Monthly Archives: April 2016

Cafe Melo’s Bar: Where the Tastiest Zapatillas are Served

Por fin! I finally dined at Café Melo’s Bar – that small, unassuming restaurant in Barrio Lavapies with zapatillas, croquetas, empanadillas, queso and green peppers as specialties. Take your pick – everything’s darn great. Did I already mention zapatilla? This particular Spanish food must be the singular reason why lines of customers form outside the café at the start of 8PM, or even way before, actually.

imageIts space is quite limited I’m guessing 20 customers, more or less, can get it packed easy. Such a downside, however, doesn’t seem to deter people a bit from trooping to the café. (I observed Madrilenos don’t mind eating in cramped spaces. They’re fine standing up and placing their tapas and copas atop a barrel so long as the food is great.) A few tables are found at the back area of the café. From observation, the bar counter itself can accommodate around 8 people.

I reached the café at 9PM, and was surprised to see no line of waiting customers in sight, considering it was a Friday. Nonetheless, the place was filled with diners. I headed towards the back, squeezing my way through the crowd, hoping against hope a table is empty – or is about to be. Everything was taken, so I went back to the bar and stood behind someone who was almost done. Within minutes, I was feasting on my zapatilla.

Croquetas – Delectable Spanish Tapa

I ordered just a single piece, lest I might not be able to finish everything since my large zapatilla is already a lot of work. Its taste? Mea culpa for not having more – because it’s so divine. Croquetas, like one of those commonly served Spanish tapas and apetizers in some restaurants, can be dry and with hardly any filling. In the case of Melo’s, it’s a ball of crispy, tasty shell that when cut in half reveals an uber-delicious gooey filling that flows, like a lava of ham bits and melted cheese richness. At 1.60 euro a piece (unidad), I look forward to a good plateful of this on my next visit.

Tasty Zapatillas

The Zapatilla sandwich at Café Melo’s is big, just shy of being humongous. It’s the biggest Spanish sandwich I’ve eaten so far, and it’s not even the whole thing. Since I went there alone and had no one to share food with, I just ordered the “media” or half a sandwich. Beside, even if I wanted to challenge myself, I am not really up to it, knowing well my eating capacity.

I’m a bit concerned too about introducing heaps of meat, however delicious, into my system. I’m Asian – 100% – and not Spanish. I always wonder (and feel envious, actually) how a local is able to consume jamon and all sorts of meat day after day after day – and they’re totally fine. Genetic makeup – I suppose.

The opinion of this blog about Cafe Melo’s zapatilla?

I like that lacon tastes kind of sweet, and its saltiness is just right. Everything is cooked a la plancha (grilled). Cheese forms long threads as you cut and raise a piece of your sandwich from the plate.  How a zapatilla is prepared can be observed from the bar. Layers of lacon and cheese are grilled and served in hot bread. I believe the cheese is there to keep everything together, considering the thickness of the lacon filling. The bread’s  shape mimics a footwear, hence the name.

At 6.50 euro a half sandwich and 11 for one whole zapatilla, the prices are reasonable, seeing last night how a group of four managed to share a media zapatilla and just complemented it with lots of croquetas.

Overall, it provides gustatory pleasure so effortlessly that I’m sure many would love to claim it as their comfort food. I myself would.

My verdict about Cafe Melo’s Bar:

Incredibly delectable food and fast service (I appreciate that the owner helps around). If only for its zapatillas and croquetas, other yummy Spanish tapas, and just about everything else, Cafe Melo’s Bar is one place worth visiting over and over again

Location: Calle Ave Maria 44, Lavapies, Madrid
Hours: Open everyday, except Sunday and Monday, from 8PM to 1AM:
Metro: Lavapies (nearest), Embajadores, Tirso de Molina


Museo del Jamón: Indulge in Some Fine Ham, Bocadillos and Much More

Perhaps  you just flew into Madrid for the first time, and so you’re an absolute newbie in the city. More often than not, you are at a lost on which Madrid restaurant to go to have your first Spanish “comida.” In which case, I would recommend Museo del jamón. I suggest you try out one of the most frequented branches along Calle Mayor, at Puerta del Sol. (There are two Museos in the area, the other one is in Carretera de Jeronimo.) Here is where I had my first dinner in Madrid, and a taste of the savory Jamón Iberico, that much-talked-about premier ham product made from an olive-fed, black Iberian pig.

