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Madrid is a mix of culture and civilization, and so is its food.

Among its typical dishes, you have to taste the famous cocido madrileño (meat and chickpea stew), las tripas or callos, Spanish tortillas (thick omelet of eggs, onion and potatoes), the garlic soup –sopa de ajo-, the pisto, or cheeses from La Manga –queso manchego-, or the cod-fish –tacos de bacalao-, without forgetting the meat stew –estofado de carne-.

Madrid most famous restaurants are the Basque Zalacain (C/ Álvarez de Baena, 4. Tel. 91 561 48 40), La Broche (C/ Miguel Ángel, 29-31. Tel. 91 399 34 37) and Viridiana (C/ Juan de Mena, 14. Tel. 91 523 44 78 et 91 531 52 22), whose chef is Abraham García.

In a more original atmosphere, you can book at El Chaflan (Avenida Pío XII, 34. Tel. 91 345 04 50). This restaurant goes 9 out of 10 on the gastronomic guide Gourmetour 2005. Another place to go is the Dassa Bassa (C/ Villalar, 7. Tel. 91 576 73 97), opened recently. Be aware: call with one month advance to book a table!

For those who prefer international food, Madrid counts with many exotic restaurants. Asia Gallery (Plaza de las Cortes, 7) stands for one of the most innovating oriental restaurant.

The most attractive is the tapeo ritual. It is like the Spain's version of a pub crawl, a moveable feast of food, drink, and friendship. The best place to enjoy it is Cava Baja, just behind Plaza Mayor. Do not miss Taberna Matritum (Cava Alta, 16), El Tempranillo (Cava Baja, 38), Casa Lucio (C/ Cava Baja, 35) –ask for huevos estrellados– and Casa Lucas (C/ Cava Baja, 30). For cheaper prices, the area of Huertas is pretty nice, and so is the area around the Glorieta de Bilbao.

In Madrid it is usual to lunch from 2pm and to have dinner from 9-9.30pm. Evenings with friends can last till midnight or even 1am, even on week days.

Poncelet (C/ Argensola, 27) is a new shop with a wide choice of cheese from all Europe. There are more than 150 spanish kinds of cheese and 200 from other countries. For good quality fruits, head to Frutería Vázquez (C/ Ayala, 11). If you are looking for oil, Oleoteca (C/ Juan Ramón Jiménez, 37) is the best place to find all Spanish specialties. As for wines, Lavinia (C/ Ortega et Gasset, 16) offers famous wines from Spain, France, Germany, Chile or Argentina.

Many comfortable hotels host visitors all over the year. The most luxurious ones are the Ritz and the Palace, but also the Villa Magna. Many famous national and international people often come there when in Madrid.

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