Barrio Salamanca – not my usual stomping ground, but in an area that I do aspire to spend more time in and around – Sargo felt like the sophisticated older sister to many of the restaurants that I tend to frequent.

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I met my friend at the bar for a sparkly start (some gin-based fizz) and began to peruse the menu. It quickly transpired that whilst there were definite crowd pleasers to be found, innovation was the buzz word at Sargo with plenty of inventive options, of which I’ll elaborate on later.

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For me, I’m all about the “three S’s” when I go out for dinner, so let me explain. Style, service and (lip) smackingly good food. It wasn’t wasted on me that the decor at Sargo was Pinterest worthy in terms of its prettiness and if I’m going to be sat still for hours, then I want something nice to look at.

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On that note, next comes the service. It didn’t go unnoticed on myself or my dining companion that our waiter was incredibly attentive and essentially, he could’ve been plucked from the beaches of Rio. Pau was everything you’d want in a server, knowledgeable but not pushy. Friendly but not overbearing. Gorgeous but not so distractingly so that our food would go cold.

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So onto the food, it passed the “S” test and then some. As I went with a veggie friend (we cover all food group bases) and tried A LOT of different things – what can I tell you, we were warming up for Christmas.

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The standout dish for me was the sashimi de atún rojo, which was a work of art – quite literally, it was served upon a pintoresco. The concept of the menu is undoubtedly unique though – split into easy-to-read groups such as “de machete” – perfect for meat lovers and “de cuchara” which is ideal for those seeking comfort – which to be honest in these tiresome temps, who isn’t?

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We bid the team at Sargo farewell having tackled the menu as a tag team and safe in the knowledge that we’d given their marvellously Mediterranean menu a good old bash.

If you’re looking for a spot that definitely isn’t style over substance, give Sargo more than just a glance. Set to become a darling of the Salamanca scene, set up camp now before the hordes arrive.

Info

 




Crackers for Caramba


Is it just me or does the run up to Christmas turn into a complete whirlwind of eating, drinking and being very, very merry – and that’s all before the main event has even started. By the time December 25th rolls round you’re often fit to collapse thanks to the endless festive functions that have filled your diary from the get go of the month.

However, where’s the fun in being all ‘bah humbug’ about the excuse to crack open the bubbles and swerve the gym? There’s none. So in the spirit of embracing the delirium of December, I booked a dinner at Caramba with a visiting friend and headed out to celebrate the most manic of months.

Caramba Madrid restaurant

Caramba hails from the well known Grupo Larumba; which means that a stylish setting is a guarantee. Close to Puerta de Alcalá, it’s perfectly placed for locals and tourists alike. Should you have spent the day pounding the pavements in an attempt to soak up the city you can easily grab a tasty treat at the end of your day.

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Alternatively, it’s an ideal place to enjoy a leisurely lunch before mooching around the nearby stores on Gran Via. The menu is a mix of Spanish traditional, modern classics and an Asian twist. For instance, we indulged in croquetas de jamón (a nod to Spain’s finest), but we also had some delectable Japanese style prawns that remained on the plate for all of about 13 seconds.

Next up came a tuna tartare that made us feel slightly more virtuous on the old health front (having polished off some golden, crispy chicken fingers beforehand that were almost wholly responsible for me now reaching for the old spanx). We concluded the sumptuous savoury side of things with a beef tenderloin that was as tasty as any steak that I’ve sampled in Argentina.

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However, what got my pulse racing was the quirky list of cocktails; of which my personal favourite was the rather novelty named ‘De Madrid Al Cielo’ – a magical mix of violet flavoured gin, lime juice and egg white – it was as pleasing on the palate as it was on the eye. Speaking of all things aesthetically pleasing, the decor was as lovely as the almond cake that we concluded the evening with.

