Want to know a secret? I’m on a mission to travel the world. I want to visit every single country on earth, explore their culture, eat their food, listen to their language and marvel at their places of worship. But I have no intention of getting on a plane to do this. I don’t have to – these countries have come to Madrid.
We walked through the long tunnel entrance deep into the ground floor of a 1970s residential building, entering what felt like a cellar bar in Žižkov (the Lavapiés of Prague). The food looked incredible – big, hearty, hot and perfect for one of the coldest nights of the year.
Usera, just south of Madrid’s Manzanares river, is a fascinating neighbourhood that feels like a completely different continent. Join us as we explore some of the lesser-known corners of this barrio, including some wonderfully no-frills Chinese and South American eateries.
In the darkest days of Spain’s financial crisis, Catalina Lescano Álvarez and a team of unemployed women from Peru and Colombia set up a little restaurant in Madrid’s Oporto neighbourhood. Going by the name of Sabores del Mundo, it was a brave and passionate project with two key objectives: to create employment for immigrant women and to provide a filling meal every day to vulnerable members of the local community.
Bar la Peña is a real gem, and one of the last truly no-frills bars on Calle Santa Isabel. The young-at-heart owners, Isabel and Francisco, are a couple from a small coastal town in Galicia, and, like all proud Galicians, they take their pulpo very seriously.
Suddenly the pace picks up. Stacks of hot churros and porras rush out of the kitchen while the waiters frantically steam chocolate and place together dozens of cups and saucers. In this churrería, the staff know their customers’ routines well: suddenly hordes of classy old ladies walk in, order vast amounts of chocolate and churros and kick off their Friday evening with a bit of scandalous family gossip.
Have you ever been walking along the street in Madrid and thought to yourself: ‘Quick caña and tortilla?’ Me too. If you happen to have that thought whilst on Calle de Fuencarral, you’re seconds away from making it a reality. But if you’re half way across the city, jump on a metro – it’s worth the ride.
Austere expressionist paintings, an antique mahogany piano, dark red walls and white doily tablecloths. Restaurante La Polonesa’s old-world style is like a time traveller’s collection, and the nostalgic food fits in perfectly.
Yunie Kebab is run by a Lebanese husband-and-wife team who took over a charming seventies diner and changed nothing about it but the menu. They now serve up incredible Lebanese food, and quite possibly the best hummus in Madrid.
Illuminating the dimly lit end of Calle Cabestreros is a little Cuban bar serving authentic Cuban food to the soundtrack of the Caribbean.