In recent years, Spanish chefs have received the highest accolades for their cuisine but for most of us a visit to one of their restaurants will be reserved for very special occasions. Happily, there are many choices for those on a budget; here are the Spain Buying Guide’s top tips to help you eat well for comparatively little:
- A MENÚ DEL DÍA is available across Spain at lunchtime. Prices for a 3 course meal will vary between 7€ and 15€ and generally the quality of food is reflected in the price. However, you can find really wholesome meals at the cheaper end as lunchtime is when most Spaniards have their main meal of the day. Evening meals are usually à la carte and more expensive.
- THINK carefully about what you are ordering. It is not a good idea to order fish on a Monday as most fish markets are closed and you will not be getting fresh produce.
- SOUPS, both warm and cold (such as gazpacho) are likely to be homemade, using up vegetables in the restaurant kitchen. Usually these are a good choice.
- SALADS will generally contain the same ingredients - lettuce, tomatoes, onion, carrot, olives and tinned tuna or cold meats. These are fresh, often with some of the ingredients coming from the owner’s vegetable plot.
- PORK AND CHICKEN are two of the least expensive meats and feature on menus frequently.
- A LA PLANCHA means grilled and this is usually the best way to eat most meats and fish. You may find that the Spanish heavily salt their grills, so ask for no salt if you prefer.
- CASERA signifies homemade food and is a good option if clearly stated on a menu. If it is clearly stated, go for it. Unfortunately, a lot of food is now brought in from large suppliers and heated up on restaurant premises. Much better to opt for the homemade choice.
- WINE is usually included in the menú del diá. In the less expensive restaurants, a jug of wine of indeterminate origin is served. The red will more than likely be served cold, and this is the preferred wine of the locals. You will also be offered rosé but not always white wine for which you may have to pay more. Where you pay more than 10€ a menu, you will be served wine in bottles. BOTTLED WATER is also included in a menú del día, as is BREAD. If you make lunch your main meal of the day, you will eat well very inexpensively indeed.