Madrid Dining Guide
Taberna La Carmencita | Calle Libertad, 16
It’s the second oldest tavern in Madrid, but until recently you’d have never known it. Dating back to 1854 when it first opened on Calle Libertad in the Chueca neighborhood, Taberna La Carmencita has seen its fair share of Madrid personalities, from the writer Federico García Lorca (who is said to have lived in the apartment above the tavern) to the poet Pablo Neruda, who used to sip vermouth from the bar’s small, but striking, zinc bar. Despite its impressive history, in recent years the tavern was home to nothing more than a couple of restaurant disasters. But the failures allowed the opportunity for Santander based restauranteur Carlos Zamora to take the reigns. Zamora brought with him experience and a refreshing focus on using wholesome, organic ingredients, perfect timing as the local and organic foods movements are only growing in Madrid.
El Imparcial | Calle Duque de Alba, 4
Open from noon to 2:00AM, El Imparcial has certainly been drawing the city’s beautiful people who come for lunch, an afternoon drink and some browsing the restaurant’s design shop, or a late dinner. The menu features lightened up and easy-to-share versions of Spanish classics, simple pastas and even an eco-version of a Big Mac, which surprisingly nails the taste of its notorious namesake.
Hortensio | Marques de Riscal, 5
A refined atmosphere awaits in a place where Colombian chef Mario Vallés mixes French classicism with the appeal of contemporary Spanish techniques and Latin American touches in the Chamberí neighborhood. Honestly becomes the seal of quality in every dish on the short and ever-changing menu, like in the foie gras with tree tomato and crumble, or the sea bass ceviche with yuzu. This place is sophisticated and without anything that distracts the diner from what really matters, a good and classic meal. Closed for Saturday lunch and all day on Sunday.
Punto MX | General Pardiñas, 40
*1 Michelin starred
It was tough enough to get a table here even before it was awarded a Michelin star last November, so make sure you book well ahead. Roberto Ruiz is the only chef in Europe to gain a star for a Mexican restaurant and the only one in the world for a place serving purely Mexican cuisine. For this standard of food, it is not hideously expensive, with mains around €30. Diners usually kick off with the guacamole, which is made in front of you, followed perhaps by chorizo tacos with avocado and San Simón cheese, braised duck enchilada or ibérico pork with green tomatillo salsa, or the simply astounding bone marrow. You can also eat at the bar upstairs, which serves killer mezcal cocktails. Closed on Sunday and Monday.
Botin | Calle Cuchilleros, 17
Officially the oldest restaurant in the world, dating back to 1725, this is the place to go for roast lamb or suckling pig cooked over vine shoots in the huge oven. Try and get a table in the vaulted cellar, although the tiled rooms on the other floors are really atmospheric too.
Casa Lucio | Calle Cava Baja, 35
Lucio Blázquez runs this well-known restaurant based in La Latina neighbourhood and frequented by politicians, artists, bullfighters and even His Majesty the King of Spain (which obviously means that booking is required in order to enjoy a delightful meal here). With its 19th-century Spanish tavern-style decor and its lively atmosphere, Casa Lucio embodies the traditional values of Madrid cuisine like no other. Successful home-style cooking (from Aurelio Calderon's kitchen) based on excellent ingredients, professional staff and a comprehensive wine list. On the menu, you simply must try Madrid-style cocido (meat and chickpea stew) and their excellent Madrid-style callos (stewed tripe), but you’ll be equally tempted by their Spanish omelette with pisto (similar to like ratatouille), huevos rotos (fried eggs with ham on a bed of potatoes), stewed capon in pepitoria sauce, Lucio potatoes and, for dessert, their delicious cold rice pudding.
Taberna Los Huevos de Lucio | Calle Cava Baja, 30
Good for a quick bite at the bar or a sit down meal, this place is run by the younger generation of the family behind the renowned Casa Lucio across the road. Don’t miss the ‘huevos rotos’, egg and chips, which is the signature dish, somehow elevated to gourmet heights. The slow-cooked ibérico pork cheeks with apricot sauce are fabulous too. Order a few raciones to share.
Diurno | Calle de San Marcos, 37
One of the definitive, inner-circle of cool gay cafes in the Chueca neighborhood, Diurno has the requisite minimalist white decor, plus lounge or chill-out on the stereo (with occasional forays into techno at night). Diurno stands out especially for its excellent selection of rental and offers one of the most broad-ranging and eclectic collections of TV series, foreign films and classic cinema in Madrid. After you've finished browsing, the food on offer includes healthy and delicious sandwiches, salads, basic pasta dishes, cakes and pastries. Peaceful by day, lively and friendly at night, this is an excellent hangout and easy place to meet people.
NEWER HOT SPOTS
BiBo Madrid | Paseo de la Castellana
Marbella’s most popular chef Dani García (whose eponymous restaurant has two Michelin stars) has recently opened a branch of his popular BiBo Andalusian Brasserie & Tapas restaurant in an outstanding 800-square-meter space right next to Madrid’s Paseo de la Castellana. This hotspot’s impressive decor has the seal of Lázaro Rosa-Violán, the man of the hour when it comes to restaurant interior design. BiBo is a cosmopolitan clientele’s paradise, flaunting 7,000 light bulbs, a round bar, and a hot air balloon. The house’s culinary trademarks? The cherry gazpacho, the foie yogurt, and the oxtail brioche.
Materia | Calle de Juan Bravo, 25
What was formerly Rooster restaurant is now Materia, a concept looking to bring “extinct” flavors back to life. Tradition and quality produce are the only things that matter here, and it shows with a menu filled with honest flavors. It’s a mix including a delicate free-range hen with pepitoria (a typical Spanish sauce that is not easily found in restaurants) as well as fresh stuffed squid in its own sauce, and a simple but sumptuous rabbit with garlic. No frills, no distractions, just simple cooking in the heart of the Salamanca neighborhood. Closed for dinner on Sunday.
