Julia Bullaro is a culinary consultant who books chefs in some of the most exciting pop-up events throughout Spain; just this past year, she worked with several of New York’s leading restaurants, including Betony, Katz’s, Olmsted, Sunday in Brooklyn, Delaware & Hudson, and Russ & Daughters. Previously, she earned her stripes working in restaurant service for fifteen years and then managing projects at Atera, Chef Matt Lightner’s two-Michelin-starred restaurant in New York.
In her postcard, Julia whisks us away to Madrid, a city where the people, like the sun, never seem to lose their glow.
“My absolute favorite place in Madrid, where I bring all the chefs, is a place called Sacha. They don’t have a website; they don’t have social media. If you look it up on TripAdvisor, even the official address is hard to find. You’ll know you’re there when you find a big blue door similar to that of Per Se or French Laundry.
Sacha is the name of the chef and owner. He’s this extremely cartoonish character: he wears a big hat, heavy metal T-shirts, has a beard and a ponytail. During dinner service, he sort of walks around the dining room and makes each guest feel very important and happy to be there.
Just finding Sacha is a challenge, but once you do, it’s all locals, including lots of chefs, and it’s always packed. The chef has a tasting menu; you can order à la carte, but I would recommend just having the chef cook for you. It’s really product-driven, so it’s a reflection of the city.
In New York City, there’s kind of this urgency to get up out of your table. In Spain, this is not a thing. There’s a word in Spanish that doesn’t translate to English: sobremesa. It literally means “over the table,” but it actually means this time when you finish your meal, before you get up to go and the conversation just extends. In Spain, usually people have had a few drinks, so they’re talking more loosely. The chef will partake in it: he’ll come to the tables, maybe have a drink with you.
Tortilla is the dish that everyone talks about. It’s not the way we think about Mexican corn; it’s actually an egg dish cooked with potatoes. There’s this huge back-and-forth discussion on whether or not it should have onions. The one that’s always recommended to me by locals is Casa Dani. It’s a little spot within this market, Mercado de la Paz. This place is like a hole in the wall: everyone’s shouting, and it’s normal—nobody’s mad. If you’re not fast, you need to have someone order for you because it is so packed nobody has any patience for extra time.
Madrid itself is land-locked, so there are no ports in Madrid, but what’s really nice is that it’s the second-largest consumer of seafood in the world, second to Tokyo. Madrid flies in the best seafood from all around Spain, and Madrid gets first pick.
It’s landlocked, but the sun is much stronger in Madrid. Even though the winter is cold, everybody goes to a terrace, no matter if it’s the winter or the summer, because they like to be outside.
In Madrid, it’s not just a young person's activity to go out. Like at 10 p.m., grandparents are out for a drink, everyone is walking down the streets. The reason why beers are so small—we call them cañas—is because you should only go to each place for as long as you have the beer. You have a beer, you have a snack, and then you go to the next place. And that’s a Sunday afternoon activity. You go to the bar, and people are every age.
And that’s what I love about Madrid. It’s a city that really celebrates life, no matter what the age or season.”
for delicious traditional food
11, Calle de Juan Hurtado de Mendoza, 28036 Madrid
Mon-Fri: 1:30-4:00 p.m., 9:00 p.m.-12:00 a.m.; Sat: 1:30-4:00 p.m.
Calle de Ayala, 28, 28001 Madrid
Mon-Fri: 6:30 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Sat: 6:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m.
for buying beautifully canned fish
El Corte Inglés
for a contemporary take on offal
Calle Duque de Sesto, 48, 28009 Madrid
Mon-Sat: 1:30-4:00 p.m., 8:30-11:00 p.m.; Sun: 1:30-4:00 p.m.
for Velazquez, Goya, El Greco, and more
Museo Nacional del Prado
Paseo del Prado, s/n, 28014 Madrid
Mon-Sat: 10:00 a.m.-8:00 p.m.; Sun: 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
for Dali, Picasso, Miro, and more
Museo Nacional Centro de Arte
Reina Sofía Calle de Santa Isabel, 52, 28012 Madrid
Mon, Wed-Sat: 10:00 a.m.-9:00 p.m.; Sun: 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.
for more European art
Museo Nacional Thyssen-Bornemisza
Paseo del Prado, 8, 28014 Madrid
Mon: 12:00-4:00 p.m.; Tue-Sun: 10:00 a.m.-7:00 p.m.