As the capital and largest city in Spain, Madrid is something of a cosmopolitan magnet for gastronomy – and pretty much everything else. The result is not only a moveable feast, but also a fast-moving one. In fact even long-time residents can find it difficult to keep up with the latest trends.
Relatively wealthy, Madrid has an expanding upmarket food scene for the nouveau riche – or at least nouveau middle class. But many of its traditional taverns and tapas bars still exist, particularly in the working class parts of the city.
This means that there is always something for everyone. Ranging from top Michelin star spots (Madrid boasts an impressive 21 in total as of 2022) to tiny hole in the wall joints that specialise in one perfect dish.
Because Madrid is at a high altitude, and consequently has decidedly cold winters, many of its most typical dishes are winter warmers. Think stews, such as callos and menudo, or carrillada (braised pork cheeks) and lomo con tomate (pork loin in tomato sauce). Not to mention a medley of hearty stews made from chickpeas, lentils and white beans.
Fried calamari sandwiches and barely solid tortilla de patatas can also be found in every barrio (neighbourhood) of Madrid. Bars throughout the city will lay claim to having the best in town.
Another good option for trying out a tasty selection of local cuisine is to visit some of the city’s food markets. Here you will find both traditional and innovative dishes – especially at those markets located away from the centre, Plaza Mayor.
For the second year running, local wunderkind Dabiz Muñoz has been named World’s Best Chef. His three-star Michelin restaurant DiverXO is famous (or infamous) for being Spain’s most expensive eatery. Tasting menus here range from €250 to €365 – and that’s not including wine. Pairings will set you back another €150-€300.
Happily us mere mortals have plenty of other options to experience the abundant variety of cuisines that make up the Madrileña food scene. From trendy Malasaña to upscale Salamanca; from multicultural Lavapiés and hip Barrio de las Letras to traditional La Latina… Each barrio has something unique to offer.
Top Madrid bars and restaurants to visit
With chef Javier Goya and somm-maître extraordinaire Fran Ramírez at the helm of this venture in the heart of Barrio de las Letras, great traditional food, outstanding wines and knowledgeable service are guaranteed. Pop in for a taste of Andalucía at the bar, or book a table in the restaurant.
- Address: Plaza Matute 4
- Open: Wednesday-Saturday 1pm-4pm & 8pm-11.30pm
Sommelier David Villalón and his brother Mario run this exceptional wine bar and bistro, which also has a cocktail bar in the basement. More than 100 wines are available by the glass or half glass, perfect for pairing. Their menu is short and ever-changing, with organic veg from their mother Angelita’s own garden outside the city.
- Address: Street Reina 4
- Wine bar/restaurant open: Monday-Saturday 1.30pm -12am (kitchen open 1.30pm-4pm, 8pm-11.30pm), Sunday closed
- Cocktail bar open: Monday-Saturday 5pm-2am, Sunday closed
Founded in 1867, this tiny mother-and-son operation, just steps from the Plaza Mayor, is a classic stop for vermouth. It’s a basic, no-nonsense tapas bar filled with memorabilia of a bygone age. Be sure to try the callos (tripe stew) or the famous meatballs.
- Address: Calle Cuchilleros 6
- Open: Monday & Wednesday-Friday 1.30pm-5pm & 8.30pm-12am, Saturday 1pm-4pm & 8.30pm-12.30am, Sunday 1.30pm-6pm, Tuesday closed
Cheese, please. This 80-year-old bodega boasts an impressive cheese list with an equally impressive selection of wines, including vermouths and Sherries. Great old-school atmosphere with friendly service.
- Address: Calle de Calatrava 21
- Open: Tuesday 7.30pm-12am, Wednesday-Saturday 1.30pm-4.00pm & 7.30pm-12am, Sunday 1pm-5pm, Monday closed
Forget whatever you’ve heard about never booking a flamenco and dinner show and head to Corral de la Morería, a family-run tablao that has been going strong since 1956. Second generation owners Juan Manuel and Armando del Rey are now at the helm, with chef David García overseeing the kitchen. It has two dining areas – with Restaurante Corral de la Morería boasting a Michelin star – and a large amount of Sherry (over 1,200 at last count) chosen by sommelier David Ayuso. The flamenco is also outstanding, with award-winning top artists performing twice daily.
- Address: Calle de la Morería 17
- Open: Monday-Sunday 7.30pm-12am
Working simultaneously as importer, distributor and retailer, Delia Baeza has converted a rustic tavern in Lavapiés into a cosy wine bar and shop. Choose from a selection of unique French and Spanish natural wines from small producers, most sold exclusively here, at very affordable prices, along with delicious tapas.
- Address: C/Amparo 91
- Open: Monday-Friday 6.00pm-12am, Saturday-Sunday closed
Dream team César Martín (chef) and Marina Launay (front-of-house) have mastered that special blend of impeccable service and an intelligent seasonal menu. Almost everything is available in half-portions, including the wines by the glass. The all-day kitchen in this fun, trendy venue makes it a great spot for late lunches or early dinners.
- Address: Plaza Descubridor Diego de Ordás 1
- Open: Monday-Friday 1.30pm-11pm, Saturday & Sunday closed
Is it a restaurant? A tabanco? A bodega? Since Marian Reguera moved to larger premises in 2021 she can say yes to all of these. What hasn’t changed is the excellent traditional seasonal menu accompanied by a new wine list created by sommelier Cristina de la Calle with an impressive 165 wines on offer including 30-40 sherries by the glass and, best of all, the kind of service that makes you feel at home.
- Address: Calle del General Díaz Porlier, 59
- Open: Monday-Friday 1.30pm-4pm & 8.30pm-11.30pm, Saturday 1.30pm-4pm, Sunday closed
The García de la Navarra brothers (chef Pedro and sommelier Luis, above) have expanded their original Taberna de Pedro, a stone’s throw from El Prado museum, to offer a fuller version of their excellent traditional fare paired with fabulous wines. Expect quality produce at reasonable prices in a warm and friendly ambiance.
- Address: Calle de Montalbán 3
- Open: Tuesday-Saturday 1pm-4.00pm & 8.30pm-11.30pm
Partners Ana Losada and David Moreno are the heart and soul of this lovely tavern. A cosy bar greets you, leading to a tasteful, minimalist dining area beyond. With 40-50 wines that change weekly and a market-based menu, it is simply spectacular.
- Address: Calle de Narváez 67
- Open: Monday/Tuesday closed, Wednesday-Sunday 1pm-4.30pm & 8.30pm-11.30pm