Popular for the numerous ham ( Are they even edible?) that hover above the sides of the restaurant as they hang from its ceiling, the Museo is a hands-down choice of many first-time diners in Madrid. And rightly so, since the restaurant offers not just high grade jamón, but a wide variety of fresh and full-flavored meat and sea food dishes as well.

It’s clear that the restaurant is a hot spot when it comes to anything that’s cured ham. It manages to be steps ahead of its competitors, which is why it is touted as a major player of the jamon industry of Madrid. Needless to say, when one experiences his first taste of the Spanish ham, it’s likely that it is thru Museo del jamón.

At Museo in Calle Alcala, you may opt to enjoy a sit-down dinner at its comidor on the second floor, where order is served within minutes (at least in my case); or have a quick sandwich and beer (or refresco) fix at the bar. If you choose the latter, you might be required (especially during meal hours) to display some jostling moves to be able to give your order and land a bit of dining space at the bar.

Popular dishes at Museo del Jamón (ones that I’ve tasted so far):

imageThe mixed carne dish is simply meat overload.  Allow your palate to revel in the richness and mouth-watering taste of  pork and beef fillet, bacon, and sausages – cooked either grilled or friedimage Probably one of the best frituras de pescados in town. Sea foods tend to be greasy when fried, and this one at Museo is no exception. But regardless, our plate ended up clean. The taste was just spot on that we thought it’s such a waste if any was left uneaten imageChistorra resembles the chorizo, only it is smaller, more like bite-size that you can just pop into your mouth to relish. I love that it is a bit sour and spicy, and served in heaping quantity. It jives well with any bread, albeit the baguette is a fine match. Chistorra comes drenched in a thick, reddish liquid which I mistaken as oil, but was told it was apple cider

1-euro Bocadillos, copa y bebida con aperitivo at Museo del Jamón

Now for those who love bocadillos but can only spend so much, there’s no other place to enjoy them but at Museo del Jamón. The restaurant offers six varieties of these sandwiches – jamon, queso, lacon, chorizo, salami, and salchichon – for an incredibly low price of 1 euro per piece. Tasty meat choices as liberal fillings to fresh, crunchy bread – who could resist such an offer? Many other items are available for 1 euro at the bar, like a bottle of Pepsi or 7-up or a copa of cervesa (which costs less, at 90 cents). What’s more – an order of any of these drinks comes with aperitivo, the Spanish term for aparitivo or light snack. Order a refresco or cervesa at the bar and it is served along with an aperitivo in the form of small sandwiches, empanadita, chips, or a few slices of jamon.

image The plain bocadillo de queso is the quintessential sandwich for days I want to go meat-less – that sadly becomes not so if my order of refresco comes with this aperitivo
imageBocadillo de salami is perfect for those who love spicy and salty meat. If only for the rich taste, it makes me wonder why the sandwich only costs a euro. Again, my refresco was served without any appetizer
imageSalami bocadillo and la copa de cerveza is an affordable food combo that seems meant to satiate a hungry soul. My beer comes with a mini jamon sandwich
imageBocadillo de Chorizo is another favorite. In fact, I took a few bite before I realized that I have yet to take a photo for my blog. Chips, this time, was served as an aperitivo

imageBocadillo de Lacon, made from the hindlimbs of pigs, is like spiced ham and saltier compared to the traditional cured ham. Its largely meaty and tasteful qualities make it my top favorite among all six sandwiches

imageBocadillo de Salchichon. The Museo at Carretera de Jeronimo has available dining counters set against the glass windows on its sides, affording full view of the busy streets outside

image Notice the slot machine near the bar, a common fixture found inside many food establishments in the city

image Display counter of various cured ham products for take-away
image Museo del Jamon along Calle Mayor

CentroCentro y El Mirador de Palacio de Cibeles

“Refugees welcome” is the message you’d see written on the huge rectangular banner that hangs on the middle of the façade of Palacio de Cibeles. Also known as Palacio de Communicaciones, that gargantuan and majestic, former-post-office-turned-city hall must be the first thing you’d see whenever you’re at Plaza Cibeles. The sign alone is a clear indication of the willingness of Spain to help alleviate the refugee crisis in Europe. (As of yet, an effective solution to the problem seems nowhere in sight.) Surprisingly, the cloth has remained white and maintained its pristine appearance (that’s how it appears from the distance of a few hundred feet) despite its exposure to the common elements. Or has it been replaced a number of times already?

