Famed for dishes such as gambas al ajillo (garlic prawns), patatas bravas (potatoes in a spicy tomato sauce) and caraoles a la madrileña (Madrid-style snails) Madrid has always been firmly on the map when it comes to cuisine. However, with its ever-present rivalry with cosmopolitan Barcelona, a city which continues to churn out incredible avant-garde restaurants one after the other, many people have started to think that Madrid is falling behind when it comes to the latest food trends in Spain.
In an effort to turn this view around, Madrid as a whole has begun to put itself into gear with a staggering number of new restaurants setting up shop all over the city, offering everything from exotic fusion cuisines to traditional tapas. The already well-established top quality eateries are also doing all they can to extend their client base outside the circle of locals and attract international visitors and tourists. Taking this into consideration, it’s only a matter of time before Madrid becomes known as one of the best foodie capitals in the world.
If you want to sample the best that Madrid has to offer before the news spreads and restaurant waiting lists are long, take a look at our selection of the best places to eat in Madrid and check them out next time you’re in the city.
Although avant-garde foodies might describe the fare as a bit lacking in variety, the tapas served up at La Venencia are traditional, original and true to form. Many of the tapas bars around the city go out of their way to look old and attract visitors looking for an authentic dining experience, literally staining the interior walls and peeling away at the outside paint. The owners of La Venencia don’t need to bother themselves with any of this hassle because the restaurant is a genuine cultural artifact which really is as old as it looks.
Located along Calle Echegarary in the centre of Madrid, there is very little evidence to suggest that this tapas bar has had as much as a lick of paint since Hemmingway used to visit all those decades ago. Whilst it might sound unappealing at first, this aspect only adds to the restaurant’s rich and colorful character. The venue doesn’t feature a kitchen merely because the type of tapas on offer doesn’t require the use of one. Dishes are limited to cold cuts of meat, cheeses, chorizo, sausages and cured tuna, which are simplicity and delectability in their purest forms.
To wash down the tapas, diners can choose from five superb dry varieties of the famous wine from Jerez served from the bottle, in addition to a number of other local wines and cavas.
For Local Food:
El Corral de la Morería
Top quality traditional Spanish gastronomy served up alongside nightly entertainment in the form of authentic Flamenco dancing? It’s got to be El Corral de la Morería. Boasting a feature in the New York Times Best Seller “1,000 Places to See Before You Die”, this restaurant needs to be at the top of your list during your visit to Madrid.
The restaurant itself probably matches up perfectly with the image in your head. The dining room features long lines of tables with chairs either side, ensuring each diner has a perfect view of the stage where incredibly talented señores and señoritas show off their skills. The furniture looks genuinely ancient, as does the classic artwork on the walls, giving you the impression that you’ve stepped back in time to an authentic “Tablao Flamenco” as soon as you walk into the room.
The cuisine is provided in the form of numerous set menus, each of which caters for a different budget. The most basic menu offers delightful dishes, including warm goats’ cheese salad and five chocolates dessert, whilst the most extravagant menu boasts specialties such as scallop salad and rack of lamb. Whether you can afford to splash out or need to scrimp and save to dine here – you need to experience this restaurant during your next visit to the city.
Venta El Buscon
Despite being located miles away from any beach, Madrid has a selection of restaurants which serve unsurpassable seafood that would rival the best restaurants in any coastal resort. Situated in Calle Victoria in the centre of the city, Venta El Buscon is somewhat of a mixture between an art gallery and a seafood restaurant.
Whilst the delicate aromas which float through the air will tell your nose that you are most certainly in a restaurant which serves fresh fish and seafood, your eyes will wander to the fabulous artwork on the walls, convinced you’re strolling through a well-established art gallery. The waiter who will take you to your table gives it away – you really are in a restaurant, a very well decorated one.
Whilst the menu offers a wide variety of meat, fish and tapas, the seafood and fish specialties are the stars of the show here. Ranging from ordinary steamed mussels and garlic prawns to the more unusual marinated dog fish and grilled cuttlefish, Venta El Buscon provides something for all seafood lovers, however adventurous. An impressive collection of wines and sherries are available by the glass and the bottle, both of which come with a very reasonable price tag, making this a restaurant suitable for every budget.
When it comes to unparalleled quality, excellent service and meat consistently cooked to perfection every single time without fail, you can’t beat Casa Paco. Founded in 1933, this restaurant is the ultimate in traditional Castilian taverns and is highly regarded as one of the finest steak houses in the whole of the city.
Found in La Latina, Casa Paco is equally popular with tourists and locals alike who flock to the dining room every evening for the chance to savor superb steaks just as they were meant to be – seared in oiled, seasoned skillets and presented to your table sizzling on a scalding-hot plate which results in perfectly cooked steak just to your liking. The setting is traditional, basic and simple as to provide comfortable surroundings without taking any spotlight away from the delicious food.
Whilst the steaks are without a doubt the centre of attention at Casa Paco, there is a vast selection of other dishes to enjoy, including many Spanish specialties such as “Cocido Madrileño” and “Sopa de ajo” providing something for diners whose appetites aren’t quite as cavemen-like.
For Vegetarian Dishes:
Known for its suckling pig and “Jamón Ibérico”, Madrid might not be the first place that pops to mind when you think of vegetarian options. Luckily for vegans and vegetarians everywhere, El Estragon is set to change that. Found in the La Latina part of the city in Plaza de la Paja, this restaurant offers the best of both worlds, with both formal and casual dining options.
The inside of the venue is decked out in a typical Spanish dining room style, with dark colors and furniture to match, making it perfectly suited for a romantic candle-lit evening. On the other hand, the outside terrace area allows guests to dine al fresco whilst making the most of the beautiful surroundings and enjoying the casual atmosphere.
Unlike many other vegetarian restaurants in the city, El Estragon takes traditional Spanish dishes and makes them suitable for vegans and vegetarians to enjoy. So don’t be surprised to see popular favorites such as gazpacho and paella making an appearance on the menu. Other tempting dishes include stuffed cannelloni, soups, salads and vegetable curries.
Diners on a budget will want to take full advantage of the super value-for-money menu of the day, whilst those with a large appetite won’t be able to refuse the delectable selection of homemade desserts on offer.
Whether you’re part of a family seeking child-friendly dining options, part of a couple looking for a new flavor sensation or an individual traveler in search of something you’re familiar with, Madrid offers a dining experience to suit every visitor, palate and budget.