Where to Eat the Best in the Spanish Capital
One great thing about eating in Spain's biggest city is the sheer variety. Every Spanish region or cuisine type is represented somewhere in Madrid.
Check out the following gallery for some fantastic places to eat in the Spanish capital.
Best for Fish: Pescador
When you're seeking out the freshest fish, you wouldn't expect a landlocked city, 300km from the nearest sea, to be the place to get it. But then you didn't know that El Pescador is one of a handful of Madrid restaurants that have their fish flown in twice a day from around the country.
Whether it's lobster and hake from the Cantabrian coast or prawns and shrimp from the Mediterranean, you can guarantee your seafood can come no fresher than these daily catches.
The dishes at El Pescador come unadorned - a parsley garnish is so 1980s! Though they will offer you a variety of serving styles and sauces, including a la romana (fried in batter), a la vasca (in a white wine and parsley sauce) or a la vizcaina (in a red pepper and tomato sauce), the waiter will recommend you take it a la planca - fried on a hotplate with just a touch of oil and a sprinkling of salt.
Address: Calle de José Ortega y Gasset, 75, 28006 Madrid, Spain
Best for Wine and Ham: Stop Madrid
The holy grail for the wine lover, particularly if you're traveling by yourself or as a couple, is to find a bar with a restaurant with a good wine-by-the-glass menu. Most bars simply don't have the turnover to be sure they'll go through the whole bottle before it goes bad.
Enter Stop Madrid, a classic Madrid wine bar which around 100 bottles of wine that they will gladly open for you if it isn't already open. Sample wines from the famous regions of Ribera del Duero and La Rioja or go for the lesser-known wines regions, such as Madrid or (my personal favorite) Toro.
And of course, Spanish wine always goes well with manchego cheese, as well as jamon and chorizo for the meat eaters, all exceptional quality stuff to go with the finest wines.
Address: Calle de Hortaleza, 11, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Best for Dessert: Casa de Las Torrijas
Torrijas is Spanish bread pudding, a sweet breakfast or dessert based on eggs, bread and honey, usually eaten at Easter time in Spain. At Casa de las Torrijas it is Easter every day, with fresh torrijas made every day.
Torrijas here is idiosyncratically served not with coffee as you might expect (they have no coffee machine) but with sweet wine.
The bar itself is beautiful, with vintage advertising on the walls and mirrors adorning the walls.
Address: Calle de la Paz, 4, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Best for Breakfast (or Post Clubbing Snack!): Chocolateria de San Gines
Spain's most famous breakfast is chocolate con churros: Fried dough dunked in melted chocolate.
Spanish churros are less sweet than you might expect if you are used to the Mexican style, while the chocolate is not hot chocolate like you get on a British or American breakfast table: it's a lot thicker.
You can still get chocolate con churros in many cafes in Spain, but the churros are often made early in the morning and the chocolate is sometimes, unfortunately, powdered. But at San Gines, they know what you want before you order it, so they've already got everything freshly made for you.
Address: Pasadizo San Ginés, 5, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Best Experience: El Botin
If a restaurant wants a unique selling point, being considered to be the oldest (continually in operation) restaurant in the world would be good enough for most. But El Botin adds to that the fact it was Ernest Hemingway's favorite restaurant (he says as much in The Sun Also Rises).
Not that El Botin really needs either of these gimmicks. The restaurant, also known as El Sobrino de Botin, makes the best roast suckling pig in the city and is right up as one of the best places for the dish in the country.
Address: Calle Cuchilleros, 17, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Best for Food With Beers: La Ardosa
In fashionable Malasaña, your sloppy joe joints or your greek salad outlets may come and go, but La Ardosa will always remain.
One of a handful of Restaurantes Centenarios, Madrid restaurants that have existed for more than a hundred years, La Ardosa is unique in being more a bar than a restaurant - but with bar food far superior to any you'll see in your average pub.
The front room of La Ardosa is always packed with hip young locals but climb under the bar into the back room for a little more space to sample their excellent tapas. Particularly famous is their tortilla, cooked to perfection (it just to be gooey but not raw in the middle, requiring culinary skills that are sadly dying out today in Spain). Also check out their salmorejo, the thicker cousin of gazpacho famous in Cordoba.
