When I look back to our short but sweet time in Madrid, my most ardent memories involve food. There is no doubt about it, Madrid is food heaven. It was (for the most part) exceptional. The idea of a sad, soggy sandwich, filled with unpalatable rubbery cheese, stuffed unceremoniously into one’s mouth whilst seated at a desk, was unheard of in Spain. Lunches were a time to stop, down tools and fill your tummy with healthy delight. Even the cheap little corner cafes with plastic tables and strip lighting, served three course meals that tickled your taste buds and brought pleasure to your belly. I was amazed by their commitment to proper eating. The Spanish know how to eat. They know how to take pleasure in food.
From what I could see, the Spanish philosophy is to work to live, as opposed to live for work and this coloured everything. At Leo’s work, menus were set before him each lunch time along with a napkin and silver cutlery- so fancy- he couldn’t believe his luck! The fact is, you just can’t rush a Spaniard at mealtime (don’t even try!) Even the removals men we hired to deliver our furniture stopped for a TWO HOUR lunch and somehow they got all their work done! They were slightly slower but my goodness, they were so much happier! I began to wonder how I had ever eaten all those sandwiches from Pret a Manger. My taste buds really needed an upgrade! Actually my whole life ethos needed an upgrade!
Even our local park cafe had proper menus, an impressive wine list, well turned out waiters and good, tasty food. It was a marvel. We became regular weekend visitors, sitting at their courtyard tables surrounded by large, happy, noisy Spanish families taking their time to eat on a Sunday. Yes food and the pleasure of eating became a proper past time.
Looking back to my life in England, I realised that I had really started to entrench myself into a middle years mindset. Dinner out at 8pm, tucked into bed before midnight- it was all rather lack lustre. I envied my London friends who had the energy to stay out after midnight- I just couldn’t be bothered. It was with this mouldy mindset that I started going out in Madrid. Now in Madrid, if you decide to dine out at 8pm, your dining companions will either be young families with toddlers or octogenarians (possibly older!) We asked around and everyone told us that we had to start our night no earlier than 9pm and even that was mildly geriatric. So we slowly but surely began to adapt to the Madrid way. Really we had no choice and do you know what, it was so good for the soul! It felt instantly youthening. Slippers be dammed! My middle years needed a great big injection of life and here it was.
The concept of time was changing…. the kids went to bed later and later, our days became longer, we all relaxed and meals became mini events. I can tell you that those six months we lived in Madrid liberated my soul, changed my view of time and made me look at age in a whole new light! My middle years would now be my mid -life awakening! It was time to get out my dancing shoes…and that is just what I did…
My favourite food courts in Madrid
1. Mercado de San Miguel www.mercadodesanmiguel.es
This place is amazing! It’s a large food hall stuffed with delicious tapas, sweet treats and drinks. We brought all of our visitors here. It’s worth going before the rush hour of lunch as it gets crowded. Don’t expect a seat – this is a standing place but it’s worth it. The food is delicious and it’s fun and the venue is great looking.
2. Mercado San Anton
This food market is in the trendy part of Madrid. It’s calm and gorgeous, with delicious food to eat on site and also to buy. There’s a cool rooftop bar there that’s great to go to for a pre dinner aperitif!
This amazing venue is a former cinema in Plaza Colon. It’s gorgeous to look at, has a stage for entertainment and has great tapas and wine. It is really worth visiting.