Monday, 24 December 2012

Good Food in Madrid: Menu del Dia

Translated, it means Menu of the Day. I was told that most restaurants here in Madrid have a Menu del Dia for lunch. Most of the Menu del Dia meals, or at least those that I've eaten, are two course meals with a complimentary dessert or coffee/tea/juice. The meals, ranging from 11€ to 16€, are a bit expensive if converted to Philippine Pesos, but the servings are huge, and all of the meals I've tried were delicious.

On my first Saturday in Madrid, excited as all new arrivals are, we went on a twenty minute train ride to the Madrid city center to check out the sights. At half past 3 in the afternoon, after walking for hours along the Gran Via, lunch beckoned.

We went to Cafeteria La Pecera on the ground floor of Circulo de Bellas Artes. A cafeteria whose vibe is a bit more elegant than usual eateries, with crystal chandeliers and tuxedoed attendants. But the service was warm and we, in our walking jeans and zero Spanish capabilities, did not feel intimidated at all.

The Menu del Dia was also more expensive than usual, 22€ per person. Was the steeper price worth it?

Let me show you what we had:

Free Appetizer: crusty bread and a pork dish which reminded me slightly of Bicol Express.

Drink: Freshly squeezed orange juice. Amazingly sweet. What is it with Spanish orange juices? After my first taste of orange juice in Spain, I have consistently ordered this with my meals, and always, they come out as sweet and fresh-tasting.

First Course: Cold gazpacho soup. I can't say its amazing, because this is my first time to try gazpacho haha but I like the tomato essence, it's a very light soup. A perfect counterpoint to my next course.

Second Course: Beef Steak cooked medium on a bed of roasted potatoes and onions. Steak is my favorite food in the world, and this came out just okay for me. The beef was tasty with only pepper and salt. And while it was not fork tender, that was a pretty generous serving portion.

Dessert: Flan. I chose this for dessert, expecting something as rich as our leche flan, but though it had the same caramelized burnt sugar taste, the flan's texture was lighter, more akin to a panna cotta than our rich, eggy leche flan. I still prefer our own calorie-bursting, sweet and creamy version.

So the food was okay but not crazy great. But I still feel it's worth the 22 EU price, the place has a touch of worn elegance plus we stayed in the restaurant for close to two hours yapping and chatting without the waitresses giving us dagger looks.

I am actually surprised how reasonable prices are here. Sure, it's expensive to eat out everyday and shell out 15€ per meal, but for a good two course meal with generous servings it's reasonable. Especially if I compare it with Korea where a decent meal without drinks is about 14-25 USD, and where a steak meal at a foreign-inspired steakhouse is at least 30 USD, and that's not even a multi-course meal.

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