Address: Calle Colón, 13, 28004 Madrid, Spain
Best for Inventive Tapas: Juana La Loca
If it's your first time in Spain, you might be surprised to discover that, despite the country's renowned sense of tradition, there are also a lot of chefs doing some quite inventive things with their tapas. Some might even use vegetables!
Address: Plaza Puerta de Moros, 4, 28005 Madrid, Spain
Best Place to Prepare Your Picnic: Ferpal
Ferpal is a classic Madrid delicatessen, selling the best ham, cold cuts, and cheeses in the city. It is permanently bustling with grandmothers picking up some jamón iberico for lunch, perfectly carved by champion carvers (yes, there really are championships for things like this). Check out the curious sandwiches with the crusts cut off, which is apparently popular with the upper echelons of Madrid society.
Address: Calle del Arenal, 7, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Best for Bocadillo de Calamares: El Brillante
Another of Madrid's most famous dishes is the bocadillo de calamares: A baguette filled with freshly fried squid rings. And nowhere is more known for this dish than El Brillante.
The class zinc-topped diners of Spain are dying out. In the past 15 years, most have closed up shop and replaced by more modern-looking locales. But El Brillante remains, a testament to its quality.
Situated in front of Atocha train station, around the corner from the Reina Sofia museum, virtually every visitor to the Spanish capital walks past this restaurant. It might look a little intimidating at first, with bar staff shouting the orders across the room to the kitchen, but that's a part of its charm.
Address: Plaza Emperador Carlos V, 8, 28012 Madrid, Spain
Best Near Sol: Casa Labra
The eye of the storm is often the calmest. And in the shopping frenzies around Puerta de Sol in Madrid, Casa Labra is an oasis - perhaps not of calm, but at least of great atmosphere and quality food - unlike anything else in the vicinity.
Casa Labra has a restaurant which always seems full, but it is most famous for the standing bar, where they serve thimbles of Spanish vermouth and pieces of fried cod. Prices are fantastic, the bar looks incredible, and the food and drink are both prepared impeccably.
Address: Calle de Tetuán, 12, 28013 Madrid, Spain
Best for Paella: Arrozal
Paella is not a dish that is native to Madrid, but that's not to mean you can't get good rice-based dishes in the Spanish capital. But you have to know where to look.
Madrid isn't as bad as, say, Barcelona, for passing off yellow-dyed rice as paella, but in most cased paella in Madrid is a large, cheap dish made in the morning and served in portions with the lunch menu.
But for the best paella, with moist, succulent rice, tender meat, and crisp vegetables, you need a freshly cooked paella. There are a few good places in Madrid for this, with Arrozal in La Latina one of the best.
One thing that is relatively unique is that they are happy to make a paella for one. Many restaurants claim this is not possible, but in reality, it's because the restaurant doesn't have enough space in the kitchen to dedicate one flame to a single paella.
Address: Spain, Calle de Segovia, 13, Madrid, Spain
Best for Cocido Madrileño: Malacatin
The dish most associated with Madrid is cocido madrileño, an epic stew based on chickpeas, cabbage, noodles, and a whole pig. Well, pretty much.
Visiting Malacatin, one of the very best restaurants for cocido madrileño, is not so much going out for dinner as going on a mission.
The dish is served in three parts. First, you are served the broth that everything else was cooked in. I can do this, you think, as the deceptively light soup arrived. Then comes the vegetables, then everything else.
One thing that sets Malacatin apart from the way a Madrid grandmother would make her cocido is that rather than cooking everything in one giant pot, the chef separates the broth into four pots and cooks the various cuts of meat separately, thus preserving the different flavors better.
In this way, you get to fully appreciate the cabbage and chickpeas, before progressing to the main course: blood sausage, chicken, chorizo, and pork knuckle.
You may never eat so well again. In fact, when you leave Malacatin, you may feel you will never need to eat anything ever again.
Address: Calle de la Ruda, 5, 28005 Madrid, Spain