A foodie weekend in Madrid: how to eat and drink like a local

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If you want to know what makes the Spanish capital tick, head for its back-street bodegas, tiny tapas bars and neighbourhood food markets

Freshly fried churros, golden and crisp; a cup of velvety hot chocolate alongside; circles of aubergine striped from the griddle; mushrooms silky with chorizo; a jumble of potatoes smothered in spicy sauce; handmade crisps, crunchy and salty; slivers of jamón serrano; plump Nocera olives; and crumbly, herby morcilla … By the end of our first day in Madrid, my sister Penny and I have eaten all these things. A touch indulgent, maybe, but when you’re staying in a city that runs on its stomach, it seems rude not to go with the flow.

Madrileños are famous for eating late, mostly because that mid-evening supper is the last of five meals, starting with a light breakfast – often coffee and a pastry on the fly, before an early lunchtime snack (almuerzo), a full sit-down lunch, usually between 2 and 4pm (comida), then coffee and cake (merienda) and finally supper. Once you understand this, Madrid really starts to make sense: a city of centuries-old pasticceria, hole-in-the-wall tapas bars, neighbourhood markets and dimly-lit bodegas, all crammed with diners. Someone is always eating somewhere. During our visit, it was usually us.

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