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In a country where sadly the service often leaves a nasty taste in the mouth (anyone else feel like they have to beg for a bill?!), our server, Cata, deserves a special shout out. Attentive but not overbearing, he asked my friend what her tipple of choice was (gin, I mean she’s a Brit, it’s in our DNA) and with no questions asked he whipped her up her own personalised cocktail. A nice touch, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Caramba, much like other hotspots in the Larumba group, is certainly not a case of style over substance. The food was delish. The cocktails a delight. And the service – the jewel in Caramba’s crown.

Caramba Madrid




Satisfaction Guaranteed at Santo Pecado


Among my friends it’s no secret that in the summer you can’t keep me in. I’m more than happy to play the part of being a social butterfly and my flat is rarely where you’ll find me between the months of May to September. But as the temps start to drop and the dark nights draw in, it becomes harder and harder to prise me off the sofa and to step away from the cocoon of scented candles, red wine and of course, Netflix.

But you know, a girl’s gotta eat. So when I heard about a new burger place that was literally a mere hop, skip and a jump from where I reside, I switched my pyjamas for a playsuit and headed out on the town.

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The place in question was Santo Pecado. At first glance it could easily be dismissed as just another place to grab a burger, but appearances can be deceptive and Santo Pecado is not your average burger joint. First things first, the owners are serious about the good stuff, aka – the meat. The beef hails from a farm in Toledo and there is nothing remotely McDonalds-esque here about what’s between the buns.

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All organic and responsibly sourced, the taste of the meat (having been cooked over carbon) was most definitely worth leaving the toasty confines of my casa. Next came the burger toppings. If you’re indecisive (quite possibly one of my worst afflictions), trying to decide what was going to delicately rest upon my beaut of a burger was not an easy choice. Along with all your standard options, cheese, bacon and the like – there was foie gras on offer – meaning that you could quite literally pimp your dins so to speak.

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Aside from the Toledo hailing beef, Santo Pecado boasts having Wagyu beef on the menu – see, I told you this was pretty far removed from Maccies. My friend assured me that the Wagyu option melted in the mouth and was essentially accountable for us not having room for dessert (although that could also be partly due to us indulging in both nachos and chicken fingers to start – both of which were equally delicious).

Santo Pecado burger joint in Madrid

The restaurant loving folks of Madrid can be a tough crowd. In these post crisis days (of which we’re all grateful for), you really need to have something that little bit special to cut it in an increasingly crowded market place. There are literally more restaurants popping up on a weekly basis in Madders, than Elizabeth Taylor had diamonds. So if you don’t have that USP nailed – you’ll struggle to survive. The fact that Santo Pecado has taken the humble hamburger and elevated it to gourmet status, suggests to me that they have what it takes.

Again, located in the ever increasingly popular barrio of Chamberí, there’s no shortage of nearby bars, making it the ideal place to line your tum before a night of drinking, dancing and debauchery. If good meat equals good times in your language, halt that Netflix binge momentarily and binge on a burger instead.

Santo Pecado

  • Facebook & Instagram
  • Address: Glorieta de Quevedo, 4
  • Metro: Quevedo
  • Phone: 91 057 13 66



That’s Amore at Aió


Following numerous debates, with numerous friends, I’ve come to the conclusion that Tuesdays are officially THE worst day of the week. Mondays, well, I can just about grin and bear them – especially if you’re still all warm and fuzzy from weekend based fun.

But by Tuesday, the forthcoming weekend just feels way out of reach and if you’re like me, it’s the day when you decide to haul yourself back to the gym – usually after a couple of days of complete over indulgence.

In light of this newly held belief, a good friend of mine suggested that we should always have dinner together on a Tuesday; purely to take the sting out of its tail. So last Tuesday we found ourselves happily ensconced at Aió, my local Italian in Malasaña that could give any spaghetti serving spot in Sardinia a run for its money.

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To kick off proceedings we both opted for a Negroni to transport us to sunnier days spent in Italy, rather than a somewhat chilly and crisp November evening in Madrid. The spritz alone raised a smile and that was before the eating part of the evening had commenced, of which there was a lot.

Where Italian food is concerned, I can exercise next to no self restraint – suffice to say, we feasted. With such a tempting menu on offer, boasting all the well loved (and well known) classics, it would have been hard not to.