It must have been hanging there for eternity, or at least since I got here in Madrid. Perhaps, it will continue to be until the message is no longer relevant.  Frankly, the constant sight of the banner had me thinking that the building has become a huge refugee center, a wild conjecture I must possibly share with others.

Well, at least today, the beloved Ayuntamiento will be my refuge as I say it’s time for me to take on its rooftop.

El Mirador – Rooftop or Observation Deck

You might ask,”Are people even allowed there?”

Yes, I’m pretty sure. Because of the banner, it had me venturing my gaze way above it, and in the process, spotted people populating the upper portion of the middle tower of Cibeles (I realized later it was the building’s observation deck on the 8th floor).

And since then, I would always throw a glance at that faraway spot at the Palacio’s middle tower, often from a seat of an autobus whenever I’m headed to Embajadores, Lavapies (27) or Puerta del Sol (5), both lines of which pass through the Plaza. The deck seems to never run out of people, all crowding near the ledge presumably to take the best pictures possible. Always, I look at such a scene with great envy,  and this odious feeling is only made worse by the Palacio itself, with its mere sight almost like coaxing me in some dogged manner to be there myself, and just make it happen.

“Go to the roof of the Cibeles?  But who wants to climb up a building rooftop, which is a precarious location as you can imagine?” Yes, I know. To begin with, it’s not even a roof top but an observation deck, for Pete’s sake.

But I do agree with everyone else who says that a rooftop is never a desired destination, as it is somewhat of a bore, a dull area of almost-nothingness, save for a few pieces of old furniture huddled at a corner or some rusty, jutted-out reinforcing iron bars meant for future building extension. A bit of correction: everybody agrees to these not-so-pleasant statements about the rooftop, except perhaps for some half-witted lovers who look to them as the perfect place to effect the consummation of their romantic tryst (presuming it is secluded).

Clearly, we’re not talking about that of Cibeles – it doesn’t fit such descriptions (especially the one with the amorous slant). To reiterate, it’s an observation deck, and not any ordinary roof. It was created for a more essential, a rather touristic purpose, among others, which is to offer great viewing experience of the stunning places in Madrid.

Inside Palacio de Cibeles

Actually, there are two things that you can do at Cibeles. One, check out the floors of the Centro Centro, that part of the building that acts as the city’s center of culture and arts; and two, go to the observation deck for some awesome viewing enjoyment. You can do both, but I would rather you engage in the rooftop activity later, which is what I did.

Since it was still early, I surveyed the area first. On the second floor (main floor), you are greeted by an information counter and a souvenir and gift shop. After loitering around, I can’t for the life of me feel that I’m actually inside the Madrid Ayuntamiento. The place was quiet, and hardly had the chaotic fuss and goings-on typical of any government office, let alone, a city hall.

So, I thought some chat with the information desk officer is in order.

“Yes, this is the city Hall.” Unable to respond quickly, I must have appeared dumbfounded to the lady at the desk, so she explained that everything is located at the back of the building.

“And the office of the mayor?”

“Also at the back.” Still sensing my confusion, she added, “Where we are now is the CentroCentro – the culture and arts center of Madrid.”

I had a bunch of questions that I’d like to bring up but lest I might sound stupid, I decided to let her be and continued to look around. At left of the main floor is a lounge, offering a number of sofas to rest on. Here, you can have some shut-eye for a few minutes if you want to, which I did, although only after hiding my face behind one of those tourism brochures that I grabbed from nearby. There was a lot of them, by the way – revistas, flyers, and booklets. All are colorful, attractive, and professionally printed with details on various exhibitions and similar activities at the CentroCentro. They are tucked neatly in their respective shelves, ready for any visitor who wants good introductory reading on Madrid culture.

