Vinea (Madrid Barajas International Airport, Spain)

As any of us that travel frequently can attest, the average quality of airport food is particularly lousy. Usually it’s either fast food (served up by HMS Host catering, or some other similar foreign equivalent), captive-audience priced, or served by people that don’t seem to understand that airports are frequented by people that are often in a hurry. So usually the result is quickly wolfing down some overpriced crappy food, hoping that your next flight won’t be plagued by food poisoning.

So I always make it a point to review places that prove to be an exception to this rule. On my current trip, a great example of this was Vinea, in Terminal 4 at Madrid-Barajas International Airport. Vinea serves up a basic tapas menu and a selection of wines by the glass. If you’ve experienced Spain outside of airports, this sort of business isn’t unusual, indeed, it is pretty much one of the concepts for Spanish fast food (the other is the similar stands serving jamon bocadillos and glasses of wine or cerveza). But the fact that Vinea does the same at Madrid’s airport is nice, and makes it a very nice alternative to, say, the Spanish McDonalds right next door.

In any case, Carol and I had a fairly long layover, so we settled into two seats at the bar, and I went to the ordering counter. The staff quickly determined the obvious (that I’m approaching total non-fluency in Spanish), shifted to English, and offered up several nice suggestions for tapas, including a nice salmon, mozzarella, and tomato salad, a nice meat plate (they lit up when they heard me compare something to soppresata), and some nice wedges of Spanish cheese. We rounded it out with two glasses of temperanillo, running up the tab to 32 euro. A bit pricey, but not outlandish for an airport.

The food itself was quite good. The salad was made with perfectly ripe tomatoes, lightly smoked salmon, and nice, soft, and smooth mozzarella, making for a pleasant salad. The cheese plate was similarly nice, with two varieties of queso. The meat plate it where it really shined, with some nice Iberian ham (practically melting in your mouth), some sopresata, some chorizo, and another ham that I couldn’t quite identify. Nice delicate meat textures with must enough cure and spicing to really make it shine.

Rounded out with a nice glass of tempranillo, and it was a perfectly fine way to spend a layover at Madrid’s airport (alas, my next layover here wasn’t so lucky…)

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