I was able to do several tours of the market while waiting for Cookie Feria so by the time she arrived for our lunch date, I had already scoped out which place was worth sharpening our elbows for. We decided to wait for a spot at the seafood counter which had a simple but interesting menu and instead of ordering our food and taking it to one of the tables in the center of the market, we decided to wait for a spot directly at the bar. After a ten-minute wait, a couple left and we immediately staked a claim on the one stool and tiny space they had.
We decided quickly and shared several plates – boquerones fritos (fried fresh anchovies), steamed shrimp, ensaladilla con erizo (sea-urchin with Russian salad) and steamed mussels. Service is haphazard as there’s only one person behind the counter but it was pretty quick and the seafood was quite good. We were debating on whether we should have a plate of pan-grilled prawns but decided to have a dessert instead. As soon as we paid the bill and slipped our handbags off our one and only stool, another couple edged their way in and there were still loads waiting around for a place to sit or to order.
We walked around a but more and looked for somewhere we could get a dessert – I chose churros con chocolate (fritters and hot chocolate) which should have been a breakfast treat but I couldn’t help myself. They weren’t very good as they had been sitting on the display case for ages and were no longer hot and crunchy as they should be. I should have had a slice of apple strudel from the Viennese place or a tiny cake from the pastry stall. We sat at another counter and I had my disappointing dessert while Cookie had her coffee.
On the way back to the hotel, Cookie showed me a shortcut to get to the Ritz and we passed a few other interesting gourmet places. There is a tiny Carbonell shop on Calle Mayor with lots of their different olive oils at really good prices – a small bottle of olive oil flavored with garlic and dried red chilies was 1.50 euros and a large bottle of first-pressed organic olive oil was just under 5 euros. Further down the road and just on Plaza Mayor is a typical Spanish pastry place – La Mallorquina. It’s an old-style bakery complete with the white-coated not-so-friendly servers and an old-fashioned cash register. Closer to the Ritz on Carrera de San Jeronimo were two other foodie spots – one is the traditional delicatessen Lhardy which is old-fashioned but drop in as the woodwork and antique silver is worth a look. On the tiny Plaza de Canalejas is the bustling Cafe del Principe which is going onto my Madrid List for my next visit. Another traditional gourmet shop is Casa Mira which specializes in turron (nougat) and is rumored to be the King of Spain’s favorite and is just steps away from the hip and happening Hotel Urban. As always, it’s better to explore a city with a local, in this case Cookie, who took the time to show me a few new twists and turns in Madrid that I had never been to and now, i have loads to visit on my next trip to the big city.