The other week I was in Madrid and wanted somewhere classically Spanish, good quality and inexpensive to eat.
Well, my prayers were answered in the shape of the Museo del Jamon. There are some 5 branches of this strange hybrid of an establishment dotted around the centre of Madrid, I went to the original, in the Calle Mayor, just off Puerto del Sol.
It appears at first glance to be an overgrown deli, ham and cheese shop, but a closer look will show you that half the ground floor is also a rather excellent tapas bar, of the stand up variety. Just above this on a sort of mezzanine is a snack bar, while a staircase takes you to the “comedor”, the dining room.This is where Spaniards love to eat and as a rule of thumb, if a place has a comedor, often behind a closed door or up some stairs, you may well be onto a good thing!
I was onto a good thing at the Museo del Jamon, the dinning room was amazing, massive, elegant and bustling, looking like a set from the 1930’s or even vaguely like an ocean liner’s restaurant. Hundreds of people, all talking and having fun, wading through piles of calamares and gambas as well as the more expected ham – indeed the ceiling, as downstairs in the bar, was groaning under the weight of hanging hams. The ham was very, very good indeed, as was everything else.
This is not haute cuisine, but traditional, hearty Spanish fare of hams, shellfish, fish, grilled meats, paellas, soups, salads as well as that wonderful invention the “plato combinado” a set meal on a plate. It is great fun, a wonderful place to watch people, to satisfy your hunger and generally have an enjoyable meal at relatively little cost.