Madrid’s best kept secret restaurants [and the best Spanish wines!]

Article updated on May 15, 2020
Text & photos: Claire Lessiau & Marcella van Alphen

Andrés makes his way through the narrow streets of Madrid’s old town that he knows like the back of his hand. He points out to some interesting details on the façades of different buildings as we are making our way to one of his secret spots to taste some of the best food in town paired with some of the best Spanish wines. “Did you know this is Madrid’s oldest building?” he asks when he briefly explains its history before we pop into a 19th century tavern on a historical nearby square. Andrés is taking us out tonight, and we are starting the traditional way with a vermouth on tap and delicias de bacalao. The fried cod cooked to perfection and still crispy is enhanced by the sweet madroño jam made from the fruits of the tree of Madrid: the strawberry tree (go figure, this has absolutely nothing to do with strawberries!).

The legend seems to be true and this vermouth has stirred our appetite as we are getting closer to the Latina district and walk into another of Andrés’ best kept secrets. Passing cured ham and cold cuts hanging from the ceiling, we sit at a large table, and the friendly waiter brings some special bottles for us: Andrés as a wine connoisseur hand-picks and brings his own bottles of the best Spanish wines to his favourite restaurants himself to pair them with their specialties.

This Victoria Nº2 Moscatel Dulce by Jorge Ordonez is made of the best raisins around Malaga and its delicate melon taste makes it the perfect combination to go with the top of the line of Spanish cured hams, the Jamón Ibérico de bellota. Bellota ham is made from free range pigs that have been eating acorns. Beyond their amazing taste, these hams contain no saturated fat. “Free range meat is much healthier as saturated fat is a consequence of being fed with grains” Andrés explains, as we are enjoying tasteful chorizo and lomo of the same quality.

Cobbled stoned streets lead us to yet another hidden gem. The precious bottles are set on the table, and the 2008 Rioja Alta Viña Ardanza is decanting in a carafe. This excellent wine from Northern Spain consists of 80% Tempranillo and 20% Grenache, and is at its very top after aging for ten years. Closing my eyes and bringing the glass closer to my nose I smell spices, nutmeg, clove and cedar. The sizzling pork tenderloin that comes along with it is just heavenly!

As Andrés generously pours some of his excellent nectars in our glasses, the atmosphere is fun and joyful certainly eased by the alcohol content! La Peral cheese, a creamy yet strong blue cheese which Andrés bought at the San Miguel market that morning is being served. Tasting some of the wines with it completely changes its tastes and is a perfect way of raising the awareness on wine pairing and experiencing it first-hand.

Concluding on a multiple-award winning Pedro Ximénez wine with hints of dried plums and dates, Andrés proudly announces: “This is what the power of the sun and excellent wine making can do”. And this can also do some magic as after tasting the sweet wine, pouring it on our vanilla ice-cream, it turns the vanilla into a rum and raisin taste!

The best gems may be the ones that remain secrets, so do yourself a favour and ask Andrés to take you to his favourite spots in Madrid for an unforgettable tapas food tour during which you will not only taste the best wines of Spain with high quality food, but also make friends with a passionate and interesting man!

Travel tips:

  • To keep it a surprise and just give you a taste of this fantastic tapas food tour, we have not described all of the wines and food we tasted with Andrés. One thing is sure: you won’t be disappointed (maybe just a bit tipsy!).
  • Without Andrés, this wine pairing is merely impossible as the bottles he carefully chooses are not available in the restaurants visited.
  • If you want to live this experience, book your tour with Andrés at Walks of Spain beforehand as they are in high demand and he keeps the groups small for the best possible experience.
  • Check out this interactive map for the specific details to help you plan your trip and more articles and photos (zoom out) about the area! Here is a short tutorial to download it.

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