Lonely Planet Writer

How humble tinned food has become the latest culinary craze in Madrid

Farm-to-table dining, the Slow Food movement, and other back-to-basics ways of food preparation have been on the rise around the world. In Madrid, a different throwback is all the rage; increasingly, restaurants have been responding to the demand for tinned food.

Sardines and toast Image by El Economato

It helps to have a bit of background: in Spain, pricey jars of preserved food are often given as presents, and any supermarket worth its salt will stock tins of piquillo peppers, white asparagus, and floor-to-ceiling options of canned seafood. When the products have been painstakingly selected and prepared – think deboning pint-sized fish or using high quality olive oil – they fetch even higher prices.

A canned food feast at Conservas Nudista. Image by Cassandra Gambill

Recently, the trend has hopped from supermarket shelves to restaurants. At least six Madrid eateries are dedicated exclusively to preserved food, and either source well-respected brands or supply their own.  El Economato falls in the former category, serving up tinned goods from Spain, France, and Portugal.  

Another restaurant offering meals straight from the can is Conservas Nudista, whose cheeky take on the trend proclaims that their foodstuffs are as naked as the day they were born. The menu features lightly dressed dishes – a sprinkle of onion here, the addition of bread there – using the same tins of artichokes, fish, quail, and legumes that are displayed behind the counter.

Most of these restaurants offer takeaway; grab a tin of ventresca de atún (tuna belly) and a jar of alcachofas (artichokes) for a different spin on fast food. Others suggest wine pairings to help dinners get the most out of the tin-to-table experience.

Mini toasts topped with fish at La Casa del Bacalao. Image by Cassandra Gambill

Most of these restaurants offer takeaway; grab a tin of ventresca de atún (tuna belly) and a jar of alcachofas (artichokes) for a different spin on fast food. Others suggest wine pairings to help dinners get the most out of the tin-to-table experience.

Jars, tins, and other preserves at a Madrid restaurant dedicated to tinned food. Image by El Economato

Not sure if you’re ready to commit to a whole plate of canned bites? Those wanting to dip their toes into fishy waters should swing by Mercado San Miguel, where tiny pieces of toast topped with tinned seafood can be had for as little as one Euro at La Casa del Bacalao (stalls 16-17). Sample the anchovies, mussels, sardines, and other traditional canned goods which madrileños have been eating since the 19th century – and are rediscovering with relish.