Tapas, I find, are a rather contentious issue. You either love them or don’t understand them. When it comes to finding the best tapas in Madrid, all proprietors claim that their restaurant has the best. But, all too many times they fall flat on their face when it comes to delivering them. However, this begs the question, it is the restaurant’s fault or is it the diner’s perception of tapas? There is something that needs to be clarified before understanding tapas. That thing is that sharing in caring. While in Spain, you must realise that gone are the days of “Joey doesn’t share food.” It always shocks a person when they order a portion of calamaris for example, and what they get is just that, calamaris. Whereas, in other countries, you’d most likely get some calamaris, a side of chips and/or a salad plus a delicious house sauce to dip it all in. Here, you get a lemon to squeeze over, at most.
So then, do we conclude that the best tapas in Madrid or wherever else in Spain are just a dreary expression of lacklustre cuisine? Definitely not. How many of you share the adage, “food tastes better in good company?” Therefore, tapas allow you to relish some good food in good company. The idea behind it all is that you all come to an agreement and order a few dishes and share them. In those dishes, you have the scope to order all sorts, meat and fish, vegetables and salad etc. So by the time you finish ordering, you will have a full array of different things to enjoy. Let’s be honest, this is pretty awesome. How many times have you gone to a restaurant and wanted to order everything on the menu but couldn’t because it’s costly and can’t finish it all? Oh, and how annoying is it when your friends keep wanting to taste your food? (Get your own man) But, with a tapas experience, all this is acceptable, order loads of stuff and share it all! The only annoying thing is that you have to eat sparingly so that everyone gets enough. It’s O.K., it teaches you to be considerate. Your mum would be proud.
Once you understand the portion sizes, then Bob’s your uncle. You have a ración, which is the full size plate of what you order, then a media ración, which is half of the full size plate. If you are alone and in luck, you can just order a tapa which is sufficient for you, yourself and you. But the tapa option is not always available. However, good bars will always give you a tapa when you order a drink (see feature image). This actually one of the best ways to sample the best tapas in Madrid. Therefore I strongly urge you to find some friends. Some of the best tapas to try when eating out in Madrid include the likes of croquetas, pulpo, pimientos del padrón, pincho moruno and of course, patatas bravas. If you are new to the whole, kindly ask your waiter which tapas a best to try and what each item is. Chances are you’ll be met with a rather uninterested, you are wasting my time response, but you will get the information you need. When you order it alone, huevos rotos can be humdrum, but when sharing, it’s all delicious
All in all, as long as you remember that food in Spain is about sharing, provided you go to a good restaurant, you will rarely eat terribly. This idea of sharing and being at a table with friends provides you the opportunity to engage in another Spanish tradition, the “sobre mesa”. The word does not translate into English because quite frankly, we don’t do it. Basically, this means the hours on end you spend at your table after eating, just talking. It is socially acceptable and you won’t be asked to vacate the table for the next customers, unless you have gone to one of those restaurants.
Hopefully, in the next couple of weeks, I will write up a few articles about some of the best tapas in Madrid and the restaurants that serve it. However, I make no promises. In the meantime, check this introductory list.