Opening hours in Paris and Madrid, plus the wonderful ‘Menu del Dia’

Posted on January 14, 2010


I am highly  entertained by the different eating hours in countries that are so close to each other. A while ago when I was in the UK I was hungry into the eveming and was told by the bar/restaurant that I was in that the kitchen had closed, it was 10.05pm. In Madrid they don’t start cooking until 10pm.

When I go and stay with the brother and his family in the UK, I get jet lag, despite there only being an hour’s time difference. They are up by 6am every morning (in fact my brother has left for work by 6am), and they go to bed at 9.30pm (I’m being genereous, that’s a late night). In fact, the hours time difference goes in my favour: it’s actually a 7am start in my time zone (compared with  the usual 9am).

When people come and stay in Madrid they find it strange meeting friends at 10pm, but that’s the norm. In Paris we would generally meet for an apero at 7pm, and dinner around 8pm in the week, 9pm at weekends. In Madrid we meet at 10pm, the real Madrilenians often don’t eat until 11 or 12pm.

And lunch times are different too. In Paris 1/1.30pm is normal, in Madrid it’s usually 3pm. I remember in London that queues at sandwich shops would start from 12.30pm. That doesn’t happen in France and Spain, the sandwich shop queue that is. Or not so much anyway. I love the fact that in both Paris and Madrid, many people still have their main meal at lunchtime. And often washed down with a glass or two of red wine. In France  the company that you work for is obliged to give you either a subsidized cafeteria or give you luncheon vouchers. Similar rules apply in Spain. I love the menu del dia culture – for around 10euros you can eat a (good) three course meal with a glass of wine .

My current favourite places for the menu del dia (all in Chamberi as I don’t venture far from home at lunch):

  • El Titular – a bargain 9euros, huge portions and home made food. Usually choice of three starters and three mains plus dessert or coffee. With wine.
  • Metropolitan – ok so I go to the gym here. It has been known that I skip the gym and go straight to the restaurant. it’s 12.50euros for three courses including wine. Choice of two mains and two starters, or the help-yourself salad bar for either course, plus dessert/fruit or tea/coffee, plus choice of drink. Fantastic.
  • Cocina Argentinia, potentially called La Doma, it’s at Calle Lopez de Hoyos 12, Madrid and does great steaks. Only go if you are planning to do little/nothing in the afternoon and if you aren’t planning on easting again in the evening. 12 euros for three courses, choice of three starters, three mains  and dessert coffee. And of coursse red wine!