To Madrid for a feast

To Madrid for a feast

Who
Ryan Clift, 37, chef-owner of The Tippling Club, which opened its doors at its new premises in a shophouse at 38 Tanjong Pagar Road last Wednesday. The Briton has lived in Singapore for six years with his Australian wife, Leesa, and two children, aged two and three months.

Favourite city
Madrid, Spain

Why
I've been there three times now for a big culinary congress called Madrid Fusion, where the best chefs around the world converge. It is a three-day event held in January. I've attended twice and demonstrated there once, which was a big honour, and made a lot of friends there.

All I do when I'm there is eat. I'm a chef, so that's what I do when I go on holiday - I travel to eat.

Favourite restaurant
One of the friends I made on my travels to the city is chef David Munoz. I had one of the best dining experiences of my life at his Madrid restaurant, Diverxo (Calle del Pensamiento, 28, Madrid, tel: +34-915-70-07-66, open from Tuesdays to Saturdays from 2 to 4pm, and 9 to 10.30pm, www.diverxo.com).

He cooked for my wife and me the first time we went to Madrid, and I just found out that his restaurant had been given three Michelin stars. His style is Spanish but with crazy hints of Asian flavours. He is genuinely original.

For instance, he once served us san choy bao - lettuce cups filled with finely diced pork and water chestnuts - and the Spanish flavours and Asian flavours were so cleverly balanced that they masked each other.

You get all the Asian flavours in a bite, but then you also start tasting the Iberican pork. It's original.

Favourite place to stay
I like Westin Palace (Plaza de las Cortes, 7, Madrid, tel: +34-913-60-80-00, www.westinpalacemadrid.com/en). It's right in the middle of the city, with the major shopping districts just a 10-minute walk away. The museums and the casino are just five minutes away. Rooms start from €259 (S$448) a night.

It also has a great hotel bar, and before going out for the evening, my wife and I usually head there for aperitifs.

Best bars
Bar Cock (Calle de la Reina, 16, Madrid, tel: +34-915-32-28-26, open weekdays from 4pm to 3am, weekends from 7pm to 3am, www.barcock.com) was one of our best finds. We spent two hours walking up and down the street trying to find it because it's so inconspicuous - there's just a tiny amber motif of a cockerel on the door to indicate that it's there.

When you go in, it's like stepping back in time. There are just about eight tables in there and around 20 bartenders, all in white uniforms. The decor is straight out of the 1950s or 1960s and just gorgeous. They serve mostly old-fashioned cocktails, and the bar is just stunning to experience. Cocktails start at €10 each. In Spain, it's cheap to drink, and Spaniards especially love their gin and tonic.

Must-do activity
Anyone going to Madrid must go to the San Miguel Market (Plaza de San Miguel, Madrid, tel: +34-915-42-49-36, open daily from 10am to midnight, www.mercadodesanmiguel.es). It's entirely indoors and it's epic. You have to go during lunch. When you walk in, you are just overwhelmed because it seems like every food product in the world is available.

I usually start at one stand and work my way around the entire market, moving from stall to stall.

You could start with a stall selling jamon and pay a few euros for a plate of it, and then move on to the next stall for a beer, the next for some cheese, the next for some wine and so on.

It'll take a few hours to try every stall. Prices start from just a few euros.

I think the last time I went, I must have spent five hours there and emerged completely stuffed as well as plastered, because every other stall sells alcohol.

Event to bookmark
If you're a foodie, Madrid is a great place for gastro events. Madrid Fusion is one such event and it really consumes the whole city.

If you're even remotely interested in food, you should definitely buy tickets because it's amazing and worth it. Everything there is to try, so you can have food-tastings for four days, in addition to some great panel discussions and lectures by people as diverse as food scientists, farmers and fishmongers.

Go to www.madridfusion.net for more information.

jennanid@sph.com.sg


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