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A Touch of Madrid

So, according to the pundits, Madrid is challenging Barcelona for the reputation of being the greatest dining city in Spain! To be honest, after a demanding day spent trawling a trade show our greatest desire was not cutting-edge dining (booked weeks in advance) – but for good food in a fun environment, where we could enjoy ourselves soaking up the culture, along with the local wines.

This proved to be so easy to achieve, with Madrid being awash with tapas bars at all levels, and our hotel handily situated off the Gran Via, access to many of them lay within a mere 15-minute walk radius. For a couple of dinners we did step it up a level and compared to the rest of our destinations, this was a very cheap thing to do.

As we were dining casually, and there when they opened at 8.30pm, rather than waiting until the fashionable local dining hour of 10.00pm, making a booking was never an issue.

Metro Bistro was a cute place, well reviewed, complete with a personality-plus waiter who was such fun that we wondered about importing him for New Zealand. As we were the only people there at that early hour we were the focus of his full attention. Very acceptable wine was around €18 and courses ranged from €8.90 for an entrée, to €17 for a main. The food was simple and tasty, with a definite gourmet twist. We enjoyed their version of patatas bravas, croquettes, steak tartare, lamb and a modern-style hamburger.

A place where you can't book which has been the recipient of deservedly rave reviews, with long queues outside, is Street-Xo, on the top of the department store El Cortes Ingles in Calle Serrano (the Rodeo Drive of Madrid). This is the playful restaurant of one of Madrid's top chefs David Muñoz, whose main game establishment DiverXo is one we will definitely try should we next return to Madrid. His food is quite simply brilliant.

We got to Street-Xo early and we were the first of the diners to be seated at the extremely stylish bar which surrounds the open kitchen, so enjoyed the whole 'show' firsthand. Whilst we were waiting for them to open we had observed the staff prepping the food, the place and themselves. Their white tops are reminiscent of strait jackets and the ‘plates’ comprise large rectangles of paper. The cocktail list is imaginative, the service fast and attentive and the food original and delicious. You can choose a number of dishes all around the €14 mark. We tried as many as we could!