From the opening shot to the closing scene, it’s clear that Anthony Bourdain is having a love affair with jamón. The Spanish food is legendary, and something that he believes you can’t visit Spain without trying. But surely there’s more to the dining scene in Madrid than incredible cured meats – though we all know Tony might eat just that if left to his own devices.
After visiting Barcelona and trying tapas and Castilian food, I thought I understood what the food scene is like in Spain. But watching this episode of No Reservations with Anthony Bourdain in Madrid, I’m hungry for more. (His episodes in San Sebastián are also mouth-watering if you haven’t seen those yet!)
Bourdain visits Madrid in season 6, episode 25 of No Reservations. It’s the only time he visits Madrid during any of his shows. Diving deep into the traditional dishes that inspire modern Spanish cuisine – and meeting the chefs that are pushing the envelope through reinvention and fusion –, Tony takes us on a culinary tour of Madrid and the surrounding region that would make almost anyone hungry to visit. (Okay, maybe not the vegetarians and vegans out there, but we all know how Tony felt about that!)
Where Anthony Bourdain Ate in Madrid
I always like to include a map to show exactly where Anthony Bourdain ate in each city. Hopefully, this helps you envision how to fit stops at these places in your own travel plans.
1. Mercado de San Miguel
The first stop to make in any town is the market; it’s where you get a sense of the food that comes from the region, and what you’ll likely encounter in the dishes there.
Bourdain browses the Mercado de San Miguel, seeing fresh seafood from Galicia, jamón from Extremadura, and wine from Rioja among many other ingredients that show how Madrid is a culinary melting pot. He also tucks into a food stall, to try fried octopus with egg and wine. From the way Tony talks about eggs in this episode, I’m pretty sure Madrid has the best eggs in the world!
2. Casa Salvador
Next, Tony heads to Casa Salvador. This restaurant is a Madrid institution, and was a famous place to dine back in the mid-20th Century; photos of bullfighters and Hollywood stars adorn the walls.
Here Bourdain ejnoys fish cured in vinegar (I didn’t catch which type of fish, but likely hake or sole based on their menu), zucchini pisto, hake, and the house specialty of braised oxtail stew – all paired with a few gin and tonics.
3. San Mamés
While the celebrations continue around the city, Tony heads out for another meal, this time with a fellow food writer. They visit San Mamés, another Madrid institution restaurant. As their website says, they offer the best tripe in Madrid. As Bourdain discusses over the meal, tripe was a common meat many Madrileños relied on in their diets until the fall of Francoism and subsequent economic recovery.
Here they enjoy the traditional dish of Callos a la madrileña – tripe with chorizo, morcella, pork fat, and pimentón. As Bourdain describes it, it’s a dish that sounds – and tastes – terrible in its early stages of cooking, but something magical happens in the sauce to make it a dish that’s emblematic of Old Madrid but embraced by the new generations too.
DiverXO is the polar opposite of the restaurants Tony had visited up to this point: it’s new, modern, and wielded a shiny Michelin star (at the time; it now has three Michelin stars).
In fact, it was so hard for Bourdain to get a reservation at DiverXO that he was invited in outside normal restaurant hours to sample the menu, guided by chef David Muñozand his then-wife Ángela. They tried a variety of Spanish-Chinese fusion dishes, including smoked skate with dried scallop sauce with tuna roe and shrimp heads; edamame; Changurro crab, with tomato, chilli, and pimento and chipotle sauce and pigeon egg; black pudding dim sum with quail egg with pig’s ear in sweet and sour sauce; dim sum with braised oxtail; dumplings with bok choy and red Palamos prawns; wok-seared monkfish with lotus root; cured beef bun with black trumpet mushroom filling and chili oil; Galician beef with sauce and quesadilla, Pekingese-style Spanish suckling pig; and finally Shabu-shabu.
If you can believe it, this incredible-looking meal was not the highlight of the trip – it was one of many like it in the rest of the episode.
Not to be outdone, Gabinoteca may not have Michelin stars, but it earned a place in Tony’s heart over the course of tasting several dishes at this “gastro-bar.” Joined by a long-time friend, he samples a number of incredible looking foods including:
- Stilton smoked with lavender and paired with whiskey
- Foie gras with crispy pineapple crust
- Galician veal sausage with homemade ketchup, cheddar cheese sauce, and fried onions
- Pambas al ajio (pan fino?), which was pounded prawns broiled and garnished with olive oil, marinated garlic, lemon rind, and mullet roe
- Pureed potato, truffle, and coddled egg
- Roasted chicken wings marinated in lime, soy sauce, honey and fresh ginger
- A uild your own Sundae tray for dessert
Unfortunately, Gabinoteca is permanently closed – chef Nino Redruello seems to have a few other projects still going elsewhere in Madrid.
6. El Bohío
Finally, Tony enjoys one last meal at El Bohío in Illescas outside of Madrid. This restaurant too has one Michelin star, making Madrid one of the fanciest destinations Bourdain dined – by star count. Their menu has changed a lot since 2010, and I’m not able to find any of the foods he tried, which included a tarine of foie gras and sardines served with partridge; a ‘ropa vieja’ of stewed meat with garbanzo bean; and some huge meatball dish. Oh, and plenty of Castilian wine.
Given their Michelin-starred status, don’t let the lack of similar dishes put you off; all three tasting menus on their site today look incredible.
Where Else Tony Ate in Madrid
In addition to the above restaurants, Bourdain also spent time at a few other dining experiences. First, he spent a day out on the mesa surrounding Madrid, learning about traditional sheep herding. With his hosts, he enjoyed a meal of traditional Shepherd’s Stew along with Torta La Serena cheese.
He also enjoyed an incredible meal at a txokos, a private food society using the Basque word for “corners” (but meaning more like “niches”). Here, chefs meet, cook, and dine together – so you know the food has to be out-of-this-world. In addition to sampling the inimitable Iberico jamón, Bourdain enjoys fresh red gambas (shrimp) raw tossed with olive oil and lemon juice, tortillas omelet with white anchovies and green peppers, and marmitako, a Basque fisherman’s stew.
Food Tours to Try in Madrid
In addition to enjoying meals at literally all of the above restaurants, you could also opt for a food tour to help you sample your way across Madrid. Here are some options:
Have any other questions about how to follow in the culinary footsteps of Anthony Bourdain in Madrid? Let me know in the comments!