The Madrid region (one of Spain's smallest), as one would expect, is largely dominated by the capital city itself. It has been said, by gourmands and food critics alike, that Madrid does not really have an individual cuisine all of its own, rather it draws on influence from the whole of Spain, absorbing a rich tapestry of flavours and ingredients and throwing them into it's own gastronomic melting pot. This is certainly true to some extent; in no other city in Spain are visitors likely to be presented with such a wide cross section of the nations flavours. Despite this fact Madrid does still boast a few dishes that are synonymous with the capital and by absorbing so many influences; Madrid has become one of Spain's richest gastronomic regions. Famed for its stews and hotpots, Madrid's most famous dish is probably "Cocido Madrileņo". Made with chick peas and vegetables it is a staunch favourite of locals and tourists.
"Callos" (tripe) is also typical of the region and can be served in many ways and visitors should not leave without having sampled the simple, yet delicious, "Sopa de Ajo" (garlic soup). The region is also heavily influenced by nearby Castile an area famous for its roasted meats and these traditions have been readily absorbed by Madrilenos. Meats are often slow cooked in a wood oven, giving exquisite flavour and tenderness. Veal, suckling pig and even goat, are often prepared in this way.
Food in the region is often more warm and hearty than in the South and is much better suited to the cooler winters of the central and northern regions of Spain. Desserts and sweets are also a big thing in Madrid and are often seasonally produced. The superb "torrijas" is very similar to bread and butter pudding and a favourite in spring time and especially around the time of holy Week. Rather surprisingly for an area that is 250 miles from the nearest ocean, Mardileņos are great lovers of fish and the city boasts the second largest fish market in the world, only the one in Tokyo is larger. Every morning fresh fish arrives by the truck-load from Spain's coastal regions filling the cities restaurants and bars with a massive variety of seafood, so much so that Madrid has received the paradoxical nickname of "the best port in Spain".
As you would expect, Madrid is home to some excellent restaurants with no shortage of fine dining options as well as a massive variety of tapas bars. Some criticism has been levelled at Madrid in recent times about the lack of high quality international cuisine on offer and vegetarians (not exactly two-a-penny in Spain) may also find it hard to find a decent meal. Spaniards are very much a meat eating race so vegetarian dishes in restaurants may not be of the highest quality (although standards have improved within recent years). The ever growing city break market means that city's such as Madrid have to provide good quality food for all of their tourist visitors if it wants to keep them coming back. This can only be a good thing for the city that's ability to adapt and adopt food from around Spain has clearly given Madrid its own unique cuisine.
By: Mike McDougall