All across Spain during lunch time, restaurants offer a menu del dia (menu of the day). It’s usually a three course affair that includes a soup or salad to start, a simple protein in the middle, and something sweet at the end—all for one very reasonable price. The Astronomer and I sampled a handful of menus del dia during our trip, but we loved none as much as Casa Marta’s in Madrid. What set this place apart from all the others was the warm hospitality that we received and the value of the meal. After spending quite extravagantly on our three-star feasts, it felt nice to get a lot of bang for our euros.
Opened in 1925, Casa Marta is a family-run restaurant serving homey Spanish staples. The menu del dia was priced at €10.50 and included bread and wine, in addition to three generously portioned courses. With a little help from Marta’s grandson, the restaurant’s current owner, and The Astronomer’s pocket Spanish dictionary, we made our selections and eagerly awaited our midday meal.
A bowl of green olives was the first to arrive. We nibbled on these salty morsels as we sipped our chilled white wine.
Feeling a bit indulgent, The Astronomer and I ordered a plate of jamon iberico de bellota to start before delving into our pre-fixe menu. We had eaten bits and pieces of the famed black-footed ham throughout our Spanish stay, but this was the first time digging into an entire plate of the stuff. Jamon iberico comes from free-range, black Iberian pigs that are finished on a diet of acorns.
Shaved off in paper-thin slices, the ham arrived at the table glistening and fragrant. I found its texture amazingly supple, while its flavor flooded every corner of my mouth. Each slice brought an intense hit of salty, fatty goodness, and I was a little heartbroken when the last piece disappeared. This was one of the best splurges of our entire trip. Mmm!
My three course lunch began with the vegetable of the day: artichoke hearts sauteed with bacon. The bits of bacon imparted a smoky essence onto the little hearts, making an already perfect vegetable even more so.
The Astronomer chose the soup of the day, which was chicken noodle. Although it didn’t look very exciting in its saucer, the soup’s flavors were clean and wholesome. It embodied my ideal of the perfect chicken noodle soup.
My main course was grilled swordfish with a side of French fries. Seasoned with garlic and herbs, the fillet wasn’t a world rocker, just simply satisfying.
The Astronomer felt mostly the same about his grilled steak fillet. It was plenty juicy and packed a lot of beefy flavor, but it certainly wasn’t the tenderest cut in town. However, considering the price we were paying, the steak was perfectly acceptable and downright satisfactory.
To finish, Neapolitan ice cream with vanilla, chocolate, and cream cheese…
And a smooth and tart lemon pudding.
From start to finish, Casa Marta delivered one of the best lunches of our entire trip. Sometimes it’s the simplest things that satisfy the most. That, and a plate of the greatest ham in the world.
Calle de Santa Clara, 10
28013 Madrid, España
Phone: 915 482 825