Late Steve Jobs may want us to stay hungry in pursuit of knowledge and personal development. When it comes to travelling though, we should avoid being hungry. That does not mean that we should just swallow anything edible that we come across lol
To be frank, I have a tendency to look for fast food while travelling. This is especially true during my trip to Madrid, as I was staying there for a week for work; my short lunch break was usually settled by dropping by the nearest fast food restaurant I could find. However, every now and then, I tried to break the monotony.
El Asador de Aranda
On one of the evenings, my colleagues suggested that we drop by the city centre for some authentic Spanish food, so we went deep into the streets off Gran Via and came to El Asador de Aranda.
The restaurant at Plaza Castilla was the first of the chain of restaurants to open for business back in 1983, but the interior was decked out in a theme that harks back to the older days. I quite liked the heavy ambience created by the timber furniture, dimly lit spaces and the service ware used!
Food wise, it was famous for its oak-wood fired oven cooked lamb, which came in huge servings that left my lady colleagues awe-struck. Luckily for me, I was not feeling hungry that night, so I ordered scrambled egg with lamb. I was impressed at how the lamb’s strong flavour did not overpower the gentler eggs, though I must say the dish overall was typical of all Spanish food – salty.
After our meals, we were served chupito that came with some (super sweet) candies. Though the chupito was terribly strong, they came in small shots so it would still be worthwhile to give it a shot, just to experience the local palette.
p/s: I later read online that chupito is supposed to be served pre-meal. I’m not that sure why ours came after… *blame it on the language barrier XP
For some high-end, modern twist to Spanish food, pop in to Moda Shopping Mall (a.k.a Centro Comercial Moda Shopping). There were food establishments suitable for a full range of budget, but one of them, with open-concept seating, catered to the more discerning individuals.
I liked their choice of furniture that was full of chic, though it was weird to be eating with so many people walking past me. The menu was minimalistic, but offered a range of food items from appetiser to alcohol.
I ordered its pork chop, which I regretted immensely. I guess it was fault on my part, for not doing research and learn that Spanish pork chops were served medium-rare. Yep… in Asia, pork can never be served raw, so that was the first time I had ever eaten pork raw, though I could only stuff a few pieces into my mouth… My only consolation was that the dish came with a few potatoes and some tomato salad, so I still managed to feed myself.
However, if you are receptive to eating pork raw, you should give this signature dish a try!
For me, there was one “fast food” that I thought served decent meals. It was not your usual fast food chain serving fried food. Instead, they have ready-to serve meals that included proteins, fibre and drinks. It was like the grab-and-go food section of supermarkets, except that they specialises in that.
Since they specialised in this concept, the variety of food they offered was extensive. For example, the mains consist of noodles, rice and quinoa, paired with various meats, cooked in different styles like Japanese/Italian/Spanish. Depending on the set you ordered, you can add on dessert, bread, drinks and even one more main.
After picking your mains, you can then heat them up in one of the many microwaves available; there is seating available, but as it served the working crowd, many chose to take away their meals.
To me, it was a fuss-free solution to settle a meal, especially if you are trying to juggle a tight schedule and need a quick fix for lunch. The food was also decent (not as salty as the food found in typical Spanish restaurants) and balanced. In fact, I settled a few of my meals there throughout my stay!
If you had taken my recommendation to stay in H10, then you should know of Santa Gloria that was just right beside the hotel. It may look like “just another bakery”, but the pastry sold there was pretty good, whether for a quick takeaway before starting the day, or to spend some time chilling and reflecting on life.
I treated it just like any other bakery when I first walked past. However, the tantalising smell that wafted through the air whenever I passed by kept beckoning at me, until one day, I abandoned my usual Starbucks fix for Santa Gloria before work.
The place was bright and cheery, no thanks to the fact that it sat right beside the local park. The full height windows let in a lot of sunlight and at the right times, you could watch the kids scurry around in the park playing.