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Like many other semi foodies, I’ve found myself arguing with pretty much every Spaniard on Earth regarding the fiercely coveted title of ‘the best cuisine in the world’ – because of course, it comes as no surprise that Spaniards (in general) feel that they deserve the crown.

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But I beg of you (and please don’t kill me for saying so) that in my humble opinion, Italian food is where it’s at. Nobody does comfort food better and on a Winters evening, a big bowl of pasta feels like being enveloped in a hearty hug; and I’m all for a cuddle when it’s cold.

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We split a burrata and a carpaccio because quite frankly, any good Italian joint worth its salt should be able to deliver deliciousness on both. Aió didn’t disappoint, both were inhaled without a second thought in all their luscious, lovely glory.

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The starters were followed up with a glorious gorgonzola based pasta dish that was peppered with prawns and a quattro formaggi pizza (half of which came home with me in a doggy bag) as my eyes had clearly been bigger than my belly at this point.

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Saying that though, is anyone capable of saying no to a cheeky pud? I’m evidently not, as we rounded off the previously nicknamed ‘Bluesday Tuesday’ with a tiramisu and a gin tonic for the road. We left with vows of friendship having being reaffirmed, appetites having been satiated and the edge having been well and truly taken off a potentially terrible Tuesday.

Aió’s charm is found in the home cooked feel of the food and the fizz in their Aperol spritz.

Info

Also check out a previous Naked Madrid post on Aió




Trikki, homemade New Orleans cuisine with family recipes


Trikki restaurant was opened in Chamberí about a year ago by owners Yuliet McQuitty (New Orleans) and Rodolfo Rodriguez (Venezuela), and together they’ve brought the spirit of New Orleans to the neighborhood. As soon as you walk in, you’ll feel a refreshingly down-to-earth ambience and lots of jazz-inspired decor, from drum-shaped lamp shades to drawings of musicians and trumpets on the walls.

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Yuliet will graciously greet you and walk you through the whole menu; while each dish will be prepared from scratch by Rodolfo, a.k.a. “the kitchen commander.” Everything at Trikki is made from traditional home recipes and select ingredients to bring the authentic flavors of New Orleans to your table. 

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The menu features all the city’s classics: fried green tomatoes, gumbo, jambalaya, po’ boys and the famous bananas foster dessert. You’ll also find a few Venezuelan items sprinkled in there. Since it was our first time trying New Orleans cuisine, Yuliet suggested we order their signature dishes – all packed with flavor and spices.

Here’s how it went down:

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We started with a half-portion of fried green tomatoes, a delicious introduction to what followed.

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Next up was the gumbo, a hearty New Orleans stew filled with rice, chicken, sausage, langoustine and so many other delicious ingredients. What stood out to me the most was the okra – I don’t think I’ve ever had okra in Madrid.

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Then we had the ultimate jambalaya. This rice dish is on the spicy side, so Yuliet recommends people try it on their second visit to Trikki, unless you like a little kick to your meal. It turned out to be James’ favorite dish of the night.

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Yuliet also said a true New Orleans experience wouldn’t be complete without trying one of the Po’ boys, which are essentially gigantic sandwiches. We ordered the one with soft-shell crab, lettuce, tomato and a special sauce. So good.

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Needless to say, we had a full-on feast! So when we got to the homemade dessert section, we ordered what seemed like the lightest option: quesillo, a typical Venezuelan dessert that’s similar to flan with a hint of lime.

On our next visit we’ll save room for the New Orlean’s classic: bananas foster, served on a dish that they flambé right in front of you. We did get the chance to watch the pyrotechnics at the table next to us, however, and it looked amazing!

Here’s a pic of the bananas foster from Trikki’s instagram so you get the idea.

bananas foster at Trikki

So when it comes down to it, Trikki’s concept is rather simple: home recipes, traditional ingredients and Southern hospitality, which makes for a great combination. Just make sure to go with a good appetite and friends who like to try new dishes and flavors.

