Madrid bites

1 Apr 2010 by AndrewGough

Sara Turner eats her way around the Spanish capital, sampling everything from gazpacho and cebiche to tortilla and boiled bull’s tail

Madrid has something for everyone – with more than 8,400 restaurants, not only is it the capital of Spain, equidistant from all other points on the country’s map, but it is also the capital of cuisine. Madrid is the host city for the first European Congress of Tourism and Gastronomy, which takes place on May 24-25, and each year it hosts Madrid Fusion, a three-day event at which many of the world’s best chefs discuss new culinary trends and hold tasting sessions. Here is a selection of some of the city’s top eateries. 



Santceloni represents the ultimate in fine-dining in Madrid. Now entering its tenth year as part of the Hesperia Madrid hotel, the restaurant falls under the protective wings of Santi Santamaria, a multi-Michelin starred chef who specialises in Catalan cuisine.

The eatery is located on Paseo de la Castellana, the main north-south vehicular artery lined with designer stores, five-star hotels and high-rise offices. The country-house chic décor features a long wooden table where the waiters dish up the food, with copper pots and pans overhead. The menu draws from the traditions of Catalonia and elsewhere in Spain, using simple, well-sourced ingredients.

Try the caviar Petrossian, Alverta Imperial with green beans and razor shells (€70), or oysters in citrus pickle with cauliflower and rucola (€44). Or really treat yourself with the 11-course gran menu (€177) – the recipes chosen depend on the best seasonal ingredients available. The sommelier can also suggest wines to complement the meal, drawing on a cellar of more than 600 choices.

The cheese table (€27) is equally impressive. Effectively a kitchen table covered in queso, it takes two waiters to carry the spread of some 300 cheeses – 110 from Spain alone – and bring it over for guests to choose from. (Prices include 7 per cent tax.)



This chic, small and effortlessly refined restaurant is a classic example of the gastronomic secrets of Madrid. Part of the Hospes hotel, located on Plaza de la Independencia, the eatery features cream walls and charcoal-grey tiled floors, and spills out on to a sun-filled courtyard in summer months.

Chef Ivan Saez Vicente, a bona fide madrileno, has a repertoire based on the traditional food of the city with a modern twist. Meat and fish are slow-cooked at low temperatures to achieve super-succulence, using lighter recipes than usual.

The menu features beautifully presented dishes such as roasted scallops with seaweed salad (€15), grilled loin of angler fish served with a pottage of chickpeas and clams (€18), or oxtail stew with red wine and mashed potatoes (€18), while the sommelier has some 400 wines to recommend. There is also a tapas bar and café next to the restaurant and, upstairs, a cosy English club-style lounge bar.

  • 3 Plaza de la Independencia; tel +34 914 322 911; hospes.com
  • Lunch 1pm-3.30pm (4pm in summer); dinner 8.30pm-11pm (11.30pm in summer)



Astrid Y Gaston

A 20-minute walk south of Santceloni, this super-cool Peruvian restaurant is a relative newcomer to the city’s food scene, having opened in 2006. Founded by French husband and wife team Astrid and Gaston Acurio, the kitchen uses traditional Peruvian ingredients, so potatoes are a major source of inspiration. As legend has it, the humble potato originated in the southern region of Peru and was the food of choice for the Inca empire. At Astrid y Gaston you can try different types of potato bread, including sweet potato, white potato and coriander.

Another feature of the menu is cebiche – traditional Peruvian stew with marinated fish and lemon. Try the clasico dish (€24), with seabass, aji peppers (a type of Peruvian hot pepper), red onion and lemon juice, or the afrodisiaco version (€24), with mixed seafood. The restaurant also serves great cocktails, including the quintessential Pisco sour (€12) – made from the grape-based liquor Pisco, it’s mixed with lemon juice, egg whites and sugar syrup.  
The interior is sleek and modern, with muted tones, low lighting, spotlit tables and a vast wall of wine. There are Astrid Y Gaston branches in Peru, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Venezuela, Mexico and Argentina.

  • 13 Paseo de la Castellana; tel +34 917 026 262; astridygaston.com
  • Lunch 1.30pm-3.30pm; dinner 8.30pm-11.30pm. Closed Sundays.


Corral de la Moreria

This unique venue combines delicious food with stunning, passion-filled flamenco. Since 1956, the “tablao flamenco” show has been visited by Spanish royalty, as well as artistic legends including Pablo Picasso and Salvador Dali. It is located in the heart of old Madrid, and booking is essential.

Corral de la Moreria is furnished with rustic wooden tables and chairs gathered around a small stage, and bold paintings of flamenco dancers hang on the walls. The show starts at about 10pm, when performers and musicians quietly fill the stage, then burst into the hypnotic rhythm of stamping feet, classical guitar and haunting solo song. The performance features some of Madrid’s best artists, including Loli Sabariego and Adrian Galia.

The show costs €34, and you can choose from four set menus (from €43 to €99), or the à la carte menu. Recipes are inspired by the wide gamut of Spanish cuisine – from Andalusian gazpacho with tomato jelly, shrimp and scallop sheet (€15) to the delicious sherry and garlic-scented spring chicken with a whisper of paella (€22). There is a good selection of wines from the Rioja and Ribera del Duero regions, as well as Navarra and Somontano.

