The Spanish eat like kings and drink like queens, lunch is a minimum two hour affair, and dinner is more so than that. Meals are taken slowly and are meant to be shared, and preferably ended with watermelon. In the summer I worked as a nanny in Spain’s capital and all the money I didn’t spend on trams or tacky magnets went on eating Madrid. Below are some of my favourite places.
Close to the Plaza Mayor, the 17th century square covered in swirling pink tiles that make it look as if it’s caught in perpetual sunset, the Mercado de San Miguel is Madrid’s only remaining outdoor market. The fanciful wrought iron building is a food lover’s dream, with stalls selling every mouth-watering tapas dish under the sun. Try the fresh fruit juices (papaya is delicious) and the fried baby squid.
Do not be fooled, the Museo de Jamon is not a Ham Museum but a chain of deli-come-restaurants that are a shrine to jamon Serrano, a delicious dry cured meat. There cannot be a more quintessentially Spanish dish than melón y jamon – if you eat anything here, make sure it’s this.
Montedito’s is a cool, cheap bar chain that better caters to the younger madrilenos than more traditional bars. It is Weatherspoons’ sun-tanned bad boy brother, who is infinitely better in every way (and probably rides a motorbike.) The best time to go is on Wednesday when the entire menu is down to 1 euro. There is nothing like a tankard of Tinto de Verano in the sun after a long day of trawling the city.
Nestled in a street between metro stops Opera and Sol, San Gines Chocolatiers is a world famous churro shop: the oldest in Madrid. The hot chocolate is delicious and it is worth going for the experience of being in a Spanish institution. Go dip long strips of fried dough in their thick sweet chocolate and sprinkle with sugar to your heart’s content. You know what they say; a moment on the lips, a lifetime trying to get sugar out of your cleavage.
The glamorous rooftop bar of the Roommate Hotel off Gran Via, La Interazza de Oscar, is an oasis of Ibiza cool in the heart of urban Madrid. It is basically a Nelly video circa 2006, white sofas and beds, Perspex balconies for 360 degree views of the skyline, crystal clear pool surrounded by white pillows, waiters who are clearly moonlighting from their jobs at Chippendales. If you’re willing to spend £5 for a coke to feel like the sixth member of One Direction, it can all be yours. Go at sunset and stay until the stars come out.