So what is this menú? It is short for menú del día or menu of the day...

When you think about Spain, you probably think about food, right? It’s a country that has a great tradition of eating out and the Spaniards are very proud of their dieta mediterránea!

As a foreigner when you go out for Spanish food, you’ll think of paella, tapas and marisco (seafood). However, when the Spanish think about going out for la comida (lunch), they think about having un menú! (pronounced menoo).

What is the menú del día?

For the Spanish, the menú, short for menú del día or menu of the day is the largest meal of the day and is found all over Spain from restaurants to bars and everywhere in between. It offers a substantial meal for that all important good value that the Spanish love. A typical menú will cost between 10 and 16 euros depending on the place where you go. There are more expensive ones out there but they defy the point of what a menú is.

Interestingly the idea of a menú del día itself was first floated in the 1960s and subsequently became law in 1965 when all Spanish restaurants were required to offer a menú to attract tourists. However, as time went by, the idea became increasingly popular with Spaniards as a cheap way of eating without going home. It is typically offered between 2pm and 4.30pm during what is known as the siesta time.

A menú (not to be confused with la carta, which is where all the items a restaurant sells is offered and is more expensive) consists of 3 generously portioned courses and a drink all for the budget price mentioned above. It is no wonder the Spanish love it.

What does the menú del día include?

A starter can be anything from a salad and pasta to paella and soup and as the name starter suggests you are just getting warmed up. Not only that but you can also expect some bread to be chucked in for good measure. Next follows a choice of 2 to 5 dishes that usually includes pescado (fish), carne (meat) and a vegetariano (vegetarian) option. On top of all that, you are able to choose a postre (dessert) which may include but not be limited to fresh fruit, ice-cream, or a local dessert. In some places, they maybe include a coffee or give you the option instead of the postre. Either way it is good value. It has also been known that the restaurant owner may invite you to a chupito (shot of alcohol) on the house (de parte de la casa) to round off the meal and get you ready for a nice snooze. And if that wasn’t enough to whet your appetite, they will also offer you a caña (little beer), a copa de vino (glass of wine) or any refresco (soft drink).

As with all things that seem to good to be true, there are a few caveats and things to be aware of. Knowing where to get the best menú is an art. The quality can vary dramatically and the more touristy the area, the more likely you are to find some frozen food heated up in a frier. A good rule is that if the menú is printed daily or written in chalk outside, it will generally result in locally sourced fresh food every day. Why not ask your new classmates (compañeros de clase) in Hablamos if they have unearthed any hidden gems or eaten somewhere great for a real ganga (bargain).

There are stories going back years of people getting the best deals with a menú. In the 70’s a menú del día would arrive with a bottle of wine per table regardless of how many diners there were. This was quickly abused by German and British tourists who would enter the restaurant separately to obtain a bottle of wine only to reunite on a table with their respective bottles and enjoy their meal together. ¡Qué listos! (how clever). Needless to say, those days of generosity are behind us but that doesn’t mean it still isn’t the best way to eat good food at a good price in Spain.

So, if you have any good recommendations or just looking for some good tips, ask your teachers at Hablamos Spanish School for their recommendations – because you know everyone likes eating out and sharing their experience, don’t they? Ha ha!

Expressions you will need:

¿Tenéis una mesa para dos, por favor? (A table for two please)
Queremos tomar el menú (We’d like to have the menu of the day)
¿Qué hay de primero/segundo/postre? (What is there for first/second course/dessert?)
¿Podrías traernos pan, por favor? (Could you bring us some bread please?)
¿Podemos pedir? (Can we order?)
La sopa está fría (The soup is cold)
La carne está muy poco hecha (The meat is very underdone)
La cuenta, por favor (The bill please)

Ok, ready? ☺ Now go out for your menú and practise all these expressions.
¡Que aproveche! (Enjoy your meal)

Hablamos! full-on Spanish!