Many Meals of Madrid: Part 1

It’s become a bit of a tradition for Ross and I to escape London over New Year’s Eve, so after our first ever Christmas spent in London (an excellent and very boozy day spent with friends), we left a foggy London and flew to Madrid for 4 nights. Although we’ve both been to Spain separately a number of times, neither of us had been to Madrid before, and after hearing rave reviews from friends, we decided it was time to visit.

We arrived in the afternoon on New Year’s Eve (nochevieja), with no idea how we were going to spend our final hours of 2016. Once we’d got the keys to our apartment, we took a little walk around our neighbourhood and – absolutely starving – walked into the first open restaurant we saw.

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We found ourselves in La Barca del Patio, which had a live band playing and was absolutely buzzing with locals dancing, singing and drinking wine and canas. We accidentally over-ordered on delicious garlicky gambas, calamares and what we thought was going to be patatas bravas, but actually turned out to just be chips ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

We’d already had a pretty long day of travelling, so after very quickly stuffing ourselves (hence no pictures), we left and stocked up on booze and snacks at the supermarket, and returned to the apartment for a pre-New Year’s Eve pyjama party, singing and dancing to indie classics and eating gouda.

Although it was tempting to stay put, we eventually got dressed and spent midnight just outside of the main town square – sidenote: barely anything is open on New Year’s Eve in Madrid, the restaurants that do stay open would need to be pre-booked and they seemed to all have expensive set menus – where we watched the fireworks and I got sprayed in the face with cava by over-excited revelers.

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We felt pretty fresh the next day after such a low-key evening, and as we stepped outside our apartment into La Latina, were face with a huge flea market set up on Calle de la Ribera de Curtidores. There was the usual tat on offer, but there were a couple of great little shops on the road selling some beautiful antiques. We fell in love with a beautiful drawing from the 1960s, and snapped it up for a measly 30 euros.

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We came across a shop called Pohorylle Workshop, which sold the most incredible canvas bags and aprons, with leather pockets, straps and other details. The attention-to-detail on all the items was beautiful and I would highly recommend a visit.

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As it was New Year’s Day, not a whole lot was open, so we walked over to Parque de El Retiro; a lovely big park to the east of the main city centre, which houses the beautiful Palacio de Cristal.

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After getting our fill of fresh air and feeling a bit hungry, we walked to El Barril de las Letras for our lunch booking. The restaurant specialised in seafood and the space was bright and lofty, and made for a great lunch spot. We drank some delicious wine and ordered fried anchovies to share as a starter, which were accompanied with a yummy sort of capsicum and onion pickle.

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I ordered cod (smothered in a rich garlic and butter sauce) for my main while Ross chose the beef, and we devoured every last splendid morsel of these and our accompanying greens.

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We shared a mango and pineapple sorbet for dessert and Ross had his first happy encounter with a café bon bon (coffee with condensed milk).

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After splashing out on lunch (we felt justified after our quiet New Year’s Eve), we took ourselves home, via the back streets to see if any of the antique shops near us were open (they weren’t).

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When we arrived home, I promptly fell asleep – the Spanish siesta is a great excuse for a nap, in my opinion.

By the time evening came, we were ready for a few more drinks. We set off to Mercado de San Miguel, which was having a New Year’s Day party. The market was packed but we soon found a seat around a crowded table. Ross had been keen to get his hands on a vermut (vermouth) since we arrived, and when we found a stall selling lots of different types, Ross’ love affair with vermut began.

We ordered some olives and tucked in, eating, drinking and enjoying the lively atmosphere and general revelry.

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Ross disappeared on the hunt for more vermut and snacks while I minded our seats, and returned with a plate of croquettes, a scallop and… sea urchins! (Regular readers may remember my obsessive but unsuccessful hunt for sea urchins while in Puglia). The sea urchins were served with a cheesy soufflé, but still had a really intense flavour of the bottom of the sea – kind of like the brown meat in crabs. I am pleased to have ticked sea-urchins off my ‘to eat’ list, although next time I want ’em straight from the sea and served raw.

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After a few more vermuts and cava rosado (I can’t seem to get enough fizzy rosé when on holidays), we were feeling the chill of the semi-open air markets and walked down the lively Calle Cava Baja to Taberna La Concha. This was a super cute bar which served great tapas in a lovely and intimate setting.

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We ordered Carpaccio prawns and stuffed piquanté peppers to accompany our drinks.

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After ringing in 2017 in the best way we knew how (i.e., with an abundance of food and wine), we called it a night, ready to do it all again the next day!

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