The highs and lows of eating in Madrid

One of the hot spots to be in Madrid (and elsewhere in Spain) is Cafe Federal , an Australian cafe as one might guess from the name. We went twice. At 10.30pm there was a queue for dinner which we joined. It is very simple cafe fare, the ubiquitous burger dominating. Ours were okay, but why wouldn’t a burger manage that? We returned the next day for breakfast, aware that in the morning and in particular Sunday morning as this was, it would be a next to impossible meal to find in Spain. Mine was truly dire, the worse version of baked eggs I’ve ever had. The staff was not the least bothered that I left the entire thing bar a mouthful. It even looked awful.

For somebody in exile like me, it is nice to see Australia gradually spreading over Europe, but whereas the standard of our fare in Berlin recently was excellent, this was not. And yet, as you will have noticed, the place is hugely popular. I haven’t eaten enough in Spain to know if this is a case of ‘the grass is greener’ or that Spanish food is terrible.

Unfortunately we only discovered late in our trip that the place to go for breakfast in the morning was C.O.M.E. which was just across the road from our hotel. Too easy. Excellent pastries, bread dishes, not an Australian breakfast but a really good one and they open, like bakeries always do, early – not the crack of dawn, but 8am, which by Spanish standards, given that they only finish eating dinner after midnight, is jolly early indeed.

Also in the general vicinity of our hotel was The Secret Garden, or if you want to get all Spanish about it, El Jardin Secreto The food ranges from okay to average to a bit above that at a stretch. You go because it might be the cutest place you ever eat at. Also, being a cafe, they serve at all the hours during which non-Spanish people want to eat.

There’s nobody who does it like the Ritz, right? I was rather disappointed the only time I’ve been to the London Ritz. It didn’t help that the guy at the door didn’t want to let my shoes in. But the Ritz in Madrid really does do it like the Ritz. The lounge area is spectacular and includes a cocktail pianist who kicks off in the morning. The first tea I was served here was so correctly presented that it was the first time I’ve moved The Windsor in Melbourne down by a notch. It was elegant, beautiful pastry nibbles on the side, hot water in its own pot. I texted a friend in Australia that I’d died and gone to tea heaven. Next day, however, upon my return, I had to ask for extra hot water. I don’t really understand how it is that a place of this class doesn’t have house rules that get you the same thing each time you order. At any rate, that was enough for them to slip down to 2nd place.

Windsor of Melbourne? You are still unsurpassed as the best place in the world for a cup of tea.

I had lunch one day at The Goya – when you live in Geneva you grab your chances to eat well outside your own kitchen. It was classic, impeccable, but, I’m also afraid to say, forgettable. I honestly can’t recall a single thing I ate.

We had a rather different experience at The Westin Palace. To go to The Rotunda, if only for a drink is a must as the architecture is sore-neck-stunning. Because you spend your time gazing up in awe at the dome above you. While we were there a special option was Japanese Tapas which we thought exquisite and very reasonably priced.

If you are at either of these hotels, it means you are in the area of art galleries and a beautiful park. If the weather is good, I do recommend the latter. Madrid is famous for its parks and on another trip I hope to see more of them.

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