I went to Baobab in Madrid for authentic Senegalese food and found bags of flavour and huge portions. Come hungry!
Spain’s capital is a vibrant city boasting a fantastic foodie scene. In Madrid, there are tons of restaurants serving contemporary and traditional Spanish cuisine. But alongside these, you’ll find food from all over the world from Argentina to Vietnam.
You can also find fantastic Senegalese food. After a recommendation from my host, I went to Baobab in the colourful neighbourhood of Lavapies for lunch.
Baobab in multicultural Madrid
Baobab is a Senegalese restaurant in the Lavapies neighbourhood of Madrid. Whilst the neighbourhood itself can be seen as being a little off-the-beaten track for tourists, it’s actually just a short walk from the Reina Sofia Museum. So as I’d had a day of wandering and sightseeing planned, it seemed a good place to stop for food and a rest. Plus my host told me the food was excellent and that it was one of his favourite places to eat in the city. He also warned me that the portions are huge. Luckily, I was hungry!
Baobab is located in Plaza Nelson Mandela, a large square in the heart of Lavapies. It was renamed in honour of the South African political leader and is entirely fitting given Lavapies has become synonymous with multicultural Madrid. There is also a mural painted on one side of a building in the square featuring Bird of Paradise, which is reported to be Mandela’s favourite flower.
And Baobab’s outdoor seating is perfect for a spot of people watching in the square. It’s also a lovely spot to sit on a sunny day.
Friendly staff and spicy food
I took a seat outside under the shade of one of the umbrellas. With the sun out and so much life to enjoy in the square, sitting inside didn’t seem as appealing.
Even before I’d been served I was already pretty pleased that I’d ended up here. I enjoyed the casual atmosphere of the restaurant and found the staff to be friendly and warm. Service was quick too and I liked that someone came to sit with me as they explained what the specials of the day were. Not that there was a lot of explanation to give… There was rice with chicken curry or rice with fish and vegetables. I decided to go for the rice with fish and vegetables.
The official name of this dish is Thieboudienne and it’s Senegal’s national fish and rice dish. As you can see from my plate, my host was right about the huge portions! I’m not sure they could have packed the plate with any more food. It certainly was a good thing I was hungry because it smelled and looked delicious!
So what is it?
To make Thieboudienne, the fish, vegetables and rice are all cooked in a simmering sauce made with tomato paste, tamarind and other spices. This way of cooking means all the various components are infused with flavour. And there’s bags of it too! It’s spicy but not too hot – that is unless you eat the hot orange pepper. The server did warn me it was super hot. I tried it and he wasn’t lying.
It’s a savoury dish you want to keep on eating. Perhaps that explains the big portions! There is also something a little sweet and sour about it, which I think may be down to the combination of tomatoes and tamarind. I could also taste the nuttiness from the peanut oil it’s cooked with. The vegetables in the dish included aubergine, yucca, cabbage and carrots, which provided a great selection of textures and added flavours to the dish. And whilst I’m not sure what type of fish it was, it was a meaty, white fish that was perfectly complemented by the sauce.
I did that thing of reaching a point where I could still eat more or stop and get the rest as a takeaway. I decided to eat more but still failed to finish it off. The portions really are massive! I think that if there are a couple of you, you could probably share a plate and not be hungry.
A plate of Thieboudienne and a caña (glass of beer) cost €9.50 – and is thoroughly worth it!
For something different in Madrid, head to Baobab
Like many tourists visiting a new city, I love pouring over best of lists – particularly with foodie recommendations. But I also love getting recommendations from locals. It’s in these, I tend to find top tips for interesting and off-the-beaten track things to do. Baobab was my host’s top tip for Madrid. And if you’re looking for something different, love Senegalese food or want to experience multicultural Madrid, Baobab is also my top tip.
Finding Baobab in Madrid
Calle Cabestreros, 1
Tel: +34 915 272 732
For lunch from 1.00pm to 5.00pm and for dinner from 8.30pm to midnight. Closed on Tuesdays.