Where are you from originally and what brought you to Spain?
I was born in Harare, Zimbabwe and when I was 12, I moved to Milton Keynes in the United Kingdom with my family. When I was 19, I started university in London to study International Business. This was a 4 year BA course that required a year abroad in the 3rd year. From the beginning, I had big plans to move to Paris as I loved everything French. However, after 8 years of studying French, I suddenly lost the love for it in my second year of uni.
At about the same time, I lived in halls of residence with some Spanish guys who were doing their year abroad in London. Their incessant talks of jamón, vino and tortilla de patata somehow resonated with me. In addition, when they spoke Spanish with other Spaniards, I instantly fell in love with the language and I knew that Spanish food and language would be my future.
What do you love about living in Madrid?
I love the fact that in Madrid it is OK to take life slowly. There is nothing wrong with having a beer or a glass of wine at 12pm with a tapa or taking two hours for lunch or even just walking slowly on the streets
Although time waits for no man, it is also true that "las prisas no son buenas." It took me a while to understand why everyone in Madrid seemed to always say "no pasa nada" when something rather important had just happened. Now I live by that phrase and it does wonders to stress and anxiety levels.
And is there anything you loathe?
I loathe the fact that only a few neighbourhoods such Barrio Salamanca and Chamberi are clean. The constant effort of having to watch where your feet tread in case of stepping in dog business is a struggle. I do wish that people just took the time to clean up after their dogs. I should hardly think it would be difficult given the fact that the city council provides litter bags for free.
What inspired you to start a food blog?
There are so many restaurants in Madrid and it seems that they just keep opening. Most of them seem to serve exactly the same food and if it is international food on offer, then it is hit and miss. The truth is that the chances of stumbling upon a disappointing restaurant are extremely elevated. In my first year in Spain, I ended up giving up on eating out. But after a while, I started to understand how to navigate the Madrid food scene. The blog, therefore, is designed to help expats like myself, feel safe and guaranteed that the restaurant they would have found on MuchBites is tried and tested and good. If it is not good, it won't be on MuchBites, fact.
Tell us a bit about MuchBites
MuchBites is the realisation of one of my biggest dreams. Ever since I was a kid, I loved cooking and eating. I started baking when I was 9 with the help of a few family and friends. From then on, I vowed I would be a chef come rain or sunshine. I was getting ready to go to college to start the chef training, but my mum (well-meaning, of course) encouraged me to pursue a more academic route. So I did my pre-uni education and fell into the path of marketing. I did enjoy my course but somehow I just couldn't reconcile a 9-5 job in England. So while I figured it all out, I decided to move back to Spain to teach English.
After about one and half years of teaching English, I reached the end of my tether and I was itching to do something new. This time, the something new had to be a passion. I was adamant that I would not fall into the pattern of changing jobs because I became dissatisfied. So I started MuchBites. Words cannot describe how good it feels to work with food, which is a lifelong dream of mine and to combine it with marketing, which is a passion I picked up along the way.
What are your top foodie tips for people visiting Madrid?
The most important thing to do is have a scout on Instagram for food blogger accounts in Madrid. The ones that tend to have a lot of followers and good quality pictures will lead you to food heaven.
- At all costs, avoid eating in tourist areas. If you are walking and hear a lot of English, it's best to have a look around, take your holiday snaps and flee without having spent a penny. The best foodie places will be around the back streets.
- Just because the bar looks full does not mean it will be good. So be mindful of this heuristic.
- Be wary of menu del dias. They are very good value for money but are not always as delicious as one would hope. Therefore, proceed with caution.
And make sure you always do some research. The food blogging scene in Madrid in thriving, so trust them. We're here to help you.
Is the food scene thriving in Madrid at the moment?
The classic cocido madrileño.
Absolutely. Madrid is growing exponentially when it comes to food. I think it's because a lot of the younger generation have become more well-travelled than the previous generation. As a result, when they return, they bring back food culture from their time away. Now, any restaurant that is not up to scratch will close in no time at all. At the same time, traditional Spanish cuisine is being revamped to make it more appealing and less humdrum. I remember having a deconstructed tortilla de patata on Calle Ponzano which blew my mind. Such things would have either been impossible or ridiculously expensive a while back.
You even think of the popularity of brunch of Madrid. When you consider the typical Spanish breakfast and how it is loved, the brunch popularity goes to show that things are changing for the better and, as some have said, Madrid will no longer be the place where your taste buds go to die.
What are the biggest differences between eating in Spain and in the UK?
The biggest differences are the times. Lunch is served so much later. Typically people start having lunch around 2pm/2.30pm. Around 5pm when most in the UK are starting to think about dinner, Spaniards will be prepping for the late afternoon snack. This then trickles down to a very late dinner, typically around 9pm.
The other difference is the importance of meals and quantity eaten. In Spain, breakfast is just a meal you have to survive. It is shown little attention, if any. A coffee and croissant or toast will suffice. Lunch is the main show stopper with a full 3 course meal. Dinner is light and usually consists of fish and salad. In the UK, breakfast is big business - bacon, sausages, beans etc. At lunch time, a sandwich will suffice. Finally, dinner goes big (ish) again. But since dinner is eaten quite early, people have enough time to digest.
Where are your personal favourite spots for eating out in Madrid?
Personally, I love eating towards the bottom end of Calle de Las Huertas. I have three of my favourite restaurants next to each other. At times, I can have my main course in one place, dessert in another and stop for an after dinner drink in the next, all on the same street. I also love Calle Nuncio.
What are your plans for the future?
I hope to continue developing MuchBites so it becomes a one stop guide to everything food and drink in Madrid. Of course, Rome wasn't built in a day, but slowly but surely, it'll get there. I am also in the process of developing a small Social Media Management business for restaurants in Madrid. With this, I will endeavour to work with restaurants of choice and help them to build a meaningful online presence.