Fismuler | Calle Sagasta, 29
When you think of Madrid, “Nordic minimalism” is the last thing you’d expect to be making it big in the culinary scene. But it is. At least in this cave-like restaurant owned by Nino Redruelo. At Fismuler, the tables are shared, the waiters are the nicest in town, and the food is simple, fresh, and always revolving around the seasons. Sautéed chickpeas with scampi are a crowd pleaser and coexist on the menu with other starters such as the grilled artichokes with pig’s jowls and mussels or eggs with truffle and wild mushrooms. When dessert arrives, the baker will come to your table and look you straight in the eye: Let him convince you to order the cheesecake, it’s outstanding. Closed on Sunday.
Bistronomika | Calle Santa Maria, 39
Joining the squad of restaurants — Triciclo, Tandem, Vinoteca Moratín — which have managed to draw the attention back again to Madrid’s Literary Quarter is Bistronomika, a cozy restaurant where fish is the main attraction. Chef Carlos del Portillo has an obsession with fish otherwise difficult to find in Spanish restaurants, and knows how to bring the best out of each one. He is pretty much the only man in town willing to go that extra mile to cook them with respect, skill, and Nikkei flavors. Closed Sunday evening and all day Monday.
Recreo | Calle de Espartinas, 5
Madrid’s typical casa de comidas (restaurants devoted to “home cooking”) are starting to break away from the stereotypes that linked them to an outdated cuisine and sketchy decor. Today, they have become the cradle for new entrepreneurs and chefs looking to bring back traditional flavors with the help of modernity, foreign spice, and technique. Take for instance this tavern run by Pablo Montero and Alejandro Díaz, who after being part of the staff at high-end restaurants like DiverXO and Fat Duck, have decided to open their very own restaurant. Broccoli with kimchi, olives skewered with a marinated sardine and Basque peppers, and the veal tartare are all, definitely, worth your while. Closed on Sunday and Monday.
Pink Monkey | Monte Esquinza, 15
This restaurant located near Plaza de Colón excels at fun, casual food that plays with flavors from Asia to Latin America. Chef Jaime Renedo is the person responsible for serving dishes looking to impress, such as his personal take on Peruvian classics made by mixing Mexican chiles with Asian techniques and vice versa. At Pink Monkey, the clientele is young, beautiful, and quite preppy, but always looking to see and be seen at a place where good food (at good prices) is served. Closed for dinner on Sunday.
Pum Pum Café | Calle Tribulete, 6
In the up-and-coming and ethnically diverse Lavapiés neighborhood, Pum Pum Café has found a way to attract coffee addicts from the hipster neighborhood of Malasaña by adding all-day brunch into the picture. Whether you’re looking for a freshly brewed Chemex for two, eggs Benedict, a salad, or just to explore the crowd, this is the place to be.
Barra M | Calle Libertad, 5
Chef Omar Malpartida already made it big with Tiradito, a restaurant looking to update Peruvian flavors for an audience that only knew ceviches and tiraditos. Now, he’s testing his luck once again, this time with a more casual and laid-back format at Barra M. The premise here is to sit around the gigantic table that’s meant to be shared by all diners, and watch the chefs display their culinary technique right in front of you, they finish cooking the dishes at the table. Then, get your hands dirty with dishes like mussels with leche de tigre and yellow ají, gyozas stuffed with carnitas and chipotle, the crabs with panca and huacatay, and the tongue with red curry. Open late until 2:30AM and closed for dinner on Sunday.
Tatel | Paseo de la Castellana 36-38
Though its high-profile investors may call to mind the days of the supermodel-marketed Fashion Café, all food critics and gastronomes are talking about Tatel’s market-driven menu of spot-on Spanish fare and its sumptuous dining room. Plans are afoot for locations in Mexico and the U.S.A. The spacious and welcoming establishment which is inspired by art decó boasts a multi-purpose room that is divided into two areas: the lounge and the dining room, joined together by a central music stage. This area offers a full program of entertainment in the afternoon-evenings where there will be no lack of live music. The lounge, with unreserved and open air seating, features a long cocktail bar and a gourmet market, where leading products from Spanish gastronomy can be sampled, such as Iberian ham and extra virgin olive oil. To round off the gastronomic experience, Tatel boasts a wine cellar with over 150 references for sparkling, still, liqueur and sweet wines.
Ramon Freixa | Hotel Unico, Calle Claudio Coello 67
*2 Michelin starred
Chef Ramon Freixa, a Catalan from Barcelona, has set Madrid alight with his immaculately stylish, contemporary cuisine at this two-Michelin-starred restaurant at Hotel Unico. He is always creating new dishes, but the menu might include venison loin, shoulder of lamb and ibérico pork with sprouts flavoured with ras el hanout, olives and pistachios, wheat with cauliflower and turnips and Majorcan sausage with apricots and garlic – and that’s all on one plate. This is a great choice for a special occasion meal when you feel like dressing up. Closed Sunday & Monday.
El Club Allard | Calle de Ferraz, 2
*2 Michelin starred
As its name indicates, this was once a private club and it still retains something of its exclusive air. The classically elegant interior provides the backdrop for creative, delicately presented cuisine featuring skillful fusions of ingredients and impressive technical ability. Chef Diego Guerrero's unique cooking refines Basque roots into an ethereal lightness of touch, smoked salmon in aspic with Mojito-and-cauliflower air, ravioli of Tolosa beans with cabbage infusion, wild turbot with spring onion and basil aroma. Closed Sunday & Monday.