When the taxi dropped me off in one of Madrid’s main squares, the Puerta del Sol, on Wednesday evening, and I made my way to the pretty tree-lined Calle del Arenal, all decorated with Christmas lights, I had little idea of the great evening ahead! I was in Madrid, primarily to see our apartments there, but had come across Devour Madrid’s website in advance and, being a foodie/wine lover, I couldn’t resist checking out their tours. Moreover, it was my first visit to Madrid so I really was starting with a blank canvas. I can now unequivocally recommend that a food and wine tour with Devour Madrid, is definitely the best possible way I can think of for getting to know the city and its gastronomic culture!
Our guide for the evening was Luke, who has lived in Madrid for many years and has a genuine love of the city, as well as an impressive knowledge of Spanish wine, food and Spanish culture generally. The tour lasts around three hours, and covers about 1.5 kms in total around the Plaza Mayor area, between four iconic taverns. Our first stop was Casa Labra (Calle Tetuán, 12), where we started the evening with Spanish sweet Ruez vermouth, on tap, and one of the tavern’s famous codfish croquettes, which was delicious. Dating back to 1860, the tavern retains an authentic, traditional atmosphere, and apparently was also where the Spanish Socialist Party was formed in 1879, as well as being a favourite of the poet, Lorca.
Next stop was the Mercado de Jamòn Ibérico (Calle Mayor, 80), a family-run deli and tapas bar. Here we tasted a wonderful variety of cured and semi-cured Manchego cheeses, jamòn Ibérico de bellota, jamòn Serrano, salchichón, chorizo and Iomo. As the taverna’s name suggests, the jamòn is definitely the star here, where we watched it being expertly sliced before tasting, and washing it down with a Canals Canals Cava Reserva from DO Cava.
Two interesting facts learnt here is that Cava is far closer to Champagne (in terms of taste) than Prosecco, as made the same way but with different grapes. I also hadn’t realized that Spain is actually the third largest wine producer in the world, and with the most land dedicated to vineyards.
We then moved on to Bodegas Ricla (Calle Cuchilleros, 6), a small family tavern, dating back to 1867, with the two sons running the bar, and the mother, Ana, preparing the delicious tapas. Here we tasted freshly pickled anchovies in garlic and parsley, smoked cured beef from Leòn and Ana’s homemade beef meatballs. We tasted two wines here a Pardevalles albarin white wine from DO Tierra de Leòn and Cuatro Pasos Mencia rosé wine from DO Bierzo.
La Casa del Abuelo (Calle de Toledo, 11) was our final stop, and another delightful family run tavern, still run by the family that founded it in 1906. The menu is based around hot, off the grill raciones, mainly comprising different shrimp and king prawn recipes, with their specialty being the gambas al ajillo, shrimp with garlic, olive oil and pepper. The wine tastings were three red wines of varying ages from the family vineyards in DO Toro. This was all followed up by a delectable chocolate covered fig, and a glass of El Abuelo sweet wine.
As the website says … ‘enough tapas for a hearty dinner paired with 8 Spanish wines … enough to be glowing by the end’!
Other tour options available with Devour Madrid include an evening tapas and flamenco tour, an evening tapas, taverns and history of Madrid tour, a daytime Huertas neighbourhood food and market tour, and a daytime ultimate Spanish cuisine tour.
Where to Stay:
Definitely one of the stars of our Madrid apartment programme, this stunning, very stylish and spacious 4-bedroom apartment is situated an aristocratic building in the heart of the Barrio de Salamanca. Salamanca is arguably the most sought-after districts of the capital, known for its upmarket hotels, excellent transport links and many high-end shops, chic cafés and restaurants. The beautiful Retiro park just a 10 minute stroll away makes this also an ideal location to go with children.
I loved this 2-bedroom apartment, also in Salamanca, with its layout comprising a continuous flow of connected spaces, giving a wonderful feeling of space. It is decorated and furnished a classical style with columns in the living room, wooden vertical support beams, wooden floors and large windows opening to small balconies.
For a location with a more ‘alternative’ vibe, this beautiful and very appealing 3-bedroom apartment is situated in the heart of the trendy Chueca district. Very centrally located, it is approximately one kilometre from El Prado, the Serrano shopping district, and the elegant Barrio of Salamanca.