It’s apparent that Centro Centro’s current expositions are more into the visual arts, as attested to by the exhibits, galleries, and film-showing dedicated to conventional and digital photography, sketches, illustrations, and paintings. Most are found in the third and fourth floor.

Anyway, the quick siesta gave me ample energy to be propped up and ready for what I really wanted to do – go up the observation deck.

image The reading room / lounge is located at the 2nd floor

image The 2nd floor of the Ayuntamiento de Madrid used to be the Old Post Office’s operations courtyard. It now serves to receive guests and introduce them to the city’s cultural focal point – the Centro Centro. At the photo’s left is the info center, while opposite is a shop selling  souvenirs and memorabilia. In the middle is a row of computer booths that offers online access on CentroCentro information

imageDepicted in this old photo is the postal operations during the heyday of the Palacio del Communicaciones. This and the other photos of the old post office and telegraph building are on display on the middle section of the main floor (second floor)

imageInformation counter at CentroCentro. They advised me to forgo any visit to the mirador in case of inclement weather. Even the gentlest of rains is enough to close the observation deck.

imageSouvenir and gift shop at the main floor of the CentrCentro

imageThis picture of a lady with a detached prosthetic arm is part of an exhibit on digital photography with people with disabilities as theme. Las Personas Con Discapacidad Exhibit, 3rd Floor, March 18 to June 6, 2016

imageD-Espacio – an exhibition that tackles contemporary design, located at the 3rd floor, CentroCentro

image Simplicity and ingenuity as well as convenience in usage is evident in these pieces of furniture at the D-Espacio exhibition

imageSeries of sketches and photos that are part of Aliadas (Allies), an exhibition of variety of art work that celebrates women. 3rd Floor, CentroCentro, March 10 to September, 2016

imageLa Crecion, a splendid artwork by Nuria Meseguer, is included in the Aliadas Exhibit

image Cachetejack is the name of the duo Nuria Bellver and Raquel Fanjul, popular Spanish artists/illustrators. They have global brands like Elle Magazines and Hermes for clients. Their exhibit is at the 4th floor of the Cibeles. A must-see

image See the work of Catalan artist Rut Panuse at the 4th floor, March 04 – May 08, 2016

El Mirador de Palacio de Cibeles

A few minutes after 6PM, I bought my ticket at the Taquilla outside the Palacio. imageThe teller told me to go straight to 6E floor, where I will be given further instruction. Upon reaching the floor, I was greeted by another comely lady who directed me to the stairs that leads to the 8th floor.

“How long can I stay at the Mirador,” I asked her, even if I already knew I can only remain at the deck for 15 minutes.

“You have to leave at 6:25.”

And so I proceeded to climb up, along with two other guests.

What can I say about the experience? I wouldn’t say it’s mind-boggling because it’s not. That’s too much of an exaggeration to say. But still, I must admit I’m very much amazed by the experience. Breathtaking is the appropriate description to use. Every view from the observation deck is just beautiful. Everywhere I look is picture-worthy that I consumed much of my mobile phone’s memory, filling it with photos. (Sadly, I can only post so much because of website bandwidth issues)  The 15 minutes allotted to each visitor is definitely not enough. I’ll return another time, and do less picture-taking and more soaking on the unique moment of being up there. Make the effort yourself. I promise it’s worth your while, to say the least.

imagePor fin! I see the Cybele goddess and her chariot and the fountain in a whole new, dizzying way. Wonder how great the angle of depression that my looking at the statue from the height of 70 meters has created. I must say that the statue is one of the most beautiful in all of Madrid. And its view from afar and from a place this high makes it even more spectacular

imageThe flag of Spain flying high and mighty. Here’s a beautiful view of Paseo de Recoletos that leads to Plaza de Colon and the opulent areas of Salamanca and Chamberi

imageRight tower of Palacio de Cibeles obscures the view of Paseo de Recoletos from the observation tower

image From El Mirador, you have a nice of view of the Torres de colon, the tall, dark building from afar. It is named after Cristobal Colon, Spanish for Christopher Columbus, the famed explorer

imageThe edifice with the flag houses the Naval Museum and the Naval Headquarters, located along Paseo del Prado

imageDark, errie clouds loom, seemingly with a menacing threat to bring great rains

Useful Tips when visiting El Mirador de Cibeles:


1. Palacio de Cibeles is closed to the public on Mondays. Likewise, entry to the mirador is not allowed during rains/inclement weather.

