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Madrid in Spain doesn’t get enough credit for being a world class city. It may not have the enticing Gaudi buildings of Barcelona or the warm breeze of Costa del Sol but it is an important city in Spain.
It has a classical elegance that you see in Europe with beautiful parks, incredible museums and architecture that will keep you looking up for details the entire for days.
It’s also an underrated food city, while the tapas culture isn’t as strong as other Spanish cities, the restaurant scene is booming. You can eat well in Madrid at any budget, whether it be at a Michelin star restaurant or a tacsa, which is best described as a local tavern.
Madrileños take their food series, and respect tradition but also balance innovation. It’s an exciting time to eat in the city. Here are 5 restaurants in Madrid that locals love.
This historic cafe opened in 1887 and remained a local favourite until it closed in 2015. A literary cafe, it hosted author readings and other important cultural events. Locals were so upset they left notes on the windows and doors of the building to share how much it meant to them.
Thankfully a restaurant group re-opened the spot, giving it a thoughtful restoration to modernize but maintain its art deco historic elements.
It is a piece of history and a must-visit restaurant in Madrid. Try the churros for breakfast, splurge on the arroz meloso (paella’s cousin) for lunch or simply stop in for croquetas and Spanish ham as a afternoon snack.
Glorieta de Bilbao, 7, 28004 Madrid, Spain
One of the more expensive restaurants in Madrid, it consistently gets rave reviews for both quality of food and service. Located in the Urban Hotel in the museum district, it is both modern and elegant.
Although you can order a la carte, the most popular option is Chef Aurelio Morales’ tasting menu, which takes you on a tour around Spain. He uses classic Spanish ingredients and puts his own modern spin on traditional dishes.
It’s not surprising it has received a Michelin star as this is the best way to taste the flavour of Spain in just one sitting.
Carrera de S. Jerónimo, 34, 28014 Madrid, Spain
El Club Allard
Originally opening as a private club in 1998, it opened to the public and has received two Michelin stars. And while the exterior of the restaurant is subdued the interior experience is all about luxury and opulence.
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Although you can order off the cart it is better to splurge on one of Chef Maria Marte’s seasonal tasting menus. If you’re lucky you’ll be there during truffle season to try this decadent menu.
Calle de Ferraz, 2, 28008 Madrid, Spain
One of the best examples of traditional Asturian cuisine from northern Spain, this restaurant in Madrid has been a favourite for over 15 years.
While restaurants are classic, the decor is sophisticated and cozy. It is known for having some of the best seafood in Madrid as well as seasonal delights such as morel mushrooms, foie gras and truffles. If a product is in season you can expect it to appear on your plate.
Calle de Jorge Juan, 16, 28001 Madrid, Spain
Sala de Despiece
A very modern style restaurant, the look and feel are very different from other top restaurants in Madrid and yet the quality of dining experience remains top notch. Some describe it as abattoir or butcher decor. A former butcher shop, it’s a meat focused restaurant so you can expect meat hooks from the ceiling, barrier tape inside and parchment paper for plates.
There is only one 12-seat shared table, called the Butcher’s Table at this neighbourhood restaurant. These are the only seats you can reserve. Otherwise there is a long bar counter to sit where cooks serve you directly in classic tapa style with flair.
Calle de Ponzano, 11, 28010 Madrid, Spain
Celso y Manolo
A modern tavern built on Spanish tradition, this tapa spot focusing on northern cuisine is the best place to stop in for a decadent snack. But expect international influences too!
Do not miss the chuletón de tomate, which is a tomato salad inspired by new Latino cooking in Miami. It includes sundried, powdered and fresh heirloom tomato combined with the brightness of Latin American flavours.
On the heartier side you can’t go wrong with the veal ribs with kimchichurri, stews or sliced beef sliced beef entrecote. Calle de la Libertad, 1, 28004 Madrid, Spain