Monday, 15 June 2015

Fritanga-free zone: 6 Madrid restaurants for light summer dining

The Mediterranean diet is renowned for being one of the healthiest in the world. I beg to differ. Show me a Spanish restaurant menu that doesn't feature deep-fried croquetas, patatas bravas smothered in sauce, plates of fatty jamón and a vegetable that isn't an oily pimiento de padrón, and I'm there.

I wish the Mediterranean diet in Spain looked like this

Don't get me wrong, I like Spanish food. But I also like variety. And even more than that, I like eating healthily rather than consuming daily doses of fritanga (deep-fried food) when I dine out. This is particularly the case during the heat of the summer months, when greasy grub doesn't exactly sit well in the stomach. Of course, restaurants here do offer grilled fish, gazpacho and salad; but while choosing lighter options on a lunchtime menu del dia might be reasonably easy, finding a restaurant with healthy raciones for dinner is more of a challenge. Even the latest wave of identikit rustic chic eateries' menus are peppered with traditional Spanish dishes with a 'modern twist': read, croquetas with unusual ingredients.

So, if like me you're looking for some lighter dining options this summer, read on to find a few fritanga-free restaurants in Madrid.


Xanacuk – This Australian-owned lunch spot in Chueca is the place to go if you're craving quinoa salads, tabbouleh, juices and healthy snacks. The Augusto Figueroa branch has a few tables (including a terraza), but you can also take away and even order online for home delivery. Great value and bound to leave you feeling virtuous. Note that they haven't yet updated their website, but the Calle Orense branch closed last year. Xanacuk, Calle Augusto Figueroa 13. Open for lunch Monday-Friday.

Vegetarian moussaka at Health & Go

Health & Go – Since the closure of Xanacuk Orense, this little place in Moda Shopping Centre is my lunchtime saviour. With a daily choice of 6 or more primeros and segundos, with ingredients and health benefits clearly explained, you can get your fill for €7.95 for 2 courses or order just one course. There are always vegan and vegetarian options, plus freshly-made juices. My favourites are the aduki bean salad, the tofu red curry and the pez mantequilla served with wholegrain rice. You can order online & collect in-store. The only downside is that even if you eat in (a few tables are available), you're given disposable packaging and cutlery. Health & Go, Moda Shopping (Calle General Peron). Open Monday-Friday until 6.30pm, weekends until 2pm.

Viva Burger – The long-standing vegetarian buffet restaurant Viva la Vida is now Viva Burger, a vegetarian burger place. I know, burgers aren't exactly light, but they still offer a range of meat-free dishes in addition to a huge selection of burgers. The location in pretty Plaza de la Paja in the heart of La Latina is also part of the charm – get there early to grab a spot on the terraza. Viva Burger, Costanilla de San Andres 16. Open daily from 11am until midnight (2am weekends).


El Huerto de Lucas – This airy interior patio in Chueca is ringed by 'stalls' selling juices, drinks, bread and more, but take a seat in the centre for table service from La Cantina. The menu at El Huerto de Lucas is based around market-fresh produce, and is full of light options suitable for both vegetarians and meat eaters. Try the quinoa and amaranth tabbouleh with citrus dressing, the Sicilian caponata with free-range eggs or one of the organic steaks. Vegan, dairy free and gluten free options are clearly indicated on the menu. El Huerto de Lucas, Calle San Lucas 13. Open Monday to Saturday until 10pm.

Inside El Huerto de Lucas

Thursday, 4 June 2015

My May in -ings: Watching flamenco in Seville, devouring Barcelona & shopping in Girona

As usual, my recent online low profile isn't due to a lack of subject matter: quite the opposite. As I've been too busy to blog regularly, I thought I'd update you on what I've been up to and give a preview of upcoming posts, plus a few tips that probably wouldn't have made it onto the blog otherwise.

So, in May, I've been...


Seeing La Giralda from a different angle

  • Seville. For this year's Puente de Mayo, I hopped on the AVE to my favourite southern city for a weekend of sun, tapas and good times with fellow blogger Becoming Sevillana. We had some top-notch bites to eat (and good service) at modern tapas bars La Pepona and La Chunga, with breakfast at characterful old-school Casa Moreno thrown into the mix. We also toured the rooftops of Seville's Cathedral, a badly-advertised visit that proved to be a brilliant way to see this incredible building from some very different angles. We learnt much more about the construction and history of the cathedral than you would on an unguided visit, plus we got to wander the interior at our leisure after the tour. Visits now seem to have ended for the season (due to the summer heat), but you can book them (in Spanish only unless you can fill a tour) through Conocer Sevilla. Another 'typical sevillano' moment which made me question why I no longer live here was an evening of flamenco en estado puro at Bodeguita Fabiola. By en estado puro, I mean the real deal: although clearly aimed to draw in the tourists, there were no unbuttoned white shirts or slicked back hair here; just 4 blokes with earrings, tattoos and rhythm. One wiry young lad turned out to be a mesmerizing dancer, while the singer had a captivating voice. There's no entry charge, just (cheap) drinks, so it's well worth dropping in.

  • Barcelona. A quick work trip ended with a rare day to myself in the city: I decided to skip San Isidro in Madrid and spend the weekend in Catalunya. Before moving on to my next destination, I spent the morning eating my way around the Gràcia neighbourhood with Devour Barcelona (see below).

  • Girona. After being won over by this colourful city in March, I returned for a long weekend in May. This time, my visit coincided with the Temps de Flors festival, but even outside this event Girona has lots to offer: a relaxed environment, great food and a casco antiguo so beautiful you'll be reaching for your camera at every turn. Saturday afternoon at Temps de Flors proved a bit overcrowded and saw my friend and I retreat to the shops, where we discovered beautiful boutique Maison Marina. Their own designs are made in the shop itself; the soundtrack to your browsing is the whir and clack of a sewing machine. The advantage of this proved to be easy alterations: I fell in love with a daisy-trimmed top that was too big, so I was measured up and returned in 20 minutes to pick up a perfectly fitting version.

Gorgeous Girona


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