Picture the scene. You're in Madrid. It's Sunday at 12.30ish. You're hungry and your fridge is empty. You're deathly bored of pan con tomate and besides, you've missed the breakfast window at most bars anyway. However, you've still got a good hour before it becomes remotely reasonable to expect anywhere but a tourist trap to serve you lunch. What do you need? You need brunch.
But where to get a proper brunch in Madrid? Until last Sunday, that was my question too. And then, with a bit of help from website Madrid Confidential, I found Federal. Like many good brunch spots around Europe, Federal is Australian-inspired (and in this case, Australian-run). Repeating the successful formula of its Barcelona counterpart, the Madrid branch of Federal opened on Plaza de los Comendadores in Conde Duque in October 2013. And it offers more than eggs benedict: it offers what I'd call a real brunch. See, I've tried to have brunch in Madrid before. And at the risk of sounding like Goldilocks, it's never been quite right. It's been either too late, too expensive, too restrictive in terms of options or just plain wrong (La Central, the aforementioned eggs benedict was nice enough, but why follow them with a dark chocolate pot instead of one of your lovely muffins?).
Enough of what Federal isn't: it's a modern, light space with big windows looking out onto the square (with a terrace to come in summer), serving a varied menu of sweet and savoury brunch goodies every day of the week. From Monday to Friday, you can fill up on pancakes, baked or scrambled eggs, burgers, granola, baked goods and much more from 8am–1pm, while at weekends the timetable relaxes to 9am–4pm for brunch. Outside of the brunch window, Federal serves lunch and evening meals (although it closes at 5pm on Sundays): healthy, tasty-sounding options like quinoa salads and hearty sandwiches on rye bread and more, to be investigated anon. But back to the brunch.
As it overlaps two mealtimes, brunch needs to include sweet and savoury options. Ideally these should be tasty-sounding enough to induce a serious dilemma in the mind of the hungry customer. Federal's menu does just that: toasted chocolate and banana cake with ricotta or huevos rancheros with caramelized onion, feta and spinach? And should that be accompanied by a smoothie, a juice, a tea or a coffee? Or perhaps both hot and cold beverages? One thing's for sure, Federal's menu will trouble the indecisive – but it'll also keep brunch aficionados coming back. The prices are a bit higher than you'd pay in many Madrid bars for breakfast or a light lunch, but as brunch isn't really what my friend J would call 'a thing' in the Spanish capital, there isn't much of a frame of reference. It isn't cheap, but nor is it extortionate – prices range from €2.70 for a simple tostada with homemade jam to €8.90 for the Morning Hamburger served with tomato, cheddar cheese, green tomato chutney, salad and carrot puré. A number of menu options can be customized with extra ingredients at an extra cost, too.
The food itself is delicious. I chose from the DIY scrambled eggs section (from €5.90 served plain with 2 pieces of sourdough toast) and went for a revuelto with spinach and halloumi, which cost a total of €10.90. I'm not always the biggest egg fan, but these were downright delicious: fluffy and well-seasoned, with the spinach and halloumi adding plenty of substance. This was all washed down with a freshly squeezed breakfast juice (orange and grapefruit) for €3.50. My dining companion K, a former Barcelona resident and frequenter of the first branch of Federal, assures me that their coffee is excellent, so I'll be returning to see how it stands up against a standard 'cup of café con leche'.
Federal itself is modern and fairly minimalist in design, with some window seats and one large communal table. There's a good selection of international magazines, and a free Wi-Fi connection for the inevitable MacBook-toting hipsters that any self-respecting Australian brunch joint attracts. Stereotypes aside, there were only 4 of said hipsters in evidence last Sunday afternoon, and the majority of the clientele were fairly unhipsterish folk in their 20s–40s. Every table was full, but fortunately we didn't have to wait long to be seated. I expect that once word gets around about Federal, that might change. But I'm prepared to queue to sample more of that menu. The only question is: savoury or sweet?
Address: Federal is at Plaza de los Comendadores 9, 28015 Madrid.
Tel: 915 328 424
How to get there: Metro Noviciado (line 2)
Opening hours: Mon–Thu 8am–midnight; Fri 8am–1am; Sat 9am–1am & Sun 9am–5.30pm. Brunch is served until 1pm on weekdays and until 4 at weekends.
PS Always one for a gastronomic challenge (see the results of my attempt to eat at as many restaurants in Oxford as possible during one year), I thought I'd try and work my way through Madrid Confidential's 'brunch map' of Madrid during 2014. At the end of this year, I'll hopefully have found the best place for brunch in Madrid. If you have any suggestions where I should try next, or of other places not included on the map, please leave a comment or tweet me @katebritabroad. I've got a few other ideas for new features too, and who knows, this year I might just follow through and blog regularly...