Madrid has always been a favourite destination for a short break in Spain, especially as my old school chum was the British under ambassador (or whatever you call the “second-in-command”) there. But when Charlie left to move on to bigger and better things I lost my “pet local”. So it was very handy when earlier in the month I met up with Daniel Beers Moreno from nativespanishtapas.com to talk about all things Tapas and the Madrid tapa scene.
Tourism in Madrid has increased 3,1% in 2016, an excellent percentage compared to other cities in Spain, this has created an increase in touristy restaurants and other services. There are plenty of “touristy tapa bars” in the heart of Madrid which have focused their quality standards on tourists, yet there are still a lot of traditional bars and restaurants because local people from Madrid, or “Madrileños”, still enjoy going downtown for some of Spain’s most delicious tapas in traditional bars or restaurants that have been in service for generations.
Puerta del Sol, Madrid’s 19 th century “Time Square”, or the Plaza Mayor, a 17 th century picturesque square, are great examples this “tourist trap phenomenon” that has sprung up in Madrid only in the last 10 years. But locals know where to go, and often Spanish tourists from other parts of Spain do not hesitate to ask a local where to eat, whereas a non-Spanish speaking tourist has that language handicap.
There are two indicators that show whether or not a restaurant has kept up on traditional home-style food. The first one is the time it takes to prepare paella, if it takes 10 minutes to serve one, it was a pre-cooked industrial one, which is not that bad, but a freshly made paella takes the prize.
Another indicator is the tortilla de patata, or Spanish omelet. Here there is no comparison; a freshly made Spanish omelet has nothing to do with a pre-fabricated one.Another thing that locals do when going downtown is to not order Iberian Spanish ham, Jamon iberico de bellota.
A real Iberian bellota ham must be from the Iberian breed of pig and must have been fed only on acorns. So madrileños only trust their local butcher-shops to buy this exquisite mouth watering tapa.
Instead they resort to Serrano ham, the standard European white-pig breed which is also a delicious tapa plate, shared along with Manchego Cheese, Chorizo sautéed in white-wine, a zesty garlicy Shrimp platter, just to name a few.
Images: Native Spanish Tapas – who offer a variety of Madrid tapas tours from a local’s perspective.
So that is the theory, I said to Daniel – let’s put it into practice! So here are three tapas bars, in heart of Madrid, where the locals frequent and visitors should look out for!
Casa Labra (Calle Tetuán, 12, 28013 Madrid), infamous for their cod croquets.
Another favorite local hang-out is right in beautiful touristy Plaza Mayor square called Museo del Jamón (Plaza Mayor, 18, 28012 Madrid), where you can find some of the best cold-cuts and cheeses at local prices.
Lastly is a sit-down restaurant next to the Opera hall Casa Nicasio, (Calle de La Unión, 10, 28013) where they make one of the most delicious paellas in the historical quarter and believe it or not, their vegetarian paella is absolutely amazing. Other traditional Castilian tapa dishes recommended there are the callos, tripe stew or huevos estrellados, fried potatoes, Iberian ham and fried eggs, all meshed up together.
So “thank you” Daniel. He has promised me a personal tour when I get over there next and, if you want to organise a tour, check out Native Spanish Tapas for a variety of Madrid tapas tours from a local’s perspective.