From the delicious paella of Valencia to mouth watering tapas of Granada; food is a vital part of Spanish culture and during a recent trip to Madrid, I wanted to explore one of my favourite cities in the world through its food.
Back in 2011, I lived in Madrid for a year working as an English teacher and it was here that my love of travel was really born. Six years later, I couldn't wait to rediscover the city that is still so close to my heart and do it all whilst tasting and learning about Spanish food.
We teamed up with Devour Madrid, a tour company which started in 2012 and offers a range of different food tours in Madrid, as well as other cities throughout Spain. We done the Hidden Madrid Neighbourhood Food and Market Tour which is a daytime tour around Madrid's Literacy Quarter.
This tour took us to 9 different stops around this district and what I really loved about it was being able to visit authentically Spanish, family run businesses which you would never really stumble up on as an average tourist. Devour Madrid focuses on supporting local businesses, celebrating local produce and sustainable tourism so it was refreshing to be on a tour where you weren't led to tourist traps, and instead, were able to learn from and interact with locals.
We started off our tour at Chocolat for a traditional Spanish breakfast; warm and delicious churros served with a cup of steaming chocolate. That's right, churros is not a dessert as we've come to expect them in the UK. Nor are they dusted with sugar or cinnamon, in fact, there not even overly sweet! Chocolat is known as being one of the best places in all of Madrid for Churros and they fry them fresh in store (as opposed to buying them in like so many other places in Madrid!)
As part of the tour, we visited the oldest grocery store in Madrid, where we tried different honey, olive oils and artisan jams. It felt like going back in time and I can't imagine the store has changed too much over its 130 plus year history.
One of the other highlights was a gourmet cheese and wine pairing in a local deli come restaurant. Not only because of the delectable combination of cheese and wine but because of the history of the location itself. Our informative guide, Yvonne, told us that Casa Gonzalez has been in the same family for four generations and the grandfather of the current owner was imprisoned during Franco's regime for allowing rebels to meet in secret in the back of his cafe.
The oldest grocery store in Madrid
Casa Gonzalez Deli
Another really interesting stop was at a local market where we wandered around different vendors and sampled their produce. Yvonne told us that there was constantly new and exciting stalls opening within the market, as well as vendors who had been there for over a decade.
We visited a counter where we tried so many different types of olives, I lost count. Spain actually has over 250 different varieties of olives; most of which are only sold within Spain so you probably won't have tried them before. In a bid to give us a taste of home, Yvonne, introduced us to the Spanish version of fish and chips, which involves putting a fresh anchovy on a salted crisp - I was sceptical but it was really delicious and quite different from the Scottish version of the dish!
At the market we also tried different types of croquettes - from mackerel to truffle and all equally delicious. Then we headed downstairs to the butcher to sample the famous Iberian ham with a glass of sparkling Cava. It was fascinating watching the butchers carve the meat and we learned about the difference between the various types of Spanish ham. Please note, they are all delightful and I would have eaten a kilo of it!
After the market we tried tostas at one of the most eclectic and unique eateries in Madrid. A tosta is a simple tapas consisting of bread with various toppings. My personal favourite was the tosta topped with anchovies and grilled peppers, which we washed down with a cold glass of Vermouth. Vermouth is a fortified wine and a popular drink in Madrid, although definitely not one of my favourites unfortunately! I thought it tasted like a cross between ice tea and brandy...
Last but not least, we finished our 4 hour tour with a stop at a cheesecake shop although by this point I was so full, I had to get mine to take away!
A corner of the eclectic eatery
Another display of the owners collectables
The tour costs a total of €79 per person and includes 9 different stops with a selection of different tastings as well as a few drinks along the way. In addition to the food you will sample, you will also learn about some of the history of this part of Madrid, and in particular, the stories behind the establishments you will visit. I was thoroughly stuffed after the tour and didn't need to eat until much later in the day, so although €79 is quite expensive, you get a unique experience which covers both breakfast and lunch!
Devour Madrid was the first food tour I have ever done and it was really interesting being able to learn about the city through it's food. If you are a foodie like me, then this is definitely one you should try!
Half This World Away received a complimentary place on the Devour Madrid tour, however, as always all opinions remain my own