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Slow down at Slow Mex Madrid


Julie Andrews once sang about these are a few of my favorite things and if I were to pen some similar lyrics they would read along the lines of: margaritas, tacos and anything with a bit of spice.

In light of this, a long Saturday lunch spent at Slow Mex wasn’t exactly a hardship. A low key Mexican joint on Calle San Vicente Ferrer, that does a very nice sideline in craft beers is the ideal place to bunker down for the afternoon now that coat season is well and truly upon us in Madrid.

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Slow Mex has a big open space that feels slightly reminiscent to a pub back in Blighty (again, this could be thanks to the array of beers on tap). It feels like an unpretentious neighbour who invites you over and makes you feel instantly at home.

As it’s essentially a mecca for all things Mexican, all the standard offerings are present on the menu. Tacos, nachos, burritos – they’re all there. However, the homemade grub does offer a couple of fun twists on the to-be-expected tortilla based treats.

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We tried a fairly unusual starter. It was sort of similar to a kind of chowder but with a kick and studded with spicy prawns; it brought me back to life after a particularly boozy evening the night before. We rounded off the leisurely lunch with a brownie.

Again, it was a slightly pimped up version of an old favorite as this pud offered up sugar and spice – as it had just touch of chilli in it. It was downright delicious and had us reaching for one last margarita for the road.

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Special mention has to go to the Maitre D, Mark. He towed the line between clearly knowing his stuff (and wanting to share it with us) and being attentive enough without us feeling like we had a third person dining with us, which can sometimes be the case. He also pointed out that they have a happy hour. Am I the only one who views winter as the perfect excuse for day drinking? Surely not.

Either way, we left Slow Mex giggling and gloriously full. Thanks to the crispy duck tacos that I’m still thinking about, the diet can always wait until tomorrow. I’m just thinking of my winter insulation and working on my extra layer in the meantime.

by @littlemissmadrid

Slow Mex Madrid

  • Facebook, Website & Instagram
  • Address: Calle de San Vicente Ferrer 33
  • Metro: Tribunal or Noviciado
  • Phone: 915 326 791



El Brote: a brand-new mushroom restaurant in the heart of El Rastro


Mushrooms: they’re an inspiring subject one can easily get carried away with, especially after paying a visit to El Brote. Years of academic mushroom knowledge and on-the-ground wisdom were literally delivered to us on a plate and I’m now a devout mushroom apostle on a mission to spread the message to the foodie people of Madrid.

El Brote's dining area

El Brote’s dining area

El Brote (the bud) is a small and cosy restaurant on Calle de la Ruda run by two mushroom enthusiasts, Eduardo and Alvaro. Every corner of the place is mushroom-themed, even the floor. Its décor is earthy, humble and a little eccentric, and the original features of the building have been beautifully highlighted throughout the room.

Abstract mushroom artwork

Abstract mushroom artwork

Various gospels of the mushroom bible

Various gospels of the mushroom bible

The 0th floor of El Brote

The 0th floor of El Brote

A mushroomy display inside the floor

A mushroomy display inside the floor

Both Eduardo and Alvaro were keen to explain each dish on their 10-item menu and made recommendations based on the season and their own personal preferences which, funnily enough, were different.

There’s a specific order in which you must eat each ingredient.

… they explained as each dish was brought out. They suggested we start with the unseasoned mushrooms so that we could taste their pure flavour, then slowly begin combining the other ingredients together to get a feel for the dish as a whole. The flavours were subtle and delicious both separately and collectively – a sign that someone behind the scenes really knows what they’re doing.

Trumpet mushrooms with a raw egg yolk and herbs

Trumpet mushrooms with a raw egg yolk and herbs

Red mushrooms with pak choy, gnocci and pumpkin gratin

Red mushrooms with pak choy, gnocci and pumpkin gratin

Black mushrooms with beans, squash and leek

Black mushrooms with beans, squash and leek

Try their wine too, it’s really good. We also noticed that every single table in the restaurant was sharing a bottle of red between them… such a beautiful sight.

