Why is it hard to... (part #734)

… find good food in Madrid? I’m obviously doing something wrong.

I’ve been in Madrid for just over a week now. My first mistake was to assume that restaurants would be open when I wanted them. Unfortunately, it appears that the local convention dictates that you don’t eat till about 9pm, so most don’t even open till 8.30pm. It took me a few days to give in and toe the line. The places I was forced into when I ignored this convention were not pretty (a cheap and nasty buffet being one of them). Although I’m now resigned to it, the habit of eating so late really disrupts my sleep (please, no comments about siestas. It’s close to freezing here some nights, and most people work 8am-6pm - with lunch at 3pm).

Even once I’d got the time right, both the quality and variety seem to be surprisingly low for such a major city. Yesterday’s meal, in an unassuming but smart Italian restaurant, was looking promising when I ordered the lasagna. It turned out to be less so when I realised it was microwave-heated: and not all the way through. My Spanish being not up to par, I couldn’t be bothered to complain, but skipped dessert without a second thought.

Tonight’s experience was almost worse. Getting fed up with Italian-based food (it’s easy to find when you’re travelling, but you get bored of pizza and pasta), I wandered into a place with a bit more variety. I fancied rice, but not the risottos available, so went for a chicken curry. I wasn’t expecting much, but I got even less - this time it was stone cold. I had a chat with the waitress and then the chef, and in between their broken English and my attempts at half-sentences containing the word ‘caliente’, I got it heated. I think the implication was that it was meant to be that way. Once hot, it was acceptable, but not much more than coronation chicken.

The best meal I’ve had here so far has been in a cheap down-and-out tapas bar with two Spanish colleagues at lunchtime. The second best was a pizza, but was marred by an embarrassing wine-glass-smashing incident. I think I’ve resolved that I must put aside my fear of speaking Spanish, bring with me a phrase book, and try tapas again for dinner. I’m fed up with everything else.


You shoul realize that spaniards go out late at night and consequently stand up at 9! Bad habits, I think, but not to comment. About meals, I remember I ate very good and very cheap in Madrid. And Barcelona was even better. Try paella next time.