In the UK and US vegetarians are spoiled rotten. Vegetarianism is, for the most part, a non-issue, but there are of course the few carnivores out there who seem to be offended by their friends’ herbivorous diets – no one’s asking you to sign up! But anyway, if you eat out in the UK it’s a given that there will be several hearty, tasty and nutritious vegetarian options at your disposal and food labelling is rigorously regulated to ensure that people adhering to any diet can be confident in what they purchase and cook. Jump on board with easyJet (other crappy airlines are available) and 2hr30mins later BOOM! ¡BIENVENIDO A ESPAÑA! The home of sangria, bull fighting and flamenco; where dinner is at 10pm, ham isn’t meat and tuna is a vegetable.
Now for the love of [insert name of relevant deity here], if you are a vegetarian/vegan/anyone adhering to a very specific diet (religious or otherwise) and you are applying to do a placement in Spain, please apply to the big cities. While doing your weekly shop for lentils, pasta and oven chips is all well and good, you’re going to want to eat out a lot with people. It’s how you make friends and make the most of your time in Spain. The food is great and so is the wine, but you’ve got to be savvy and do your research. If you’re squeamish or easily upset at the thought of those poor little piggies then I’d seriously recommend that you grow a pair. Be prepared to see whole pig’s legs hanging next to the eggs at Carrefour. Psych yourself up for the quizzical glances of waiters and waitress when you ask ¿hay una opción vegetariana? and certainly be careful of the tuna that might be hiding in your salad without so much as a mention on the menu…
During our trip to Segovia my flatmate and I had a complete nightmare trying to find somewhere to eat in the evening. Of course there were plenty of places to go, but we came across no vegetarian options other than salad at which even my pet rabbit would turn his nose up. One waiter even tried to convince us that tuna and goose liver are suitable for vegetarians! We ended up taking a trip to Telepizza, rationalising that ‘you can never go wrong with pizza!’ We were wrong. Lena’s pizza was perfectly edible but through the grease, sicky smelling cheese and frothy oil settled on top, I couldn’t bring myself to finish it and spent the rest of the night starving. Not a good start.
Fortunately back in Madrid there are plenty of vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants to tickle your tastebuds! Many of them even offer a few meat dishes to satisfy your meaty friends if they simply can’t bear a dip in their protein levels. There is Maoz Vegetarian joint on Calle Mayor (Sol) which is currently closed for refurbishment so I haven’t had chance to check it out but I’ve heard good things about those in London. There are also a few good vegetarian restaurants around the Sol area which all come highly recommended. I visited one on Monday night called Yerbabuena with Lena and some other language assistants and it was lovely. Although the food was heavily salad based, there were some lovely dishes and one of the girls really recommended the eggplant moussaka. You can also opt for the menú del día which gets you a starter, main and dessert for 10€ in the day and 15€ at night. Before the meal they also brought out little tapas pieces that included some sort of savoury cake and a shot of watermelon smoothie. Another excellent restaurant which we visited last week is called Buenas y Santas and it served more classics including pizzas and wraps. The nearest metro stop is Legazpi which is on both yellow line 3 and grey line 6.
For more vegetarian-friendly places to eat in Madrid, Spain or the rest of the world, check out http://www.happycow.net/