With an abundance of coastline surrounding the peninsula and islands, many visitors believe that the best cuisine is prepared in restaurants there, but those located in Madrid will beg to differ.
It is a fact that Spanish cuisine is one of the tastiest across the globe. The Mediterranean diet is the healthiest in the world; the climate and natural resources in this country provide us with some of the world’s richest sources of ingredients. And, let’s not forget Spain’s great chefs, who transform local products here into some of the most imaginative dishes around. This is why Spain has some of the most highly regarded restaurants in the world too.
In Madrid you can eat like a king. Thousands of visitors and residents would lay testament to that. However, as the majority of visitors to the city will more than likely stick to the well-known tourist areas, they will undoubtedly miss out on a new experience and overlook the more traditional, typical and classic eateries, which generally just tend to attract the locals. These are the places you need to look out for, as they often produce the simplest, yet tastiest food.
Nevertheless, there are restaurants and establishments of all types in Madrid. Below are 10 of the restaurants that a visitor really should try out at least once.
This is the most famous restaurant in Madrid. The owner of Casa Lucio, Lucio Blázquez was born in Ávila but moved to Madrid in 1933 at the age of 12 to work in the Mesón del Segoviano. After years of attracting customers, the old owner of the restaurant sold it to Lucio, who then renamed the establishment Casa Lucio in 1978. His clients from back when he started had continued to frequent the restaurant throughout their lives; many, who were young at the time, grew up to be famous personalities in Madrid. The cuisine is traditional, hearty Spanish cooking with plenty of slow-cooked meat, stews, pulses, beans and much more. Come for the delicious huevos estrellados (fried eggs), a recipe from his grandmother; it’s the most popular dish among both tourists and madrileños alike.
Address: Cava Baja, 35, Madrid
Tel: +34 91 365 82 17
This is an even older establishment that is located very close to Madrid’s Puerta del Sol. Since 1839 it has been presenting its customers with a selection of the best traditional home-cooked food from the region. However, don’t let this fool you, as Casa Lhardy is upmarket, with prices to match. Despite the fact that there are croquettes, tripe and stew on the menu, the menu’s especiales start at €59. There are numerous more elegant dishes to choose from too, elaborated with fantastic produce such as duck, partridge, lobster, oyster mushrooms, deer, salt-cod and smoked salmon.
Address: Carrera de San Jerónimo, 8, 28014, Madrid
Tel: +34 915 213 385
Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas
This restaurant, close to Plaza Mayor, is not only renowned for the legendary character associated with it, but also for its excellent service and food. Las Cuevas de Luis Candelas is under the Arco de Cuchilleros (Cutlers Arch), the most famous of the nine arched porticos that lead onto the main square. This was the site of some caves where bandit Luis Candelas escaped after a robbery in the 1800s. The restaurant is at the site of the bandit’s old hiding place and makes the most of the tale; staff dress up in clothes typical of the 19th century. Nevertheless, the food is also of merit, and amongst the culinary delights on offer are a number of specialties which include roasted suckling pig, roasted lamb cooked in an Arab-style stone oven, oven-roasted hake, tripe, or a traditional cocido madrileño (Madrid-style stew).
Address: C/ de Los Cuchilleros, 1, 28005, Madrid
Tel: +34 913 66 54 28
Javier Martín Croquetas & Café
While there are many options available in this famous restaurant, Javier Martín is famous for its croquettes, which you can even buy to take home. Of course they serve the traditional varieties such as cod, Serrano ham and chicken, but there are 32 different flavours in total, which include an array of savoury, sweet and fruity versions. Some of these include spinach with cheese, black pudding and almond, white chocolate, rice pudding and melon with Serrano ham. Javier Martín Croquetas & Café, which has been running since 1999, is in the lively La Latina district.
Address: Calle de Toledo, 74, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Tel: +34 913 66 31 74
Bookmark this little gem, as it’s very popular with locals, in fact heaving, with not a single foreigner in sight. There are two things on the menu that most madrileños come here for – their famous pinchos of cod in batter and their cod croquettes, which must be accompanied by either a caña or a vermú. Casa Labra has been in existence since 1860 and has been serving these two dishes since the beginning. They also offer delicious gazpacho, various cod dishes, tapas of tuna, fried bacalao, and empanadas at a very reasonable price.
Address: Calle de Tetuán, 12, 28013, Madrid
Tel: +34 915 31 00 81
La Barraca restaurant is one of the most famous paella restaurants in Madrid and dates to 1935. Over three generations have been serving their authentic Valencian rice dishes, Mediterranean and Spanish cuisine. The average price of a three-course meal comes in at around €37. There are more than 10 different types of rice dishes here: mild or strong, seafood or vegetables, dry or with a more liquid consistency, and all are exquisite.
Address: Calle Reina, 29, 28004 Madrid
Tel: +34 915 32 71 54
This is the oldest restaurant in the world and even has a plaque hanging up on the wall outside to prove its status from the Guinness Book of Records. Restaurante Botín dates to 1725 and was a popular haunt among illustrious characters including Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, and Benito Pérez Galdós. It continues serving the much-loved traditional style of Spanish cooking. It’s famous for dishes including roast suckling pig and roast lamb, both cooked in the old Castilian method using a wood stove.
Address: Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid
Tel: +34 913 66 42 17
Casa Mingo is one of the oldest and most famous cider bars of the capital. It dates to 1888 and continues to be decorated in its original style. It’s extremely spacious and possesses a large outside terrace as well. The restaurant attracts a huge number of tourists, not only because it offers some of the best cider in Madrid, which is brought directly from Villaviciosa in Asturias, but also because of its delicious roast chicken dish. Other highlights include its chorizo and Cabrales cheese. Although Casa Mingo is not located in the city centre, it’s well worth a visit. Be warned that prices on the terrace are considerably higher than at the bar.
Address: Paseo de la Florida, 34, 28008, Madrid
Tel: +34 915 47 79 18
Located in the city center on Paseo de Recoletos, this place, founded in 1888, is known for its former ‘literary reunions’, to which some of the capital’s most brilliant intellectuals and artists used to frequent during Franco’s regime. The menu is pretty outstanding and the prices are very good value for money. According to many, Café Gijón serves the best tripe (callos), and the sea bass and hake also come highly recommended.
Address: Paseo de Recoletos, 21, 28004, Madrid
Tel: +34 915 21 54 25
Now this place attracts somewhat of a select crowd; with over 30 years of experience, it is one of the best places to go to listen to jazz across Europe. Café Central holds daily concerts, but also offers an eclectic menu. Prestigious music magazine WIRE listed Madrid’s Café Central as the eighth-best European jazz club. It opens around 11.30am for brunch and boasts a menu of affordable healthy and tasty food, whether you want to fill a gap, share or enjoy a great meal all to yourself.
Address: Plaza del Ángel, 10, 28012, Madrid
Tel: +34 913 69 41 43