In the few mornings I spent there, I tried its sweet pastries like croissant and chocolate Danish pastry, as well as its savoury choices like pizza and quiche. No matter what I chose, the pastries all came in thin, crispy, flaky skin covering its soft and moist insides. Paired with a cuppa black coffee, I felt so gratified every morning! Yes, the pastry found here was much better than those in the Starbucks across the street! 🙂
Soho Restaurant Lounge Bar (Restaurant in H10 Tribeca)
Most restaurants in hotels were just that – something the hotel provides to cater to guests who are hungry but lazy to go out. Soho Restaurant Lounge Bar outshone its expectations.
Unlike most hotel restaurants, there was no fixed demarcation of the restaurant’s boundaries. It shared the ground floor with the reception, which meant that you could enjoy your meal on the sofa by the beautiful floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, or by the tables that lets you bathe in the (rare) sunshine of spring. The setting of the restaurant itself was also modern and comfortable, which makes it a good place to lounge while looking out of the full-height windows to people watch.
The choice of food was rather limited, though I wouldn’t complain, considering the quality of the food (that comes with an affordable price tag of 17 Euros). My meal of the day included:
- Ravioli of Truffle with Gorgonzola
- Scrambled Egg with Prawns and Onions
- Santiago Cake
I had my meal at Soho on the last day I was in Madrid, thinking to myself that if I didn’t pop by the restaurant that everyone on Tripadvisor was raving about in their reviews of H10 Tribeca, I would do myself a disservice! By then, I had gotten used to the salty palette of the Spaniards, so I actually quite enjoyed Soho’s way of preparing its food.
I particularly liked the Scrambled Egg with Prawns and Onions. The chef had piled it up like a little tower for me to break them down mouthful by mouthful. The prawns were fresh and succulent, which was in contrast with the silky and tender texture of the scrambled eggs.
The ravioli may look creamy, and the Spaniards may favour heavy flavouring for their food, but the ravioli I had was light and fragrant. As for the cake, I found it a tad too hard, though I guess it was the “norm” in Europe, since the best comparison I have was the cakes found in IKEA.
Prior to the meal, I was served hot bread that was crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. There were also olives, which I mentioned specially, because well, that was actually the first time I ate an olive! (Pardon my lack of worldliness)
The ambience and the food made up a good dining experience, which was heavenly considering it was the last meal I had while in Madrid!
I know my recommendations don’t seem to “gel” with many popular dining options recommended by travel sites. However, I thought it would be useless for me to repeat what they just said, and in the spirit of travelling mindfully, we should all aim to create a unique travel experience for ourselves, instead of replicating what “travel experts” went through, isn’t it?
One thing worth noting was that travel sites tend to recommend “authentic” local food that were actually their “traditional” food. However, do the locals eat them on a daily basis? That was why I tried Broker and Tento, because I wanted to understand their contemporary culture through the food they eat on a daily basis! Similarly, simple pastries like that found in Santa Gloria also hints at the different types of milk and butter they use; the coffee they serve will also differ from other countries, depending on their sourcing methods.
Therefore, please take my travel tips as a source of inspiration (rather than a to-do guide) to create a unique food experience for yourselves! Do give me some feedback, or even link your own trip reports to me to let me know how I have inspired your travel! 🙂
Read more about staying in H10 Tribeca here, and a recommended 3-hour itinerary around Madrid here. Lastly, read my tips on getting your tax refund smoothly after your shopping extravaganza in Spain!
El Asador de Aranda
Calle de Preciados, 44, 28013 Madrid, Spain
+34 915 47 21 56
Broker (Restaurant in Moda Shopping Mall)
Av. del General Perón, 38-40, 28020 Madrid, Spain
+34 915 97 19 20
Tento is a franchise with outlets to be found all over Spain, though the one I ate in was found beside Moda Shopping Mall.
Calle de Pedro Teixeira, 7, 28020 Madrid, Spain
+34 917 70 89 60
Soho Restaurant Lounge Bar
Calle de Orense, 38, 28020 Madrid, Spain
(inside H10 Tribeca hotel)
+34 915 97 15 68