For my birthday this year, we decided to hit the food-focused city of Madrid. There is a restaurant in every corner of this city and you will be spoilt for choice here. You can find anything from street food to casual eateries to fine dining spots to suit your budget and mood. Below are some of my recommendations.
Madrid Food Markets
No trip to the city of Madrid is complete without a visit to Mercado San Miguel. This legendary and historic street food market with 33+ food and drink stalls is a must tick for all visitors to Madrid. From fresh seafood, tapas & churros to vermouth bars, you can find everything under one roof. Prices are marginally higher than local eateries. Most places take credit cards and the receipts allow you to access the bathrooms for free. This place is a great introduction to the Spanish food scene. If you could do only one thing during your visit to Madrid, this would be it.
This is more of a contemporary food court, with a focus on global cuisines. A multi-level space that includes beer gardens and a top floor bar, the food here is more international. So expect to see ramen and bao rubbing shoulders with tacos and tapas. In terms of look and feel, it felt more like the market halls you find in London.
For one of our many meals in Madrid, we checked out a traditional restaurant called Fatigas del Querer, where we dived into Sizzling Garlic Prawns, Spanish Omelette and Beef Entrecôte. The food was decent (the tortilla was outstanding) but for me it was the atmosphere and the buzz that impressed. A place that stays open till late, lots of locals as well as tourists rubbing shoulders, reasonably priced and friendly staff (they even give you whisky shots at the end). Just a thriving, busy restaurant, much like the city itself.
DNorte was a charming taverna experience in Madrid. It was empty when we entered at the start of lunchtime service and within 30 minutes filled up both floors. We ordered Huevos Rotos (broken fried eggs with chorizo), Squid Strips fried in olive oil, Tortilla and Patatas Bravas. Our favourite was the huevos and the squid, although I have eaten better tortilla at other places in Madrid.
For my birthday lunch, we chose Triciclo, a restaurant run by three chefs who are friends as well as entrepreneurs. Their menu showcases a range of dishes from three sections, each section dedicated to a particular aspect of gastronomy: market fresh ingredients, traditional flavours and global palates. You can mix and match from each section and the chefs are known to throw in plenty of extras. Advance booking is highly recommended. The space is lovely and homely, created by the chefs themselves. On the menu you can find dishes such as Sea Bream Madrid-style; Artichokes, Scallops & Truffle Pickle; Rock Octopus, Sprouts, Crunchy Pork Trimmings; Line-caught Hake, Cockle, Vegetable Beurre Blanc & Lemon Peel; Steak Tartare, Egg, Roe and ‘Joselito’ Iberian shoulder, Calcots, Romesco & Chipotle.
Madrid is not just about cheap tapas but has a huge fine dining scene as well. We were lucky to find one such restaurant in our hotel, the Gran Melia Palacio Los Duques. Built into the stables of a 19th century palace, Dos Cielos by brothers Javier and Sergio Torres is a wonderful marriage of tradition and modernity amongst refined settings. On the menu you can find dishes such as Cod Rice and Cauliflower; Blue Duck Rice; Crispy Suckling Pig, Potato and Carrots and Suckling Goat Shoulder, Mahon Cheese and Pine nuts. The dishes come with a hefty price tag so definitely one for special occasions.
Alongside Mercado San Miguel, the three below are an absolute must visit for your trip to Madrid.
I don’t know if this is the best restaurant in Madrid but it is DEFINITELY up there. Universally recommended by literally everyone I asked, dining at Sacha was our favourite meal of the whole trip. The menu is entirely in Spanish but the maître d’ explained everything to us in great detail. We feasted on Tortilla Vaga; Raya a La Manteca Negra (Stingray in Black Butter); Chuletitas Con Ajetes (Lamb Chops) and Falsa Lasana De Erizo De Mar (Pasta with sea urchin). The stingray was a revelation. The lamb chops had a delightful crunch. But it was the Tortilla Vaga which was the ultimate definition of divine. Full of eggy goodness, morcilla and pickles, it looked like a pizza omelette and tasted sensational. The interiors were utterly charming and the staff absolutely delightful and looked after us well. They take reservations so booking in advance is highly recommended.
I don’t think I have ever loved churros and hot chocolate so much before visiting Chocolatería San Ginés in Madrid. One of the oldest churros bars in Madrid, this place is a Madrid institution. Open 24×7, expect to queue although they do move pretty fast! For €4.50, you get six churros or two porras (longer and thicker version of churros) and a cup of hot chocolate. There are other things on the menu but really you are here for the churros and the chocolate. Seriously, the best five euros you will ever spend in Madrid.
Needless to say, Madrid has millions of tapas bars. But a joint that came up frequently in recommendations was Bodega de la Ardosa, a tiny, traditional tapas bar with a great selection of delicious food and wine at affordable prices. We tucked into their Tortilla (their signature and best), Grilled Artichoke, Foie Gras Black Pudding and Ham Cheese Croquettes. No matter which time of the day we went, this place was always packed!
I hope you find my above recommendations useful for your own exploration of the Madrid food scene.
Explore my other city food guides below: