Usman is a Mauritanian organic vegetable farmer with an allotment in the Jarama valley – a beautiful bit of local countryside with clay, terracotta soil, which I know well because I find it in the nooks of my freshly picked purple carrots.
Emerge from Lavapiés’ metro into the Mediterranean Maghreb. Meander through its narrow, winding streets lined with candy-coloured facades and Juliette balconies, and catch a glimpse of the Middle East and Africa, but also Asia, Latin America and of course, Madrid.
Look closely and you’ll see that every single tile inside this restaurant is zellige: an ancient Moorish design whose pattern has been trending throughout the Arab world since around the seventh century.
Hearty, home-cooked Senegalese food rolls out of the kitchen fast at Mandela 100, which is owned by Mamadou from Senegal. His Africa-themed diner has hit the ground running, much to the delight – and relief – of Lavapiés locals, because it’s not just quality that can be found here; it’s also equality.
Ice cream academic Pedro begins the week at his micro ice cream factory in the working-class neighbourhood of Vallecas. His aim is to experiment with a new savoury ingredient, while also finding the perfect level of sweetness.
Despite the near extinction of an ancient civilisation, the pupusa survived and thrived for generation after generation until it was finally brought across the Atlantic Ocean to central Madrid, in a Salvadoran restaurant near Atocha station.
Mohammed serves really good Moroccan food, which he makes himself in his tiny kitchen at the back of the restaurant. The food at Ikram is even better than meals I’ve had in Morocco, and you’ll find it right here in the northernmost neighbourhood of Africa: Lavapiés.
The plain façade and Korean lettering were a good sign that we may have stumbled across a no-frills gem, then all was confirmed after peeping through the translucent door of Go Hyang Mat. We saw not one frill within: just lots of food on lots of tables – a surprise given it was a Monday evening.
Sorry, Rubén, this secret can be contained no longer. Los Tres Cerditos (the three little pigs) is a real gem and, despite the meaty name, caters well for the vegetarians and vegans among us.
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.