TIP: El Brote have very few tables and they don’t take evening reservations so aim to be the first to arrive as we were, because within 10 minutes of arriving, the place will be full!

INFO




Loveliness at Lateral


When I first moved to Madrid I walked that well trodden path like so many ex-pats had done before me; the month long TEFL course. I rocked up with my Spanish phrase book, some SPF 20 and the overwhelming desire to live abroad. With no set plan (well, with no actual plan at all having quit my job in PR back in London) I quickly got into the groove of my new TEFL timetable; which essentially meant a 3pm finish.  As soon as my ‘working’ day was done, I would wile away afternoons in Plaza Santa Ana.

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Plaza Santa Ana

Now I don’t spend too much time around that neck of the woods these days, but back then I was literally intoxicated by that square. The beautiful balconies, the long sunny days (I arrived in August) and I even found charm in the guys who play the accordion and then hustle for your change. The large majority of those afternoons were spent on the terraza of restaurante Lateral.

Seriously, the limited savings that I arrived with dwindled at lightning speed thanks to my newfound obsession with their croquetas de jamón and tinto de verano. It became a spot that I still think of fondly, as it kind of represents those heady first months when everything was an adventure and my sole preoccupation was how many hours could I spend tanning that day and where was I going out that night.

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So Lateral and I have enjoyed an enduring partnership and now that I live on the other side of Gran Via I thought I’d mix things up and visit one of their other outposts on Calle Fuencarral. I’d heard on the grape vine that it had undergone a recent renovation (and I can’t just rely on Pinterest for interiors inspo) so it seemed like a win win.

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So onto the décor, it is in a nutshell delightful. But obviously we’re talking about a restaurant here, so I can’t not mention the food. Lateral is all about the tapas – so you can literally try a little bit of everything in perfectly bite sized portions.

In addition, if you have visiting guests or you’re just a first timer to the city, you’ll love that Lateral puts a modern spin on Spanish classics. You can find all the well-known favourites such as tortilla de patata and albondigas (meatballs); alongside more inventive small plates such as delicious duck ravioli and a melt-in-the-mouth carpaccio.

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Food wise Lateral is what I would describe as a safe bet. Yes it might not be the most inventive cuisine, but what they offer up always hits the spot. It also doesn’t hurt that it’s super reasonably priced for a city centre find, and they serve food all day.

My friend and I were also pleased as punch to discover that they boast a happy hour on drinks – ideal if you enjoy a lunch that’s more liquid than most and I can attest that the service is always friendly and fast. Whilst the terraza isn’t quite as pleasing on the eye as the Plaza Santa Ana locale, the phrase “it’s what’s on the inside that counts” that rings true here.

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Inside it’s an oasis within the city, filled with plenty of plants and enough greenery to make you feel like you’re embracing nature, in spite of being mere moments from the hustle and bustle of one of Madrid’s main shopping streets. If spontaneity is your thing (let’s face it, we’re not talking about a country when peeps really plan ahead), restaurante Lateral is the kind of place that you can pitch up at, eat well and feel as though you’ve sampled a little bit of Spain’s finest.

Restaurante Lateral:




Where to Take Your Mom in Madrid – Round 2


Knowing where to take your mom in Madrid can be tough, especially if she’s already visited you five or six times. So here’s a follow-up to my first version of this post with some fresh ideas, some favorites, and some recommendations from fellow Naked Madrid writers – and my mom, too, of course. She also helped me edit this whole piece. Thanks ma! 

Not to mention these ideas are great for any out-of-town guests. Here goes:

1. Museo del Romanticismo for an intimate art experience

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Madrid has several charming museums worth visiting, and if you’re like me, you’ll appreciate their small size. My mom and I loved Museo de Artes Decorativas and Museo Naval; but we enjoyed Museo del Romanticismo the most. Something about wandering around someone’s former mansion makes it unique, and each room tells a different story. Just stay on the grey carpet or the attendant will scold you, like she did my mom when she wanted to take a closer look at the 19th-century furnishings and art! Plus it has a wonderful tea room.