2. Be ready with your 2 euros, the cost of an entrance ticket of an adult visitor. You have to pay 50 cents for every child you bring.

Two euros is a mere pittance yet it takes you through an exhilarating experience that involves all your senses as you feast on the unique views of many awesome places in Madrid.

3. You can take advantage of free entrada if you set your visit on the first Wednesday of every month.

4. Remember you are only given a scant 15 minutes to stay, so make the most of it; and by this, I mean take quality photographs. We tend to focus on the quantity, but who cares about so many pictures, if most would end up on your mobile phone’s trash bin anyway.

Work on finding the best angles and lighting before you click; this will help you come up with photos that you will be proud to post on your blog/website later.

ALMONEDA Antiques Fair 2016 at Feria de Madrid

Any well-meaning expert antique dealer would recommend buying only an item that truly takes your fancy. Indeed, this is true if you’re someone who collects antiques as an investment, like you intend to resell it for profit. This way, you won’t pressure yourself to seeing it sold. If it turned out to be unsold eventually, you wouldn’t mind because you would like to keep it anyway.

In my case, antiques do pique my interest, although not so much as to actually buy any. At any rate, the mere fact that they had existed for decades, or even centuries, is a strong enough reason for anybody to be fascinated by them, including me. I’d say I categorize myself as more of a learner and admirer rather than a possessor of such things.

ALMONEDA at Feria de Madrid, Pavilion 3


All roads lead to Feria de Madrid for its ALMONEDA Antiques Fair – an annual event put up by IFEMA – from April 2 to 10, 2016

To be frank, I was in awe of the seemingly unlimited varieties of antique items that are showcased at the fair (and so, my kudos to the whole team of organizers and exhibitors). The collection was extensive and grand, to say the least. The pavilion itself is spacious and more than enough to house the participating exhibitors of the fair. Indeed, nowhere else can you find priceless items available for sale and exhibition under a single roof but at ALMONEDA in Feria de Madrid.

What to expect

image For the antique collector, he will be treated to a dazzling array of vintage finds like jewelries made of precious stones, beads, metals of all types, bags and fur coats of vintage make, archeological objects that define a wide spectrum of eras, medieval books by the hundreds, old and finely-made sculptures, historic paintings and other works of arts, archaic toys and knickknacks among many others.

ALMONEDA organizers promise that every item possesses quality of the highest degree. At the same time, they assure that prices are affordable and every visitor will be able to purchase an item or two of his liking without making any dent in the pocket.

Event: ALMONEDA Antiques and Vintage Fair and Art Gallery

Location: Pavilion 3, Feria de Madrid

Duration and time: April 2 – 10, from 12PM to 9PM

Nature: Open to the Public (8 euros per ticket); no auction but direct sale

Needless to say, Almoneda boasts of the finest collections of antiquities, all of which are available at reasonable prices. This is a clear boon not only to established art and antique collectors, but also budding enthusiasts and hobbyists who would want to build their own collection.

This post is online either on Thursday or Friday (April 7 or 8). Hopefully, it would serve to alert aficionados still not in the know that they have only up to the weekend to attend and be treated to a grand antiquedades affair in Madrid.

image Bears of different hues on display at the lobby that leads to different pavilions – including pavilion 3 where ALMONEDA is held

imageThe bears of ALMONEDA bear (pun intended, most definitely) quite a resemblance to the United Buddy Bears, which had its 2007 exhibit in Jerusalem, Israel, among many other places

imageI made sure I had a photo of this Corona typewriter as it reminded me of mine, also of the same brand. The latter was my writing buddy up to late 1990’s (and served its purpose well), until a handed-down 486 desktop took over and proved to be a worthy replacement

imageVarious metallic nautical outfits and gadgets, all shiny and with nary a scratch nor dent. Obviously, these items boast of superior quality condition and appearance despite having been in existence for ages

