Madrid Travel Tips from Omar Allibhoy, Spanish Chef of Tapas Revolution

Since opening Tapas Revolution, Omar Allibhoy has transformed the landscape of Spanish dining in the UK, one tapas restaurant at a time. The Madrilenian is also part of the Jamie Oliver’s Food Tube family, dishing out the secrets to traditional Spanish cooking. We talk to Omar about the must-try dish from Madrid, the Spanish way to do tapas, and why you should never go for paellas in Madrid. 

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Spanish Made Simple: Foolproof Spanish Recipes for Every Day by Omar Allibhoy of Tapas Revolution (Quadrille £20) Photo: Martin Poole

What do you feel defines the cuisine in Madrid?

Madrid is undoubtedly the capital of tapas. Every street is full of tapas bars, all making their own specialty. But of course it wasn’t always that way and something which is less known but equally important is the cuisine around offal. Madrid was heavily bombarded during the civil war and very poor as a result. Families used to make great recipes with cheaper animal cuts to save money and still use offal in cooking today.

How do Spanish people do tapas?

In Spain, tapas is more than just food, it’s how we connect, and is an excuse to get together. In the UK people meet ‘for a pint’, in Spain we ‘go for tapas’. Sharing food from the same plate brings us all a bit closer, and enhances conversation. It’s human nature to share what we have as opposed to eating your own thing.

When we go for tapas, we generally hop in and out of a number of tapas bars eating and drinking the house specialty of each place.

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Photo: Tapas Revolution

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Habas con chorizo. Photo: Tapas Revolution

What is the difference between British food and Spanish food?

Where to start? Cuisines are constantly evolving and the British food scene is now shifting with the influx of other cuisines. Unfortunately, the local produce is limited because the climate and geography is not quite as diverse as Spain.

Spanish cuisine has evolved for the last 2,000 years to become what it is today. Different cultures have chipped in – Phoenicians, Greeks, Romans, Arabs and Christians. To put it into perspective, in Spain there is no concept of ‘Spanish cuisine’, it’s a lot more regional. For example, we have Galician and Catalonian cuisines. I think it’s fair to say there is a lot more variety in Spain compared to the UK.

What are some local dishes you feel travellers can’t leave Madrid without trying? 

Callos a la Madrileña, it’s a beef tripe stew. It may not sound appealing but it’s a very traditional dish. Otherwise, don’t leave without trying patatas bravas or a good bocadillo de calamares (deep fried squid ciabatta).

Where do you love to eat in Madrid?

I love lots of them! A few you have to try are Casa Lucio, Era, Cachivache, Sala de Despiece, Taberna de la Daniela, Combarro and St. James

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Spanish Made Simple: Foolproof Spanish Recipes for Every Day by Omar Allibhoy of Tapas Revolution (Quadrille £20) Photo: Martin Poole

Name one best kept secret of Marche 

Madrid Río is the new refurb and regeneration plan for the south of Madrid and is a beautiful walk or bike ride away. Also, Parque del Capricho is one of my favourites and you hardly ever see any tourists there, so I guess it’s still a secret!

What’s your perfect itinerary to explore the city? 

Grab the bicycles, which are battery assisted, and make your own route, you are never going to see it all in one trip. If you are into food, know when you are going to finish for lunch! Maybe this Google map can help you with some of my favourite restaurants in my hometown. 

Name some tourist traps travellers should avoid in Madrid

The usual things, if there are food photos on the window, stay away from that restaurant. Paellas in Madrid are not great. Don’t waste your money in souvenir shops. Generally ask the locals, you are always closer than you think for authentic tapas.

Do paellas in Madrid taste bad? 

Paellas are only truly great in the Valencia region, where they originally come from. Rice is one of the most difficult ingredients to cook correctly in my opinion, and they are the masters of it. When in Madrid, eat like the Madrileños!

What’s your favourite day trip to take from Madrid?

I think Segovia. You can eat proper cochinillo asado (roasted suckling pig) at Meson de Candido while looking at the most stunning Aqueduct.

You recently had to defend Jamie Oliver on adding chorizo to paella. What is it about Spanish cuisine that the Spanish are so passionate about defending?

Our cuisine has been corrupted and distorted a lot because of a lack of knowledge and good communicators who spread the word about traditional Spanish cuisine. Food is fundamental to the Spanish and they don’t like to see traditional dishes messed around and altered. On the other hand, I think a bit differently.

 

WHERE TO EAT IN MADRID


Casa Lucio
Where: Calle Cava Baja, 35, 28005 Madrid, Spain
For: Spanish food

La Era Restaurante
Where: Calle de la Infanta Mercedes, 103, 28020 Madrid, Spain
For: High-end dining

Cachivache Taberna
Where: Calle de Serrano, 221, 28016 Madrid, Spain
For: Tapas

Sala de Despiece
Where: Calle de Ponzano, 11, 28010 Madrid, Spain
For: Tapas

Taberna de la Daniela
Where: Calle del Gral. Pardiñas, 21, 28001 Madrid, Spain
For: Cocido madrilenio

Combarro
Where: Calle Reina Mercedes, 12, 28020 Madrid, Spain
For: Seafood

Restaurante St James Madrid
Where: Calle de Juan Bravo, 26, 28006 Madrid, Spain (and more)
For: Rice dishes
 

WHERE TO GO IN MADRID


Madrid Río
Where: Puente de Toledo, 28019 Madrid, Spain
For: Parks and play areas

Parque del Capricho
Where: Paseo de la Alameda de Osuna, 25, 28042 Madrid, Spain
For: Parks
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