Career waiters and not a ‘latte’, ‘frappe’ or ‘mocha’ in sight!

One of the great pleasures in Madrid is having a coffee at one of the hundreds of coffee shops. You can try anything from your the typical café con leche (in a glass, small cup or large cup) and café solo through to café con hielo (coffee on house) and café cortado. Coffee is ground in front of you and made in the huge, usually Italian, coffee machines. The whole café resounds to the sound of coffee machines, grinders, orders being shouted out and coffee saucers being banged down in front of your eyes. What a treat!

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Buying wine in Madrid

Just a quick posting for all those looking to buy wine in Madrid. The easiest plaace to buy wine in Madrid is in the food section of El Corté Inglés or in small stores/off licences. However, if you’re looking to find a special wine, I would recommend going to a dedicated wine merchant. Here are a couple that I know of: Lavinia, which purports to stock over 2000 Spanish wines and 2000 world wines, along with various books and accesssories. The other is Siguero on Madrid’s María de Molina, which also has a fine selection of wine.

Addresses/Information
Lavinia – José Ortega y Gasset 16 | Open: 10 a.m – 9 p.m. | Metro: Nuñez de Balboa or Serrano
Siguero – María de Molina, 70 | Metro: Avenida de America

Cervecería Santa Bárbara

The Cervecería Santa Bárbara in Madrid´s Plaza Santa Bárbara is one of Madrid´s more famous drinking establishments. The main beer on tap is a local lager called Mahou, you can also get a dark beer and alcohol-free lager from the same company. The bar was established in 1947 and is well-known for the huge range of shellfish and other fish which it sells. You won´t get tapas in this bar but can buy its delicious shellfish from a separate bar – cockles, prawns (shrimps), mussels and my favourite boquerones (white bait in vinegar).

Chocolate heaven at Cacao Sampaka

I’m not a great chocolate fan but even I was impressed by Cacao Sampaka. This establishment, just off the Plaza Santa Bárbara in c/ Orellana, combines a chocolate shop with a coffee shop. In the shop you can view all sorts of chocolate, from many different countries and of different types. The chocolate is displayed in glass cabinets, much like in a museum, and you can purchase boxes of it from the counter. Other items on display include recipe books and books on the history of chocolate, cooking utensils and even chocolate candles and incense!! The coffee shop sells thick cups of chocolate – a hot favourite (oops!) in Madrid at this time of year and various chocolate cakes and desserts.

Metro: Alonso Martínez

Spanish Jamón (Ham) at the Museo del Jamón

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The Museo del Jamón is an institution in Madrid. The Museo del Jamón, like so many Spanish bars, has a huge numbers of hams dangling from its bars – and a wonderful selection it is – from the standard to the expensive (like Pata Negra) and from different provinces in Spain. They also offer good menus and tapas. For people who would like to know the process of curing the ham, take a look at their website (in the section ‘Proceso de Elaboración’). This site contains all their locations in Madrid and useful pictures (under ‘Menus’) to let you know what the dishes are.

Rodilla sandwich bar

Rodilla has to be one of my favourite “Fast Food” restaurants in Madrid. It offers a huge range of sandwiches, from foie gras to prawns. My favourite sandwich just has to be ‘ensaladilla’ – which have tuna, mayonnaise, peas and artichoke. Their sandwich bars can be found all over Madrid, including Puerta del Sol, Plaza de Callao, the Goya area and Argüelles. They also do nice salad bowls, too.

Autumn brings the mushrooms (setas)

In Autumn the mountains around Madrid are full of wild mushrooms. Last weekend, my brother-in-law Vicente took his two young children out picking mushrooms (setas) and told me that he couldn’t identify one of the varieties, not even in his book. However, the Royal Botanical Gardens in Madrid will, hopefully, come to the rescue as every Monday they allow people to bring along their pickings to have them checked out. You should also keep an eye open in Madrid’s restauarants for these delicacies!

La Mexicana – coffee at its best

Walking down c/ Preciados from Plaza Callao to Puerta del Sol, the wonderful smell of coffee hits you about a third of the way down. It comes from a shop called La Mexicana, which offers a small but superb collection of Columbian coffee. Coffee is a major part of Madrid life – café sólo, café con leche, café cortado, café con hielo, to name but a few – and this is one way of taking it with you. If you want a list of other La Mexicana shops around Madrid, go to their website.