Updated: Aug 28
An oasis of tasty food, friendly staff, and all things good vibes.
(Above pic borrowed from their website)
Who knew museum-ing could be so taxing?! The plan for my second day in Madrid was to hit three museums: the Museo del Prado, Museo Nacional Centro de Arte Reina Sofia, and Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza. But after only one, I needed a break to get off my tootsies. I had already checked out of the hotel, so I couldn't go back to my room for an afternoon siesta, which would have been my preferred option!
However, I tried to power through. I went on exploring exhibits at the Prado, and in between exhibits, I took a seat in Pardo's courtyard to see if there were any intriguing cafes nearby. I saw Murillo Cafe on Google Maps, and it had 4+ stars. I browsed the menu and decided that's where I was going. It was a calculated decision, taking into consideration how close the café was to the Pardo, since it was insanely hot in Madrid, and there was no way I would go for a stroll in that blistering heat.
I didn't realize this up until now, but fate must have intervened on my visit there. Naturally, I wanted to sit inside to escape the heat, but there was a 5 or so minute wait for a table inside, but the outside had tables in the shade and was self-seating. Since I was both hangry and exhausted, I opted for the outside seating. Unbeknownst to me at the time, it would be on this terrace that I would enjoy several elegantly blissful hours of my stay in Madrid.
My First Visit: A Well-oiled Machine
I have grown to appreciate restaurants and many other places of business for various reasons over the years. My experience in both hospitality and finance has aided in my ability to recognize and appreciate a place of business that is well run and is seemingly capitalizing on its present opportunity. Such was the case with Murillo Café.
Normally, I am quite careful about what I put into my body, but when I'm on holiday, that's the last thing on my mind. Bring on the pastries! However, it did not go unnoticed that Murillo Cafe had gluten-free and vegan options noted on its menu, which would have been really useful if I had been paying attention to my regular diet.
Given the location of Murillo Café, close to the Prado, in a heavily trafficked area by tourists, I think having an English menu is also smart business. Being able to look at an English menu made for a more comfortable experience, making it easier to order and probably increased the likelihood of me ordering more! Having gluten-free and vegan options noted, as well as having an English menu, is an easy and inexpensive way to add value and attract even more patrons.
The menu was also delivered via QR code. I'm assuming that one is something that was initiated because of the pandemic but stuck around because it reduces menu costs, is environmentally friendly, and allows you to update the menu more often, i.e. seasonality and specials.
Once they give you the check, they also provide you with a business card that has a QR code on it for you to leave them an online review. The more I pay attention to business in 2022, the more I realize that reviews drive your business, whether you are selling on Amazon or operating a café in a city full of other cafes. I found Café Murillo because of the reviews and their exceptional ratings. Good reviews = more patrons = continuing to put dollars into Murillo Café's pockets. You'll get more reviews if you deliberately ask for them, just like Murillo Café does.
Hold on! I got so sidetracked by reminiscing about my experience that I forgot why I came here in the first place. Oh yeah, I did a Google search and saw they were nearby the museum and that they had a 4-plus star rating.
The service was exceptional; friendly, accommodating, hospitable, etc. They patiently put up with me as I pointed at the menu and tried to communicate with them in my extremely limited Spanish, which consisted mainly of me nodding and pointing. “Agua con gas, por favor.”
After one of my meals, I wanted to have another Americano, smoke a cigar and continue to enjoy the terrace of my new favorite café. I asked the server, Anny, for a lighter, as I figured she might have one on hand for the candles, or there might be one inside. Instead, Anny asked the Spanish lady beside me, who was ripping cigs and drinking Albarino, if I could borrow her lighter. S/O to Anny for brokering that exchange to perpetuate bad habits. I later allowed the lady to use my ashtray (Cenicero). Favor repaid!
Lunch – Visit Uno
Starter. The plantain chips were crispy, salty, naturally a little sweet and with a dab of crème fraîche, made for the most delightful bite.
As I have noted in my Moleskine—"as I write this, I am down to my last plantain chip and smacked in the face with a wave of sadness. It's an emotional rollercoaster at table 13, on the terrace. That's a lie. I don't know what table I am sitting at, but it's the 4th one from the entrance. "
Once the entrée arrived, I had totally lost track of what I had ordered. With each bite, I was trying to diagnose the different components of what I was eating. What puzzled me the most was the grilled item on top. Until I was enthusiastically struck that it was grilled goat cheese! I'm not proud that I forgot, nor that it took me so long to figure it out. I blame the heat and jetlag for that. Once I realized what flavor bombs were going off in my mouth, my eyes lit up with gastronomic bliss.
