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Pulled pork taco from K Chido Mexico, Dublin

THE BEST TAPAS BARS IN MADRID

I’ve been to Madrid many times and for different reasons. However, on one trip, I made it my mission to find the best tapas bars in Madrid. Tapas is one of the most famous types of Spanish food in the world, along with paella and callos.


So that weekend, we enlisted the assistance of Enrique Gonzalez Mendizabal. He runs his own private guide company in Madrid called MadSnail Travel, and he promised to show us some of the best tapas bars in Madrid.

THE BEST GUIDE IN MADRID

Well, with Enrique, we certainly got more than we bargained for. Not only is he a great foodie — and I don’t mean the kind who only chooses Michelin star restaurants — but he is also a passionate intellectual with an amazing memory for historical facts and figures.

We had a simply wonderful afternoon with him, walking around Madrid.

WHERE TO GO FOR TAPAS IN MADRID

Of course, as soon as we met him, I wanted to have some authentic tapas. As soon as possible.

FREE FOOD IN MADRID

“Did you know that tapas are actually free food, as far as the Madrilenos are concerned?” He asked me.

He then continued: “Tapas are the little bites of food that chefs and restaurants give out as freebies to customers prior to the main courses they have ordered. So I get uncomfortable when I see a restaurant calling itself a tapas bar but charging clients for food.”

So he suggested: “Let’s call this an afternoon tavern crawl through Madrid instead.”

And that is exactly what we did. We visited the bars and little restaurants around the Las Lettras district of Madrid, and then eventually made our way to a really small and local rice restaurant near the Royal Palace of Madrid run by a former mechanic and his Ukrainian wife.

RICE WITH LOBSTER IN MADRID

The lady cooks rice better than most Madrilenos, Enrique swore. So, of course, how could we not go?

On the way, we stopped by a couple of very popular places including a small restaurant where we found a tiny bit of space at the bar, just enough for three glasses of wine, a plate of beef ham, a bowl of blood sausage meat, and the most delectable chorizo I have had in a long time. Well, I was tipsy by the end of it, and we had only started our pub crawl through Madrid.

Eventually, we got to El Menu de Alona, the rice restaurant. It was located in a local street with fewer tourists than most other streets in Madrid. Also, most of the clients were locals and the scent of lobster rice wafted through as soon as we opened the door.

TINTO VERANO IS BETTER THAN SANGRIA

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We let Enrique order everything for us, and we had a pitcher of Tinto Verano and a very large cauldron of soupy rice with lobster. Again, Enrique gave us an education in Madrid cooking and Spanish food in general: “Sangria is for the tourists,” he said. “We locals drink Tinto Verano.”

I had to admit; the Tinto Verano was absolutely delicious and so different from its sister drink, the Sangria, found elsewhere in the world.

THE REAL PAELLA

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As for the soupy rice in front of us, Enrique said: “This isn’t a paella. It’s a rice dish with lobster. Paella is dry and the rice must all be dry and and separate from each other, to be a real paella. What we have here is a very wet rice dish, and it’s cooked with the juice of shrimp heads.”

What a wonderful afternoon in Madrid, eating our way through a #travelife. 

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