“Los Mariscos y los meses con ‘R‘”- Seafood and the months with an “R”, it’s the mantra that any foodie in Spain will tell you with a knowing smile. With Winter already nipping at our heels it may be tempting to go for something heavy, like cocido or turkey. Well put down that baster- if you’re looking for the best flavours around this time of the year you should be looking out beyond the beaches.
From May to August many of the Iberian peninsula’s seaborne produce enter into their reproductive cycle, making for blander textures and flavours. But once the water temperatures start to cool, mating season is over and these critters start to rapidly put on weight for the coming year. A wave of flavour hits Spanish shores (one of the reasons langostines and crab are at the centre of any true Spanish Christmas dinner) and restaurants regear their menus to reflect the very best on offer.
Landlocked Madrid may not seem the most logical place to find good seafood, but two centuries of internal immigration have made for a medley of regional recipes and culinary traditions. Today Mad4Madrid offers you a crash tour of four seafood restaurants in Madrid that offer the best of every port from San Sebastián to Cádiz. Loosen your belt, tuck in your napkin and get ready to hit the road!
O’ Pazo: More than just any Seafood Restaurant in Madrid
Address: C/ Reina Mercedes, 20
Opening Hours: Lunch 13:30-16:00, Dinner 20:30-24:00. Closed Sundays.
Average Price: 80€
We start our journey in the far northwest of the country. Galicia is known for it’s green fields, dramatic coastlines, and Zara, but we bet you didn’t know it’s also one of the biggest producers of seafood in Europe. If there’s one thing the seafaring gallegos never get wrong, it’s their fishy friends.
O’Pazo is the name in Galicia given to the manor houses formally inhabited by the local gentry and, like these great dames of the Spanish north, the restaurant is a Madrid seafood classic. One of the first restaurants of it’s kind, opening in 1969 while Spain was still under the regime of Francisco Franco. it became one of the first restaurants in the country to recieve a Michellin Star, in the guide’s first Spanish edition.
Today considered one of the big cheeses on the Madrid seafood scene, O’Pazo only uses wild-caught produce, working with the association Pescadores Coruñeses and local fishermen to bring fresh catches down to the capital daily. As a result, the menu is a host of the region’s Atlantic flavours, with langostines, salmon, oysters and even barnacles, prepared with generation old local recipies designed to bring out the natural lightness and delicate texture of these fish.
Don’t miss out on the Salpicón de mariscos, a cocktail of king prawns and clams, served with vegitables and a light vinegarette. The only viable excuse if if you are looking to try the locally smoked salmon or all time classic pulpo a la gallega which are also particulally good.
Gaztelupe: For the Timeless Tavern
Region: The Basque Country
Address: C/ Comandante Zorita, 32
Opening Hours: Lunch 13:30-15:30, Dinner 20:30 – 00:00, Closed Sunday evenings.
Average Price: 40€
Moving eastwards across the Bay of Biscay coastline we come to the Basque Country. Long a poorly kept secret as the foodie capital of Spain, Euskadi as it’s known locally has more Michellin Stars than anywhere else on the Iberian Peninsula: nearly 40 in total! Unsurprisingly as heavy weight foodie champions, the locals have pleanty to offer when it comes to fins and critters. Historically a seafaring region, fishermen would sail out into the deeper waters of the Cantabric Sea and Atlantic Ocean to do their trade, making cod a central ingrediant in Basque cooking.
Gaztelupe has been in Madrid for more than twenty years, offering traditional Basque in a timeless setting that refuses to be changed by passing fads. Settle down in environs that are an elegant memory of the old Basque tavern, and peruse the excellent selection of wines- we recommend theViña Pomal (White) but there is a sommelier on hand if you need any help. When it comes to the grub get ready for some excellent white fish: a hearty serving of Bacalao (Cod) or Merzula (Hake) al Pil Pil, or Bilbao style cuttlefish if that takes your fancy. Chef Luis Martin works tirelessly to put together a menu that changes with the seasons. So it being winter now is the time to get the best bites from the Bay of Biscay.
Taberna el Arco: For Paella By The Boatfull
Region: Catalonia, The Mediterranean
Address: Calle de Las Huertas, 7
Opening Hours: Mon: 12:30-16:00, 19:00-00:00, Tues: 19:00-24:00; Wed: 12:30-16:00, 19:00-00:00; Thur: 12:30–16:00, 19:00–24:00; Fri-Sun: 12:30-00:00
Average Price: 18€, Set menu on weekdays for 9.50€
Cross the Pyrenees and down onto the Costa Brava and the flavours begin to change. Gone are the cold Atlantic flavours whcih feature prominently in North and Northwestern Spain. Replaced by something reflecting a more Mediterranean diet. Much of Spain’s East coast is rice country: the homeland of paella, Spains most famous internationally reknowned dish. With dishes dominated by the sweeter touches of paprika, bell peppers, and of course tomatoes.
With all to many true red-and–yellow-blooded easterners being able to whip up a mean paella de mariscos, it would be almost foolhardy to omit the Mediterranean from an article on Madrid seafood. That being said, many an in-Spain resident will roll their eyes at this. After all, paella in Madrid? We all know that too many restaurants in the capital put less heart into their arroz than they do when they bang the prebought product in the microwave and then sell it off for 50€ to unsuspecting tourists.
But not all locales that mark themselves as Mediterranean deserve this sketecism. Case in point: Taberna el Arco. Situated in the central district of Barrio de Las Letras, el Arco is just a stones throw away from Puerta de Sol, but serves up dishes that would be much more at home at mesones up and down Valencia and Catalonia. The chef is a true born and bred Catalan and brings in many of his ingrediants straight in from Girona, meaning he can boast the best butifarras and canelones in the city. But if you want an insiders tip from us, try tucking into some Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic prawns) and paella de mariscos that steal the show. Taberna el Arco is tiny so make sure you reserve in advance!
Lambuzo: For the Madrid Seafood That Went South
Region: Cadiz, Andalucia
Address: Calle Ponzano, 8
Opening Hours: Lunch 13:00-16:00, Dinner 20:00-00:00
Average Price: 15-20€
At last we finish our 270 degree turn around the Spanish coast, arriving at the Puerta de Santa Maria in Cadiz, Southern Spain. Being the largest autonomous community in the country, Andalucia has an incredibly diverse culinary tradition. With influences from it’s Moorish heritage and a wide variety of local produce from the mountains, plains and deserts that dominate this region, and the two very different seas that flank it. Cadiz is located to the West of Gibraltar, facing out towards the open Atlantic, and as such has a reputation amongst Spaniards as an excellent place to sample the best critters the ocean has to offer.
Lambuzo is a fairly recent addition to the Madrid seafood scene having opened on Calle Ponzano in 2013. It’s mission: to bring a slice of Cadiz to the capital. Lambuzo is local slang for someone who eats everything, including their partner’s food and trust us this is more than fitting for a place like this.
Duck through the door and wriggle through the lively saturday night crowds to order yourself a rebujito: a real Southern Spanish mixer of manzanilla wine and soda- the perfect accompaniment to your tapas. Speaking of which, top on your list should be the shrimp and scampi croquettes (undoubtadly the star of the show), Huelva style cuttlefish, bluefin tuna, and anchovies. Portion size is made to measure so Lambuzo is perfect whether your looking for a snack mid-tapeo or settling in for something more substantial.