Not only is Madrid a fabulous city to visit for its art, culture, and history but also Madrid is a food lover’s destination! Restaurants and markets are abundant and dining in Madrid will not disappoint. The city is a melting pot of Spanish cuisine with food specialties originating from other areas of Spain.
Popular dishes include Paella from Valencia, Roast Suckling Pig from Segovia, Oxtail from Cordoba, and Octopus from Galacia. The potato omelet is another popular dish eaten all over Spain as well as migas, a traditional Spanish dish made of fried breadcrumbs. Gazpacho and Iberian ham and cold meats are also popular. Fresh food is found in markets all over the city. Interestingly, Spain is a top producer of olive oil. I have done olive oil tastings with groups in Spain – delicious.
Yes, times to eat in Spain are quite different than the rest of Europe. Dinner almost always is late, and Spaniards commonly eat five times a day. Incidentally, dinner is not the largest or heaviest meal for Spaniards. The heaviest meal is typically eaten in the afternoon between 2:00 and 4:00 pm. Dinner is a lighter fare often consisting of a few drinks and tapas. Madrilenians consider the tapa the star of Spanish cuisine. A tapa is a small portion of food. Its name means lid, originating when food was served on top of a glass to prevent flies. It is a usual tradition to visit many bars sampling tapas. This is called “tapear”. I had an incentive group participate in this type of activity and it was a great way to sample different types of Spanish cuisine in small quantities plus it was a lot of fun visiting different bars and sampling their tapa selections and drinks. Sangria is a popular accompaniment to tapas.
El Cocido is also a popular culinary tradition. It is Two for One. The first course is a noodle soup and the second course is typically stewed meat, bacon, sausage, chickpeas and vegetables such as carrots, cabbage, turnips, potatoes. Look for places that offer the El Cocido and give it a try.
Dining out is always an experience in Madrid. It is a city of contrasts with restaurants often having a mix of history and tradition coupled with a modern flair. Some are in old palaces, medieval places, caves but serve modern, urban food. The contrast is delightful. Twenty restaurants in Madrid are Michelin star rated. Diverxo is the only one with three stars. Dining there is an ultimate experience and Chef David Munoz is imaginative and creative serving avant-garde dishes. Other popular restaurants are Posada de las Villa serving traditional Castillian food and Ramses serving modern cuisine.
I mentioned I had groups participate in both a tapear and an olive oil tasting. However, there is so much for MICE groups to do in Madrid centered around the local cuisine. Such activities include cooking classes to learn to make paella or tapas, touring some of the many markets and seeing and possibly sampling all they have to offer, visiting a winery, or having dinner with a flamenco show or dinner with a museum tour.
Madrid is committed to MICE business and looks forward to welcoming groups as we move forward from the pandemic. Another interesting item for MICE planners to know is that Madrid is committed to sustainability. Special venues, suppliers, hotels, DMCs and restaurants/caterers are committed to sustainable practices including eradicating food waste, using reusable packaging, partnering with local producers, providing a work/life balance and training employees in sustainable practices. Sustainability, especially in food and beverage, is becoming much more important to planners and groups and Madrid embraces this.
When you can, visit Madrid for all that it has to offer but please plan to eat your way through the city and sample many Spanish specialties. You will not be disappointed. Bring a group and also let them experience Madrid for the food among its other fabulous sites and activities. For assistance with your group or MICE business, please contact the Madrid Convention Bureau. They will be more than happy to assist you in your plans and have a wealth of information available. There is a fabulous Eating In Madrid guide that you can download explaining the various food available and its origins. Happy Eating in Madrid!!