I’m one of those people who believes if you visit a country you must go somewhere off the regular path to truly experience the food and drink of the people. This trip I spent 2 days in Madrid and I only ate in one place.
I stepped out of my hotel and walked down to the main road and hailed a taxi. I asked him where I could drink great beer and try some “Tapas”. He told me I gad to go to the area called La Latina. It took about 6 minutes to get there. When we arrived there was a place with a patio area and it’s full and I decide to avoid it. I wanted off the regular path after all. I began to walk down a street and I truly apologize but I don’t know what it’s called. Half way down the street I see a man standing by the road just off the sidewalk and when I get closer he begins by asking if I want to eat and why don’t I go inside. I give him the “Sorry I don’t speak Spanish look”. You know when you bite into something bitter and you make a face? That’s the look. I continue on my way and reach the end of the street and realize there’s no more restaurants. I look back and the man is still there. I walk back and now I can speak Spanish and tell him that I would love to eat some Tapas.
I walk in and the front area is a bar with great character and behind it is a man who I will never forget.
Rosini. The owner of La Martina.
He is smiling and is genuinely warm-hearted and is truly happy to see me. This kind of greeting is absent in Toronto Canada. All restaurant employees in Canada should visit Europe and get a week’s worth of training on how to be genuine to patrons. It’s a skill that I will demand from now on. Rosini spoiled me. Working along side Rosini is the beautiful and very helpful Irina. Her English is amazing. She leads you to the back of the restaurant. You have to walk through a narrow corridor with a glass floor and when you get to the other side you get this…
There you begin to feel the anticipation of what is coming. Irina takes my drink order and in less than 2 minutes I have a cold fresh beer in my hand and Irina is handing me a menu and I ask her what is good. She immediately becomes excited about a salad. In her own words,
“The best salad I have ever eaten.” In my mind I think, wow that’s a mighty great salad and I order one. I also order a plate of assorted cheese, Iberian Ham, and a crab salad open sandwich. I am becoming euphoric with the atmosphere, mostly from the beer. It’s such great beer!!
It is simply the greatest salad I also have eaten. You have fried goat cheese with wild greens, a strawberry sauce that is so sweet it compliments the saltness of the goat cheese. This salad is perfectly put together. The tomatoes are ripe and firm, so sweet. It has a handful of pine nuts that gives it that crunchy contrast you look for. When you arrive to the bottom of the plate you get one more surprise. Crushed mango. Every mouthful is splendid and magical. Rosini truly has a gift for food. I will say this as simply as I can.
If you visit Madrid you MUST go to La Martina Restaurant and have the goat cheese salad.
The Iberian Ham melts in your mouth and is served on a fresh sliced piece of bread. Nothing about this place is processed. You find yourself lingering to stay and Irina and Rosini don’t make it easy to leave, they talk to you with great interest and you start to feel, there is no where else you need to be.
The cheese plate is exciting and from one side of the plate to the other you have very different cheeses. The cheese looks freshly sliced and as if it came just now from the farm.The tiny bread sticks clean your palate so you can continue to savour the rich cheeses.
The atmosphere, people and food make La Martina the single best restaurant I ate at in Europe.I will miss La Martina everytime I eat and from now on, everytime I eat at a restaurant, I will use La Martina as the standard of which every restaurant must match or exceed. A true hidden pearl in Madrid. If you do happen to go there, tell Rosini and Irina that you read about them. They are the best at what they do.
Thank you both for a dining experience that shall always be cherished.