  • 17 Calle de la Moreria; tel +34 913 658 446; corraldelamoreria.com
  • Restaurant opens daily at 8pm. Show starts at 10pm and ends at 11.30pm, with a second show at midnight until 1.30am



More than 170 years old, Lhardy has seen its fair share of history. It was opened in 1839 by Swiss restaurateur, chef and confectioner Emilio Huguenin, with the current décor dating from the height of the romantic era – think gold mirrors, white table cloths, blood-red curtains and heavy, carved wood. The façade is made of carved Cuban mahogany.

The small deli on the ground floor, where you can have a coffee and sandwich or aperitif, features cut-crystal decanters and polished silverware. The location of Lhardy near the busy shopping district of Puerta del Sol makes it easy to pop in for a treat. Or you can stay all afternoon in the restaurant upstairs, which has even more silver and crystal, and takes up three dining rooms – the Japanese one is probably the most breathtaking.

The food is hearty Spanish fare. Try the Lhardy roast beef (€33) or partridge stew with french onions (€31.50). The classic consommé (€9.50), a clear soup, is something of an institution for locals.

  • 8 Carrera de San Jeronimo; tel +34 915 213 385; lhardy.com
  • Lunch 1pm-3.30pm; dinner 9pm-11.30pm. Sundays lunch only


Casa Lucio

The busy Calle Cava Baja, south of Plaza Mayor, is filled with dining options. A good option is Casa Lucio. It’s always busy – a good sign among picky locals – and the food is tasty. Open since 1974, it’s fitted out with chunky wooden tables and rough, white-washed walls, and feels like an old tavern. Booking is recommended.

The restaurant mainly serves Castilian cuisine, drawing from Madrid and the surrounding areas. If you’re into tortilla (Spanish omelette) this is a great place for it, with plenty of options – ham, shrimp, asparagus, or tortilla de la casa (€12) with all these ingredients and more. For meat lovers there’s roast suckling pig (€25) or rabo de toro, boiled bull’s tail (€20).

  • 35 Calle Cava Baja; tel +34 913 653 252; casalucio.es
  • Lunch 1.15pm-4pm; dinner 9pm-11.30pm



Casa Ciriaco

Casa Ciriaco has been specialising in local cuisine for more than a century. Situated to the western end of Calle Mayor, from the outside it looks like nothing more than a small café/bar, with blue and white tiles and wooden tables. Venture through to the busy dining room at the back, however, and you’ll find white-washed walls displaying paintings and old photographs.

Today, white-jacketed waiters still serve classics such as callos a la madrilena (€13), a stew containing tripe, black pudding, pig’s knuckle and fat, so not for the faint hearted. It’s full of flavour and taps into the current trend for offal – great with some crusty artisan bread and a glass of red wine. For the less brave, there’s veal escalope (€15) or roast chicken (€8).

  • 84 Calle Mayor; tel +34 915 480 620
  • Lunch 1.30pm-4pm; dinner 8.30pm-1.30am. Closed Wednesdays



This is one of the few Riojano restaurants in the city. Rioja is a region of Spain well known for its wine, but the food can be overlooked. Here you can try the two together, as Algarabia has its own house wine, a full-bodied red from the Monasterio de Yuso vineyard (€4.30 per glass).

The restaurant is run by two sisters, Isabel and Pilar – one does the cooking, the other is the maître d’. Riojan cuisine is based around tomatoes and the red, heart-shaped pimiento pepper. Try the bacalao (Rioja-style cod, €17.50) or guisito de chipis (baby squid stew, €17). There is only one sitting at lunch and dinner, so once you have your table you can take your time.

  • 8 Calle Union; tel +34 915 424 131
  • Lunch 2pm-3.30pm; dinner 9.30pm-11.30pm


Tapas tasters

Most restaurants in Madrid don’t open until late, as is the Spanish way, so it’s worth keeping a few tapas bars in mind for pre-dinner snacks and drinks.

? The tiny bar in La Casa del Abuelo has standing room only, and the floor is covered with discarded paper napkins and cocktail sticks – the ultimate sign of approval. For a seat, try its sister restaurant at 5 Calle de Nunez de Arce.
? 12 Calle Victoria; tel +34 902 027 334; lacasadelabuelo.es
? Open 11.30am-3.30pm, 6.30pm-11.30pm

? The recently refurbished Mercado de San Miguel, just off Calle Mayor, is an iron and glass structure housing fruit stalls, confectionary stands and a number of tapas bars – perfect for mid-afternoon snacking or a glass of wine.
? Plaza de San Miguel; mercadodesanmiguel.es
? Open 10am-12am (until 2am Thurs-Sat)

? Chueca is famous for being both the centre of Madrid’s gay community and one of the best places for late-night drinking. Taberna Angel Sierra is a good place to start, and from there just follow the crowd.
? 11 Calle de Gravina; tel +34 915 310 126
? Open 12pm-1am

? Museo del Jamon sells cured ham accompanied with beer or wine. There are numerous outlets of this chain – try the ones at 7 Calle Mayor or 6 Carrera de San Jeronimo.
? museodeljamon.com
? Open 9am-12am (Sun 10am)


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