For more ideas, check out Madrid’s obvious and not-so-obvious museums (and how to get in for free!)

2. Mad Improv events for fun and laughter

Mad Improv jams at VeraContent

This was such a great discovery. My mom has been to Madrid several times over my ten years of living here, yet we never quite found the right way to spend an evening out that didn’t just involve food. Mad Improv is an English-speaking theater group that holds shows (right now on Thursdays at La Escalera de Jacob) and regular workshops and jams at VeraContent (Naked Madrid’s sister company).

Jams cost 3€ and include a first drink. Anyone is welcome to get up and join in on improv games, or you can just watch if you’re on the shyer side – understandably so, as you’ll see some pretty impressive improvisors up there. Either way, you’re going to laugh a whole lot. I promise.

Here’s a full post on Mad Improv to find out more.

3. Juana la Loca for excellent Spanish food

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Juana la Loca is an exceptional family-run restaurant in La Latina, serving Spanish food with lots of fusion and lots of love. Everything you eat here is exquisite, from the pintxos at the bar to the main dishes. I had been several times before I finally got the chance to speak to one of the family members, the son, who explained everything on the menu with such passion. Culinary arts clearly run in the family.

4. Bosco de Lobos and Ana la Santa for cozy and chic diningBosco de Lobos Madrid

I wanted to include a few more restaurants on this list so I asked for recommendations from Cat, one of Naked Madrid’s most active writers. With no hesitation at all, she said: “Bosco de Lobos and Ana la Santa are both mum pleasers!” Bosco de Lobos is situated in a beautiful courtyard of an architecture school in Chueca, and its casual-chic look immediately lures you in. Ana la Santa also has a great location, right in Plaza Santa Ana. Cat especially recommends going here when it’s cold outside, as it’s the perfect place to warm up.

Check out Cat‘s articles on Bosco de Lobos and Ana la Santa – I’d definitely take her word for it.

5. Chuka for Japanese ramen and gyozas

Chuka Ramen Bar Portada

Once you’ve had your taste of Spanish food, you shouldn’t feel bad about going to an international restaurant. Really, it’s okay. Madrid’s culinary scene is full of fusion cuisine from all over the world, and Madrileños love it. Chuka is one of our all-time favorites for ramen, gyozas and baos. And we just found out the owners are actually two Americans who have been living in Madrid for over a decade. Go figure!

Here’s a full post on Chuka. Another great restaurant nearby is L’Artisan Furansu Kitchen, offering French-Japanese fusion cuisine and a menú del día that changes daily.

6. Salmon Guru for fun cocktails

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Before going into Chuka we had a half hour to kill so we walked down the street and got a drink at Salmon Guru. This funky bar has a great cocktail selection and truly unique decor. If we’d stayed a little longer and sampled another round, my mom thinks we might have solved the mystery of what “Salmon Guru” actually means.

Read our full post on Salmon Guru here.

7. Swinton & Grant for when you’re working

Swinton & Grant art books and coffee Naked Madrid

Coffee shops are always great places to park your mom while you’re working (or napping). If she hasn’t brought her own book with her, she’ll surely find something to read at Swinton & Grant – a café that sells art books and also has a downstairs gallery – while enjoying a cortado, a spicy ginger soda, or a beer.

Another one of my mom’s favorites, mentioned in the previous article, is Café La Libre, right by the Reina Sofia museum. She couldn’t resist going back twice on her most recent visit. And we always make a pit-stop at Desperate Literature to check out their international book selection and delightful event calendar.

8. Templo de Debod for stunning views

Templo de Debod Naked Madrid

This beautiful ancient Egyptian temple is perched on a hill providing breathtaking views of the city, making it the perfect spot to watch the sunset or have a picnic. Templo de Debod is also a great place to walk to after a visit to the Royal Palace or the Cerralbo Museum which are both a hop skip away. You’ll find a free-entrance museum inside the temple – one of Mad Improv’s organizers, Summer, said her parents loved it.

