The food I have been dying to eat whilst we’re over in Spain is simple, unfussy, locally sourced dishes that unpretentious taverns, bars and small restaurants manage to do so well here. There is really nothing clever in paying a huge amount to eat a Michelin starred lunch, but there is a huge amount of fun and satisfaction in hunting out a hideaway haunt serving wonderful local dishes that don’t cost an arm and a leg; like this plate of iberico ham (below) that you can enjoy at pretty much any street corner cafe in Madrid without paying a fortune for.
Eating out in Singapore seems to be either a high end or low end experience, with a real lack of anything in between that’s both genuinely delicious and good value. So I was on a mission…
The Luxe Guides may read like someone is shouting at you (they are so condensed with information) but they are damn useful for a few key tips in a new city. One of them was the restaurant Casa Fidel in Madrid, recommended by Luxe if you are an urbanite and arty type, prepared to “brave the seedy ‘hood for deliciously affordable feasts in a rustic-chic tavern”.
Being the cautious Singaporean girl I seem to have become, I was torn between the idea of eating amazing food and braving dodge-ville to get to it (Madrid has a notoriously high petty crime rate). I said to H – as I slipped on my big pearl earrings ($40 from Mustafa, but no one would know) and applied some red lipstick – “Darling I really don’t think we should go to the seedy part of town. I’m sure we’ll be mugged.”
Not to be deterred from the hunt for simple and delicious nosh, he checked the map to see how far this questionably located resto was from our hotel…only to discover that we were staying a minute’s walk from it. Yes, in my quest to find stylish and vaguely reasonably accommodation in Madrid, I’d booked us in to the dodgy end of town. (We were staying in Hotel Alba – stylo milo without delivering on much else; not recommended).
Actually our neighbourhood was really very cool, seedy was unfair; boho would have been a better description and there was lots of street fashion, very much missing in Singapore, which made people watching great fun.
Just as well, because the Casa Fidel was damn well closed – shutters down – until 9pm on a Saturday night. Dinner, when we finally got to eat it, (10pm; starving but didn’t want to look too keen) delivered 100%.
Highlights were the soft but still crunchy white asparagus served with lashings of home made mayo, uber fresh, sweet prawns and something called solmorejo (thicker and better than gaspaccio but very much of the same ilk – i.e. cold soup).
The wait was absolutely worth it – people watching and delayed gratification aside – because it forced me over the road where you can’t fail to swoon over the lovely Carlos Castro’s hat shop Arreglos (pic below). He makes everything himself – there is a small workshop out back – as well as working the shop and picked me out a little something to wear to the wedding we are heading to in Seville this Saturday. The handmade headpiece cost me an amazingly good value €30 (around $50/£25). Dinner only ended up costing about €50, so, hat/fru fru headpiece included, we managed to spend less than a bottle of wine would have cost in a restaurant in Singapore.
Spending to save…my kind of economy.
Spanish tapas picture courtesy of Mail Box