Tuesday, 7 June 2016

A Weekend in the City… Dining in Madrid

Readers, I’ve been on my travels again.  Every year, my 3 friends from home and I try to get away. We’ve been to London, York, Ibiza , Marbella and Tenerife in the past and this year’s trip was off to Viva Espana for a weekend in Madrid.
madrid guidebook

Some say Madid is Spain’s Gastronomy Capital… Others (like me) could take a bit of convincing as San Sebastian has more Michelin stars per square mile than anywhere else in Europe. In my eyes, Madrid could possibly be a close second.

Today’s post focuses on our dining delights in this great Spanish city and has some hints and tips for those who are gluten free.

One of our group is coeliac, so we needed to be very careful where we went, given the language barrier and her need to completely avoid certain food groups.  God bless the internet – we were able to research some fantastic venues before heading out to Spain.

On our first night, we found the restaurant dubbed "Madrid’s Best Gluten Free Restaurant".  Clearly we can’t compare it to everything else out there, however, in terms of traditional Spanish tapas, there were 22 options which could be made gluten free, meaning for once we could all order from the same menu and share food – as tapas should be eaten!  We went for 8 different options and were delighted by a complimentary appetiser and chocolate strawberry each.  Great service.
Taberna La Concha

Taberna La Concha was heaven for our gluten free diner.  The restaurant staff don’t speak a huge amount of English, but this place is definitely a hidden hem.  Gluten free bread was an option and it was lovely to be able to share food properly as a group, without worry.  There’s a bar upstairs and a fairly small restaurant downstairs – we had to wait 30 minutes for a table at 10pm, but it was worth it.  The bill for 4 of us, including a jug of Sangria came to around £55 which we all thought was reasonable given the quality of food we had, coupled with its location in a major European city. 

taberna la concha

On night two, we went to another small local place in one of the non tourist districts. Restaurante El Arrozal took a bit of walking to get to, round a series of windy streets, so it’s not the type of place a weekend visitor would fall over.  A traditional Spanish place, with very little English spoken and a fairly small menu, the owners have a coeliac child, so understand gluten free struggles.  The restaurant does a range of paella dishes – we tried two between the four of us. Two of the group had a traditional meat and vegetable paella, whilst we shared an oven baked dish with pork and baked eggs (think a Spanish tortilla minus the potato).   Again, with Sangria, the bill came in at around £55 for the four of us – for a LOT of food. They also did a gluten free bread with aioli to start, which everyone was happy to get stuck into!

After two nights eating Spanish food, we were all set for something a little different and ended up at La Cabana Argentina – a steak house we found down a narrow cobbled street, not far from Plaza Del Sol (the main square). As it was the last night, we blew the budget slightly, with a few bottles of decent wine as well as steak dinners.  It’s rated #51 of 8000 restaurants in Madrid and we weren’t disappointed.  The manager came to chat with us about our streak preferences – what cuts, how we liked them cooked, did we like lean or marbled etc. and then paired us up with the best option on the menu.  Dinner started with bread, garlic butter and olives – it gave us time to chat and relax, before the main event.
la cabana argentina

la cabana argentina madrid

Absolutely no complaints – the steak was so well cooked – medium to my preference – and the side of garlic and parsley fries was HUGE… absolutely no way we were leaving hungry afterwards.  The restaurant had a really relaxed feel to it – there were lots of couples and the odd family with children in to enjoy dinner together, even thought it was 9.30pm on a Sunday night.  Staff were friendly, there was a massive wine cellar to choose from and it wasn’t pushy to order any more than a main course, if that was all you wanted.  All in, we were probably around £30 a head for steaks, sides, bread and olives and a half bottle of wine each.  For those who didn’t want steaks, there were other grilled meat options, as well as a series of pasta dishes – one of the girl’s went for a ravioli dish with cheese and spinach. 

Madrid makes for a fab weekend away, either with a group of friends or as a couple.  Although it doesn’t have a huge amount of famous sights to see, there are some great walking tours, to help you uncover the secrets of the city and learn some facts about the history of Madrid.  Many are free, with a “pay what you’re happy with” element at the end. 
street food in madrid
Street Food in Madrid
mojitos at hard rock madrid
Mojitos at Hard Rock, Madrid
We passed 3 full days easily, between wandering the streets, visiting some of the sights and shopping as a group.   We flew Easyjet direct from Edinburgh and rented an apartment from a local lady, located one metro stop from the main square in the multicultural district of Lavapies.  

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