9. Casa Pueblo for another cocktail

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I’ve been going to this bar since my first year in Madrid. You can bring anyone here – a date, a friend, a colleague. There’s something warm and special about Casa Pueblo that makes me keep coming back. And my mom couldn’t agree more. There’s also a small stage in the back where they regularly put on live music. 

10. The Rastro for a Sunday flea market experience

When I asked for a recommendation from Leah, she said: “My mum absolutely loves the Rastro, of course. She wants to buy everything but can’t fit it in her suitcase, but she always manages to squeeze something in like a spoon!”

Leah has been writing about and capturing the Rastro for years on her awesome blog, Madrid No Frills, and instagram accounts @rastrolife and @portaitofmadrid. Here’s her latest Rastro-inspired post: Seven eccentric museum-worthy collections found only in the Rastro

11. Shopping day in Malasaña – and a mandatory drink afterwards

Mojitos at Cubanismo, a rooftop bar in Malasaña

Mojitos at Cubanismo, a rooftop bar in Malasaña

When it comes to shopping, I like getting it over with in one shot on Calle Fuencarral (which merges with Gran Vía if you want to hit all the big stores like Zara and H&M). Afterwards, there’s beer and tapas waiting for you at some of our favorite spots. I recommend going into one of the happening food markets in the area – Mercado de San Ildefonso or Mercado de San Anton – both with great outdoor seating areas.

Another amazing place for a post-shopping drink is El Paracaídas. This multi-story and multi-purpose concept store actually has two rooftops – our favorite is Cubanismo, a tropical rooftop escape!

12. Food tour for insight into Spanish bar culture and cuisine

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Another Naked Madrid writer, Melissa, recently went on the Context Tavernas and Tapas Tour in Barrio de las Letras. Melissa is a true foodie, and works as a full-time writer and translator at VeraContent, where she researches Spanish food on a daily basis. She said the culinary tour was truly insightful, and a wonderful way to better understand the history and nuances behind Spain’s delicious cuisine as you enjoy every bite.

Read Melissa’s full article on the Context Travel Tours here.

 

Don’t forget to read round one of Where to Take Your Mom in Madrid for more ideas!

You might also like: Take a Peek Inside 5 Historical Madrid Bars

Of course Madrid is full of more options that mothers will love, so please feel free to share in the comments!




Context Tavernas and Tapas, a culinary tour through the bars of Huertas


If you’ve done any traveling lately, you might have noticed that food tours are rapidly becoming a global trend. Companies around the world now offer guided visits to restaurants, bars, and markets, promising to let you in on culinary secrets or show you how to eat like a local. Madrid is no exception. In fact, this city has more than its share of options, thanks to its vibrant dining scene and world-famous cuisine.

I recently had the chance to participate in a food tour for the very first time, thanks to Context Travel. The company offers “tours for the intellectually curious” in cities across the world, including several in the Spanish capital. Many are focused on history or art, but this one was especially intriguing: Savoring Madrid: Tavernas and Tapas.

According to the Context website, the goal of this culinary tour is to define the concept of tapas through tastings at tavernas in the city center. Like all of their Madrid tours, it’s meant to offer an in-depth look at local culture, customs, and in this case, cuisine. But considering the dozens of bars, restaurants, and specialty dishes that are scattered throughout the city, how could it be possible to cover such a broad topic in just 3 hours? That’s what I intended to find out.

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Intricate mosaics decorate the exterior of one of the many historic bars in Huertas.

Hungry for history

The tour began at 7pm outside the Westin Palace hotel, close to many of Madrid’s main tourist attractions. Context limits the size of their tours to create a personalized experience—this one consisted only of me and a couple who were on vacation.

Our guide was Tessy Carrada, a culinary journalist of Mexican origin who moved to Madrid a few years ago. She started off by explaining the basics, with the help of maps and diagrams: what are tapas, where did they come from, and how are they eaten? What makes Spain’s cuisine unique? What can you expect when you go out for tapas in Madrid?

