Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Get over your tapas aversion in Madrid


Stylist’s Art Director Natasha Tomalin- Hall heads to Madrid with the hope of being won over – and she is, one small plate at a time

I don’t like tapas. I really don’t. Lumps of unidentifiable floating objects in copious amounts of luminous orange oil? No thanks. My fear – because that’s what I’m calling it - of tapas has been affecting my travel plans without me even realising it, and is why, subconsciously at least, I’ve not been to Spain in about 15 years.  

But now I find myself here – in Madrid, all because a colleague of mine dubbed it the food capital of Europe in casual conversation. And if it is, then I (copious wine drinker and food lover) need to see it. Because I trust her – and trust is something I’ve been told I simply must do more of if I want to be the great foodie I claim to be. 

Read more: Have your sunhat handy- this is Europe’s cheapest destination for a summer beach break

We’re staying at the rather charming Tótem in the Salamanca district (think Kensington with tonnes more shops) which, aside from serving excellent cocktails in the Gatsby-esque bar (have the margarita) is perfectly placed to have a good night’s sleep. Especially because Madrid never seems to sleep; not getting going until about 11pm, with siestas required to give you staying power - so Salamanca is a nice and peaceful antidote in the wee hours of the morning.  

Feeling like Brydon and Coogan in The Trip, we start our culinary tour with two highly recommended restaurants: TriCiclo and La Gabinoteca. The former is one of the best dining experiences I’ve ever had - a leisurely lunch made up of lots of little dishes like Mexican style oysters, sea bass ceviche and beef short rib macaroni. The latter is good food but I can't help feeling they’re more concerned with getting the next round of punters in.

Tash, Totem

Tash develops a taste for vermouth when in Madrid...

We save our tapas experience for the numerous food markets, which are not in short supply. Indoor, outdoor, in former cinema complexes (Platea really is a sight to behold)… They are everywhere. And I’m not talking rickety stalls; these are meccas of gastronomic delight to be devoured one small bite at a time. My particular favourites are Mercado de San Miguel - an indoor institution packed to the rafters on a weekend - and El Huerto de Lucas, which is SO hard to find, but when you do is a feast for the senses. 

Read more: 10 holidays for the food obsessed 

However, the best tapas experience (and I cannot believe those words just fell from my mouth) comes from a single street on a Sunday afternoon: Calle Cava Baja in the La Latina district. It’s the most concentrated strip of tapas bars you will find in Madrid, and this is what it’s all about. Very much an in and out affair, hustle your way to the bar, order a Vermút (vermouth served in a martini glass - surprisingly delicious, and dangerously addictive) and your desired tapas in Spanish (we order wrong twice, but it’s all part of the fun) stand, eat, chuck your olive stones and napkins on the floor, get out and move onto the next one.

Of course, there’s plenty of Velasquez and Goya to immerse yourself in at the Prado and the architecture across the city is truly breathtaking, but if you're serious about eating and drinking, Madrid really is the place to be. Exceptional tapas and all.

Stays at TÓTEM, Madrid start from €145 per room per night based on two sharing on a B&B basis. To book: info@totem-madrid.com; (+34) 91 426 00 35.


Italian castle.jpg

Come quick: Italy is giving away its castles and towers for free


This Indonesian rainbow village is an Instagram sensation

best bb in the world.jpg

The best B&B in the world is in the UK


You're more likely to get better service on a plane if you sit here

We've got all the in-flight seating tips you could ever want

by Megan Murray
16 Oct 2017

These are the 10 happiest places to live in the UK

Is it time for a change of scenery?

by Susan Devaney
11 Oct 2017

Discover a Costwolds bolthole with museum-worthy art

Stylist finds Artist Residence Oxfordshire more than lives up to its name

by Amy Adams
10 Oct 2017

The 10 dreamiest (and most expensive) streets to live on in the UK

We should have started saving about ten years ago

by Megan Murray
04 Oct 2017

Discover the real Rome that lies beyond the silver screen

Stylist goes behind the scenes at the living film set that is Rome

by The Stylist web team
03 Oct 2017

Seriously hip hotels you need to follow on Instagram

From a rock’n’roll hideaway in Texas to a futuristic glampsite in Devon

by Anna Hart
28 Sep 2017

Step between the scenes of Australia’s artsy second city…

Melbourne shuns beaches and boardwalks for coffee, culture and creativity, finds Stylist

by The Stylist web team
26 Sep 2017

This is how to book an NYC shopping trip with Sarah Jessica Parker

Sex and the City fans, this is not a drill

by Megan Murray
26 Sep 2017

Sign up to our weekly travel email

24 Sep 2017

The truth about that ‘SSSS’ airport stamp on your boarding pass

A lot of people have been complaining about this on Twitter

by Kayleigh Dray
22 Sep 2017