imageAntique pinball machine – an effective thrill-delivering apparatus of yesteryears that features slots or holes for the balls to fall thru (with corresponding credits to earn). Note how simple nails crudely serve as pins

imageOld rag dolls dressed in traditional costumes. Notice the doll in the middle is priced at 130 euros

imageA number of exhibitors sell high-quality, beautifully designed vintage jewelries of all sorts, sizes, and shapes such as portraits necklace, or ones with a cross or face pendant, metal bangles, pearl earrings, dragonfly brooch, and many others. Jewelry booths are some of the most-flocked at the ALMONEDA fair, especially among women visitors

image Identical female bust sculptures facing each other (probably made of clay or ceramic of high grade)

imageThe spirit of 17th (or 18th century) Colonial America lives on as an exhibitor displays this figure garbed in a costume from that era

image Barber’s chairs of the earlier times. You can say they are old-styled; nonetheless, they are quite eye-pleasing and (hopefully) functional

imagePardon the caption, but I just feel the need to ask: “Will someone please hand this poor guy a belt?”

imageFine paintings displayed in a number of art galleries participating at the ALMONEDA Feria de Madrid

imageFor people from the earlier decades who want to listen to their favorite music, spinning vinyl records on the turntable player was the norm. Are appliances like this still purveyed in the market? I don’t think so, which is why it will surely be the focus of attention of the avowed lovers of such vintage record-playing contraptions

imageMedieval books of text and figures in various fonts and colors, respectively


His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle in Madrid

For the Filipinos who turned up in large numbers to attend the Sunday mass last April 3, 2016 at the Basilica Parroquia de la Medalla Misericordia, that mass was a special one – for a good number of reasons. First, it was celebrated in commemoration of the Feast of the Divine Mercy, to whom the Filipinos are known to openly express their great adoration, love, and devotion. Second, the text of the holy mass was in the Filipino language. Third, it was officiated by no less than His Eminence Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle of Manila, the charismatic religious head of the predominantly Roman Catholic nation in Asia.

The morning exhibited dark skies, and the air, while less than biting compared to that of the previous days, was cold just the same. Yet, it hardly did much to dampen the enthusiasm of the Filipino community that patiently waited at the church along Calle de Garcia de Paredes to see the cardinal. Finally, he arrived, and was evidently euphoric as he was greeted by the excited crowd. He was accompanied by the Philippine Ambassador to Madrid His Excellency Carlos C. Salinas, Mrs. Isabelita Salinas, and the officers and staff members of the embassy.

Like the splendid master of wit that he is, Cardinal Luis Tagle injected light jokes at intervals during the mass; and every time, it caused thunderous reverberations of chuckles and shouts to be sent all over the basilica. It was clear he intended his actions to ensure that his words got through. And he didn’t fail as it was apparent that he captured the full attention of his audience. Still, he was earnest and firm when it was necessary, like during moments when he spoke of the need to maintain the strong devotion and faith to the Catholic religion.

His Eminence urged the Filipinos to make the most of the opportunities given to them while in Spain. He advised them to determine ways on how they can contribute to the betterment of the world, and set goals that go beyond the desire to meet the needs of their families back home.  He challenged everyone to follow God’s teachings – to love, believe, forgive, and sacrifice – to the best that they can, while they continue with their hectic lives in Madrid.

Cardinal Tagle likewise acknowledged the Filipino workers as among the most praised and sought-after in the world, and a great source of pride of their country. In the end, he expressed his appreciation for the warm reception that the Philippine community in Madrid accorded to him.

imageBasilica Parroquia de la Medalla Milagrosa

imageCardinal Luis Tagle spends time to exchange pleasantries with Philippine Ambassador Carlos Salinas and Mrs. Isabelita Salinas, and the officials of the basilicaimage His Eminence Cardinal Tagle of Manila officiates the mass at La Parroquia de la Medalla Milagrosa. Concelebrants are Rdmo. Mons. Carlos Osoro Sierra, Archbishop of Madrid (left) and Mons. Santiago de Wit, Primer Consejero Nunciature Apostolica de la Sta Sede en Madrid

image Philippine Ambassador to Spain H.E. Carlos Salinas and Mrs. Isabelita Salinas stand before His Eminence Cardinal Luis Tagle as they participate at the Offertory

Bocadillo de Calamares: That Spanish Sandwich Goodness I Had Come to Love

Squid is an essential ingredient of that tasty rice-seafood-chicken dish beloved in Spain known as paella. There’s no perfect paella without calamari. It’s the same case as concocting this dish without saffron – don’t ever be caught doing that in Spain or risk the scorn of true-blooded paella lovers. That’s how important squid is to paella. But, are you aware of another popular Spanish dish that uses calamari? It’s that sandwich drenched in gustatory divineness – bocadillo de calamares.