Next she told us how the tour would work. We’d visit three or four places, all in the Huertas neighborhood (also known as Barrio de las Letras). The idea was to show us non-touristy spots, the kinds of places locals go, where we’d get a true taste of the local culture. At each place, she would order a few tapas to share, taking into account our preferences, interests, and appetites. With the ground rules laid out, we set off into the city.

Cervecería Cervantes

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First up was a true classic, a place that was packed with customers even at the early hour of 7:30pm. We ordered drinks, and Tessy explained the particularities of Spanish brewing as we admired the collection of beer cans displayed on the restaurant’s walls. The waiter brought out a plate of giant olives and mussels, exemplifying the tradition of providing something to snack on along with every drink.

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Tessy then ordered several raciones to share: ham croquetas with padrón peppers, manchego cheese, and jamón ibéricoAs we ate, she offered insight on each and every item: how to make croquetas, what makes Spanish ham so special, and how to distinguish true manchego from imitations.

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I’ve lived in Spain for a while, and I’ve eaten (more than) my share of all of these classic tapas, but I’m not exaggerating when I say this might’ve been the best ham and cheese of my life. It took a lot of self-discipline to restrain myself and save room for the next destination…

La Fábrica

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As soon as we entered this colorful, crowded locale we were welcomed with the sights and smells of seafood. We gathered around an old barrel-turned-table and ordered albariño wine to accompany the salpicón (a kind of seafood salad) and boquerones (marinated anchovies) that Tessy suggested. I was quickly reminded of one of the most pleasant discoveries I’ve made in Madrid: despite my preconceived notions about slimy, stinky seafood, here it’s a true delicacy.

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The salpicón consisted of shrimp, mussels, and octopus swimming in olive oil with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. It was fresh, light, and incredibly delicious. A loaf of crusty bread was brought to the table, and Tessy encouraged us to break off pieces and soak them in the flavorful oil.

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The boquerones were perfectly seasoned and accompanied by olives and crispy potato chips. We were also served a small plate of cheese and chorizo—but it couldn’t compete with the perfection we’d already experienced at Cervantes. The star here was most certainly the seafood.

La Vinoteca

Although we attempted to find a spot at the renowned Casa Alberto, at 9pm on a Saturday night it proved difficult. Instead we went to La Vinoteca, which had a much more modern and upscale atmosphere than the previous bars. We ordered wine and cava from an impressively long and detailed list.

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To round out the night, Tessy ordered patatas bravas (fried potatoes smothered in slightly spicy sauce) and two pinchos (small toasts): one topped with spinach, goat cheese, and caramelized onions, and another with potato cake and duck magret.

Although the ambience here was lovely and the wine exceptional, I have to admit that the tapas weren’t quite as impressive as their successors. That being said, they were still delicious, and certainly provided a well-rounded sampling of some of Spain’s most famous specialties.

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For the last course of the evening, Tessy chose a layered trifle of chocolate and cream, as well as a sort of mini apple pie topped with vanilla ice cream. Although these were pretty standard sweets that didn’t exactly scream “Spain,” it’s hard to complain when there’s chocolate involved. After devouring dessert, we parted ways for the night with full bellies, satisfied palates, and a whole lot of newfound knowledge.

An interesting aftertaste

For me the best part of this tour, surprisingly, was not the food itself (although of course it was incredible). As a resident of Madrid, I can get authentic tapas whenever I want, on nearly every street corner. What this experience offered me was the chance to engage with the food I was eating on an intellectual level: to learn why tapas are called tapas, what distinguishes jamón ibérico from jamón serrano, and so much more. It was a lesson in being conscious of what I eat and the history and culture it reflects.

For travelers who only have a few days to sample the best of local cuisine, who don’t speak Spanish, or who simply don’t know where to begin, Context provides an ideal solution. Tessy’s insider knowledge and impeccable taste made for an interesting, entertaining, and thoroughly authentic journey through the taverns of Huertas.

Whether you’re a tourist who wants to experience the tapas culture firsthand, or a seasoned local who wants to learn more about the city you love, you’ll find what you’re looking for in the Context Tavernas and Tapas tour.

To learn more about Context or book a tour, click here.