The Quinoa, Lentil, with Goat Cheese salad, was served with lamb lettuce and balsamic vinaigrette. The balsamic drizzle on the bottom of the plate and on top of the goat cheese was just the right amount to provide a little punch and tang to my palate. It's probably the tastiest thing I've had in a while. I was surprised at how satisfied I was after finishing the salad... and with no meat! Who knew!?
Exiting My First Visit
After 3 bottles of sparkling water (agua con gas), 2 Americanos, and 1 punch cigar later, I was not quite fully recharged, yet it was 5:39 PM. Since the sun was shifting, I was gradually losing the shade of the umbrella and had to keep scooting my chair back to stay in the shade. Alas, time to move on.
Dinner – Visit Dos
There are times when I want to explore and find a new hidden gem, and there are other times when I want something familiar and comfortable. On this occasion, I probably didn't have the energy to find a new place because the heat was zapping the life out of me. This probably explains why I was drinking 45 Americanos a day!
As much as I wanted to start dinner with the plantain chips again, I didn't.
Under their suggested entrees, I ordered Presa Iberica. The Presa Iberica is a tender, well-marbled cut found between the shoulder and loin of the Spanish Pata Negra pig. This was accompanied by a mustard/honey sauce and truffled French fries. I know, I know, I'm a pleb for getting fries with my meal, I GET IT!
The Presa Iberica, was cooked perfectly to my liking, each bit was tender, flavorful, and covered in delicious flakes of salt.
I don't have an exceptional palate for identifying flavor components; just yet, however, the sauce was more tangy than sweet, more mustard than honey, and 1000% more Dijon than the nuclear yellow American mustard. (Wait… is it called French to try and fancy it up?)
A simple dish, executed well, made for an extraordinary dinner.
As much as I wanted to be your typical American clean-plate soldier, I stopped myself! (let's pause to admire my self-control) But as much as I want your accolades for my self-control, I strategically stopped to leave room for the carrot cake that I noticed on their menu earlier in the day.
Bad news though, there was no more carrot cake to be had; muy disappointed. I am going to assume that means it is so delicious, everyone knows it, and thus, it was sold out. I can only blame myself for not ordering it on my first visit.
"No longer muy disappointed! I just finished my first bite of the Apple Tartlet served with vanilla ice cream a la mode," as noted in my Moleskine. It was apple-pie-spicy rich. This is definitely not your typical apple tartlet. There was a robust gooey layer of butter and caramelized sugar on the bottom that put emoji stars in my eyes as I write this.
That layer was covered by a delectable apple-chunky goodness in the middle. The apple chunks were appropriately noticeable and had an ideal bite to them. They weren’t too soft as is often the case with baked apple dishes.
"Ice cream rich with vanilla and melting quickly cuz this heat (BRB)." As noted in my Moleskine.
The top layer of this heavenly dessert is a crumble of oats that must have been sprinkled down by the gods of Spain. Okay, maybe not the gods, but sprinkled down from the heavens by El Cid Campeador himself! The topping was a luscious combo of butter, oats, sugar, and spice!
"Note: it's 9:42 PM, and there is still effing daylight." From the Moleskine.
"Update: it's 9:45 PM, and the streetlights just turned on." From the Moleskine.
It was a wild learning experience for me that the sun wasn’t setting till approximately 9:45 PM.
My Third Visit
The primary drivers for my third visit were: I wanted something familiar, something quiet, and the aforementioned carrot cake.
I had fully intended to lounge on the terrace under the umbrella, but as before, it was late afternoon, and no shade was being offered by the umbrellas. So, I opted for a seat inside the café.
While in the café, I saw a lady pop in to ask if she could charge her phone. Seemingly strangers to each other, they took her phone and began charging it for her. More of that exceptional and friendly service.
After a while, the sun shifted, and I asked if I could be seated outside. As it so happened, I was seated beside the cell phone lady. Shortly thereafter, we struck up a conversation with one another. Her name, Stefanya. Eventually, I joined her at her table. Turns out she was out museum-ing herself, as I was the day before, and her phone was about to die, allowing us to meet.
We shared a brilliant, hours-long conversation without missing a beat, sipped sangria, and snacked on plantain chips. Tell me that doesn't sound like a move; I'll wait! As if I needed additional reasons to get on the Murillo Café hype train!
Due to the unexpected company, I never did get around to ordering that carrot cake, a worthwhile sacrifice.
I would enthusiastically recommend it! 10/10 Cheers!