It's your first night in a new city. You want to start your holiday with a memorable meal. But how to choose a restaurant?
Nowadays, we're more informed on where to eat and drink (and do just about anything else) than ever before. In just a few clicks we can access listings, restaurant booking sites, reviews from fellow travellers and the advice of locals. But which to listen to?
Given the choice, I'll go with local advice every time. Living in a city really gives you the chance to explore its bar and restaurant scene, to roadtest different places and pick your favourites. Residence gives an in-depth knowledge that tourists can only aspire to. But now, thanks to Madrid Food Tour, visitors to the Spanish capital can easily access this local knowledge: the company runs a range of tours around the city guided by residents. Founded by Lauren Aloise in 2012, Madrid Food Tour now offers a choice of three routes, taking in tapas bars and food markets scattered throughout the centre. Led by established expat residents of the city, these tours are run during the day (Ultimate Spanish Cuisine and Huertas Neighbourhood Food and Market Tour) and evening (Tapas, Taverns & History) and cater to small groups. Any trepidation I had about being herded in and out of tourist traps to munch on Spanish omelette washed down with sangria were dispelled by their website: they emphasize that tours take in busy family-run establishments and that seating can't always be guaranteed, as is the norm in Spanish bars. They also recommend that visitors take one of their tours soon after arriving in Madrid, so that it serves as an introduction to dining Spanish-style and provides enough knowledge recommendations to last the rest of your trip.
|Stop1: Aperitif time|
Lauren invited me to try out the Tapas, Taverns & History Tour, which runs 5 evenings a week and takes in 5–6 bars around the centre. It promises customers a stomach-filling 12 tapas accompanied by drinks, and can be adapted for pescetarian customers (although not veggies – they're best suited to the Huertas Tour or the Ultimate Cuisine Tour, which can also be tailored to celiacs). The blurb on the website promised more than just delicious bites to eat: as the name suggests, the other aim of this particular tour is to educate visitors on Madrid's history. I admitted that my historical knowledge was somewhat lacking, but what would a fellow resident be able to teach me about where to eat well in central Madrid? Quite a lot, it turned out.