My delicious plate of bocadillo de calamares (also called bocata de calamares) costs 2.50 euro at Museo del Jamon Restaurante, located at Calle de San Jeronimo, Puerta del Sol

Jamon owns the title of Spain’s premier food – there’s no doubt about that. But, being a big sea food lover, I’m glad that the spotlight’s also on this squid sandwich fare. In fact, calamares is among the top choices as far as bocatas are concerned.  At first, I thought it’s an odd combination, calamari and bread. But after the first bite, I fell for it instantly. Since then, my palate has been pestering me in a regular fashion, making me crave incessantly for this wonderful deliciousness of a sandwich to which I have no choice but to satisfy – to my own utter delight.
imageBocadillo de Calamares is traditionally paired with a copa of chilled local beer (Mahou), but I’ve grown used to eating it with cold cola, which for me is the perfect wash-down beverage. Here, we dined at Cerveceria Plaza Mayor Bar, where a meal of bocata de calamares and cola is worth 5 euro. We paid an extra 10 for dining on its terrace.

Fried to perfection

The squid is dipped in batter and deep-fried just right to ensure that the meat isn’t tough or rubbery. Bocadillo restaurants in Madrid always cook their squid to perfection, and rightly so, unless they want their diners to endure prolonged mastication for naught (and lose valued patronage as a result). In the end, it is a simple bread-and-fried-calamares affair; but no doubt everyone will agree it to be exquisite gastronomically.

Overflowing goodness

My fill for the day from La Ideal bar, located at Calle Botoneras. It serves some of the tastiest squid bocatas around, giving “next-door neighbor” La Campana good competition. The restaurant seems serious about its quick-service mission; always got my takeaways in a jiffy the few times I was there – whether there were huge crowds or not.

I veer away from those fancy restaurantes that offer hours-long dining consisting of multi-course meals (well, you have no choice really but to shun them if you lack the necessary ‘efectivo’), and rather eat bocadillo de calamares at my favourite sandwich bar. But what I really love about these establishments is that despite wanting on frills and refinement, they compensate with a generous amount of calamares. Yes, this is true every time. I like how my favorite bars like La Campana and Cerveceria Plaza Mayor fill my baguette plenty with these squid rings like there’s no tomorrow.

imageBocadillos at Plaza Mayor are usually overstuffed  with calamares to the point that pieces spill onto the plastic bag (which is totally fine with me since I’d have more to munch on). Prices range from 2.50 to 3.50. The popular La Campana Bar also found at Calle de Botonelas sells them for 2.70 euro each.

It’s common for calamares restaurants in Madrid to serve it baguette-and-squid plain – and nothing else on. This way, customers can appreciate fully the taste of the squid meat. Hence, don’t go looking for condiments spread over the squid rings – like mayonesa, aioli, lemon, or the other usual. Still, they are available upon request; restaurants readily accede knowing that some customers would want tweaks on their sandwich’s taste once in a while. But for me, the bare calamares-bocata combination always works just fine – it’s more than enough to satisfy my hunger.

You might think that a sandwich as delicious as this might be complicated to prepare. On the contrary, it’s never rocket science. Once, I’ve seen a sandwich guy fry the squid rings, stuff them onto the baguette, wrap it, and hand it to the customer faster than you can say Jack Robinson.

Suffice it to say that even if bocadillo de jamon is hands down the one sandwich to beat here in Spain, calamares holds its own, and is an equally favorite option of many. It’s a must-eat bocadillo, one that shouldn’t be missed by any first-timer in Madrid. In my case, if I were to choose between jamon and calamares, I’ll go for the latter any time of the day.