“Cheers!” we chant in unison: a group of budding young travellers from across the world united by our love of food and wine. With our glasses in one hand and our phones in the other, we clink our cups together and capture the memory with a Boomerang. On the table below our cluster of clinking glassware lies an endless spread of what the Spanish like to call tapas: small plates of food that are best shared amongst large groups like ours. Although the culinary tradition has been around since the 13th century, for many of us it is our first time trying authentic Spanish tapas.

El Tigre’s signature cheese tostas, one of their endless tapas dishes you can receive free with the purchase of any drink | Tayla Giles

¡Salud!” exclaims Emely, one of the only Spanish-speakers of our group. Our mouths watering and our stomachs rumbling, we eagerly grasp our cutlery and delve into the feast that lies before us. Some cut the delicious morsels into bite-sized pieces to share, whilst others extend dishes to the other end of the table which we hungrily reach for. It’s a balmy summer evening in Madrid, one of many nights spent exploring a diverse array of tapas restaurants off the beaten tourist track. After discovering the best kept hidden gems and delicious delicacies, I will share the top three traditional Spanish tapas dishes that are a must-try in the Spanish capital. 

Tostas (bread with cured meats, cheese and omelettes) 

Our search for a taste of Spain leads us on a tapear: a bar-hopping journey from one tapas bar to another. After weaving through endless streets lined with gay pride flags in the Chueca neighborhood, we arrive at El Tigre del Norte. Deceivingly small from the outside, the heavy wooden door opens to reveal a lengthy hallway that extends deep into the restaurant. We find a cozy corner and with each sangria we order, we receive a free tapas dish. 

The table quickly fills with a wide array of tapas dishes to share, but it is the tostas that swiftly disappear first. The petite pieces of crunchy bread are layered with a variety of toppings, ranging from cured meats, Spanish omelettes called pincho de tortillas, and Manchego cheese.

In the crowd of tapas-crawlers, we spot a University of Florida t-shirt and strike up a conversation with some American college frat boys, the kind that frequent El Tigre on a regular basis.

“I love the ham, cheese and bread because you get all three parts of the food pyramid. Not to mention carbs, protein and dairy! It’s a whole meal. It’s very homely and reminds me of Easter breakfast,” said 22-year-old student Tucker Lappin. 

We agree wholeheartedly as we devour every last tasty tosta on our table. 

Oozing with flavoursome grease and egg yolk, the huevos rotos is the perfect comfort food | Tayla Giles

Huevos Rotos (broken eggs)

After a long day spent hiking up staircases in the underground Metro railway system and trekking along ancient cobblestone streets, our stomachs are screaming to have their carb cravings satiated. Our search for salivation salvation lands us at Fogón Y Candela: a modest local tapas bar a short stroll from popular tourist attraction Templo de Debod near Plaza de España. 

Amidst our quizzical menu-perusing in a struggle to make a decision, we are approached by a cheerful waiter named Richard Abreu, who cannot speak highly enough of the huevos rotos: a hearty form of tapas that translates to “broken eggs.” 

“It’s one of our signature dishes here, very popular amongst tourists such as yourselves,” said Richard in a thick Spanish accent, reassuring us of our choice as he tops up our glasses red wine-infused tinto de verano.

We are greeted with a surprisingly large serving of crisp French fries, drenched with a drizzle of olive oil and tossed in sea salt. Lying on top are thin slices of jamon serrano (an air-cured ham unique to Spain) and eggs fried over-easy, the yolk oozing across the ham and soaking into the chips. Surprisingly filling, we barely scrape the surface and each take home a portion of the leftovers to enjoy as hangover food for breakfast the next morning. 

The widely-renowned patatas bravas just begging to be drenched in rustic bravas sauce | Tayla Giles

Patatas Bravas (potatoes “bravas”)

In celebration of surviving our two-week internship, we gather our group for late-night dinner and drinks along the outdoor terrace at Bar Lusa, an underrated tapas bar in the upscale Barrio Salamanca district. Each having different dietary requirements and lifestyle choices, we decide upon a dish that can be enjoyed by all: patatas bravas, a surprisingly filling meat-free appetizer that is commonly served at tapas bars across the country. 

I recall the recommendations I received before embarking on my journey abroad from my well-travelled Australian workmate, Dominique Rutten, who had tasted her way across Spain in past summers. 

“Whatever you do you have to try the patatas bravas while you’re over there! It’s a staple Spanish tapas dish that is a must-try for all tourists,” she said, excitedly scrawling a list of restaurants who specialise in the highly popular dish and highlighting Las Bravas, what she had called “the home of patatas bravas”. 

Arriving fresh out of the oven and releasing tendrils of steam is a bowl of bite-sized baby potatoes cut into halves. A crispy layer of herb-infused skin conceals soft and fluffy potato inside. Tying the dish together is a generous drizzle of salsa brava, a vibrant orange thick sauce with a slight spicy smokiness. After all of the potatoes are devoured, some of us resort to dipping our fingers into the remaining bravas sauce to savor every last drop. 

Buenos noches, chicas!” Fogon Y Candela’s manager exclaims with delight, kissing each of us on the cheek as we gather our leftovers and wave our goodbyes. As we file out of the door, our giggles escape into the balmy night air. We leave the tapas bar with full bellies, full hearts and mouths aching from a night filled with laughter. 

Spain is a mecca for all things food and wine, where sun-drenched evenings are best spent wandering off the beaten tourist track to find the quaint local tapas bars and devouring the local delicacies. From vegetarian dishes such as patatas bravas, to hearty meat filled dishes like huevos rotos, there is something to tickle everyone’s tastebuds in the garden of culinary delights that is the Madrid.

El Tigre del Norte

Calle Hortaleza 23, Chueca

P: +34 915 320 072

Opening Hours:


Tuesday – Sunday 9:00AM – 1:00AM

Average Price: 

  • Drinks: 5,00€ – 8,00€ ($8 – $12 AUD)


  • Receive a free tapas dish with the purchase of a drink
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Table service
  • Credit cards accepted

Fogón Y Candela

Calle de Quintana, 26

P: +34 915 00 70 33

Opening Hours:

Sunday 10:00AM – 1:00AM

Monday – Wednesday 8:00AM – 1:00AM

Thursday – Friday 8:00AM – 2:00AM

Saturday 9:00AM – 2:00AM

Average Price: 


  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Takeout
  • Outdoor seating
  • Table service
  • Credit cards accepted

Bar Lusa

Calle de José Ortega y Gasset, 80

P: +34 914 01 23 69

Opening Hours:

Monday – Saturday 6:00am – 12:00AM


Average Price: up to 9€ ($15 AUD)


  • Credit cards accepted
  • Outdoor seating
  • Table service

Edited by Julissa Ramirez.