For those who feel threatened by the idea of ordering multiple small tapas dishes at a Spanish tapas bar in Spanish, there are other options available! I’m not going to lie, for the first few days we spent in Spain, I felt a little bit overwhelmed by the idea of trying to order food in Spanish, in a way that I hadn’t felt in France or Italy where I’m a lot more familiar with the language and the type of words that you might find on a menu.
Luckily there are a number of restaurants around that still cater to locals who want a meal rather than multiple tapas dishes. The Taperia de Malasana located to the north of Madrid’s main shopping street Gran Via, is one example of this. They’re busy throughout the day with locals popping in for a cheeky morning drink, others staying on for lunch, yet others coming in for afternoon drinks and snacks, and those who stay well into the night with more drinks and tapas. The bar area at the front of the restaurant is definitely where all the cool kids sit, but K and I took refuge in the quieter seated restaurant space in the back, away from the smokers.
With a lunch set menu (three options for entree, three options for mains, and dessert or coffee) that changes daily for only $10 Euro per person, it was an easy choice. The menu doesn’t come translated into English (it’s scrawled in Spanish on a blackboard), but the elderly waiter that we had knew a little bit of English and was happy to translate the different options for us.
I started with the Stuffed Tomato as my entree, which came out cold. I’m starting to learn that in many cheaper restaurants in Europe, the entree is always served cold as it allows the kitchen to manage output much easier. It’s a dish that worked surprisingly well when cold, with the sweet, almost caramel, tomato stuffed with a rice and savoury mince mix that really hit the spot.
K had the simple Garden Salad for his entree, which comes topped with some tuna in olive oil. It was a simple salad of the most basic ingredients – lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, onions, corn and olives. What I did like about it was the fresh burst of sweetness that the few sweet corn kernels scattered through the salad offered – a nice contrast to the vinaigrette-dressed salad leaves.
K’s main course was the Boiled Ham with Potatoes, which was liberally dressed with olive oil and paprika. While the broiled potatoes were very nice and tasty, the boiled ham really didn’t appeal to me as it had lost most of its meatiness and was relying heavily on the paprika to give it some flavour.
My Fried Chicken Stuffed With Ham and Cheese was overly breaded, but still particularly tasty with its gooey and more-ish filling. It was on the oily side though, and would have been better paired with some roast potatoes rather than oily chips on the side. Still, for the price we paid for the whole meal, it was quite good.
The dessert that we each had was by far the highlight of the meal though – a little Flan with a dark caramel sauce. In fact, this meal kick-started a flan taste-testing trip that we did across Spain and Portugal – we tried the house-made flan in almost every restaurant we visited.
Overall, Taperia de Malasana is a decent little local restaurant that offers an incredibly reasonably priced set lunch menu. While the menu is not in English, those who aren’t confident in their Spanish language skills will find a lot of help in the waiters who are more than happy to help translate for you. It’s not amazing food that I would rush back for, but this type of restaurant isn’t a bad choice for travellers who want reasonably priced food in a comfortable environment.
Taperia de Malasana is located at 8 Calle Corredera Alta de San Pablo, Madrid.