Eating out in Madrid: 10 trends and 100 places to go

Is Madrid really interesting from a culinary point of view? On reflection, it seems that the pros outweigh the cons. Here you will find the positives set out in 10 tips including 100 good places to eat, drink or do your gourmet shopping. (Spanish version of this article to read here / Versión en español de este artículo aquí). This is our second post in English.

Gastroeconomy - Madrid Gastronomico en 10 claves

If Madrid were London, Paris or New York… well, it just wouldn’t be Madrid – culinarily speaking, that is. Instead of the trendy concept restaurants and shops for hard-core foodies (sometimes slaves to all things organic) found in more cutting-edge capitals, our city offers a collection of anonymous eateries for the cool where people go to see and be seen rather than to eat, places where traditional home cooking is misunderstood to mean unattractive, and to make matters worse, haute cuisine restaurants are scarce – with or without stars.  Is this really true? Maybe the time has finally come to step back and take some pride in our city. Because the truth is that Madrid is a culinary attraction.

So what is the current state of the restaurant business in Madrid? On the down side, two, three and four years ago, the city saw a proliferation of so-called ‘gastrobars’; since 2005 or 2006, well-known chefs have been opening ‘prêt-à-porter’ versions of their signature restaurants with varying results. And, as a response to supposed ‘hipster’ demand, there’s also been a spate of chic venues with reclaimed furniture and lots of distressed wood (a ridiculous amount) but no culinary criteria. So Madrid is subject to culinary fads and to the inexplicable demands of some of its customers.

However, there is a (very) bright side to this story. We explain it here in 10 simple tips:

1. Adios to hefty investments in trendy business concepts

Gastroeconomy_Cuisine

The economic downturn marked the end of a business model that (almost) created an economic bubble during the boom: fashionable locales that opened with massive backing and offered ‘creative’ cuisine inexplicably priced at around 50 to 60 euros. Good riddance.

 

2. The search for uniqueness

Gastroeconomy_Crumb_AidaPozuelo4

A combination of creativity and entrepreneurship has given rise to some unusual business ventures (often set up by people outside the food industry). Here are a few examples: Toma Café, a coffee shop or think tank; 1862 Dry Bar, a tribute to classic cocktail making; Sala de Despiece, a revamped Chamberí-style bar; microbreweries such as Fábrica Maravillas and La Virgen, which has just set up a foodtruck on their premises; Lata de Sardinas, a tavern with a parallel life in the Web 2.0 virtual environment (featuring a cyber family called the McDunaganhs); the Crumb sandwich bar (pictured above)MyVeg, which offers vegetable-rich dishes prepared in Navarre and assembled in Madrid; the cocktail bar-cum-jeweller’s Adam & Van Eekelen; Kikekeller, a designer shop that opens as a bar three days a week; La Bomba Bistrot, a classical bistro brought up to date by a true gourmet; and Vinoteca Moratín, which offers a tasty bistro menu in the Huertas neighbourhood.

 

3. Democratized contemporary cuisine

Gastroeconomy_TriCiclo2

The combination of entrepreneurial and gastronomic creativity also produces interesting and accomplished cuisine, proving that young chefs with experience in avant-garde restaurants and culinary expertise can indeed open businesses on their own. The best example is TriCiclo (see photo above), where diners will find unbeatable quality and culinary depth in a mixture of traditional Spanish and Spanish-fusion cuisine. Prices range from 30 to 50 euros. More examples? La Chula de Chamberí is a sort of stalwart of good cooking; Montia (located in El Escorial) and La Candela (Valdemorillo) are both reasonably priced gourmet restaurants; Nakeima offers an Asian buffet complete with dumpling bar and plans to open a restaurant on the first floor. There are no famous chefs behind these restaurants, they are profitable or soon to be profitable businesses thanks to good honest food. They are small businesses run by people who are there every day. They represent the democratization of contemporary cuisine and offer a viable outlet for young chefs nowadays. They are Madrid’s answer to Barcelona’s bistronómicos, affordable bistros opened some years ago by avant-garde chefs, serving some very creative dishes (Embat, Gresca, Hisop, Coure…). They are also quite similar to concepts found in other cities, such as Septime and its sister restaurants in Paris.

 

4. Exotic palates

Gastroeconomy_PuntoMX

The palate of the Madrileños is becoming more adventurous, an obvious consequence of a new sociological reality (people travel more, know more about foreign cuisine, are familiar with a wider range of flavours) and in response to the enticing restaurants run by foreign chefs-cum-businessmen who have settled in the city. There are two distinct teams: Sudestada and Punto MX. Madrid is gastronomically better off thanks to both. The Sudestada team – or part of it – is behind Chifa, their Asian fusion restaurant, and Picsa, the new Argentinian pizzeria. Elsewhere, the owners of Punto MX hit the jackpot in May 2012 when they introduced Madrid to the best of Mexican cooking; their tables soon became the most sought after proving it was not just a passing trend. They also opened Mezcal Lab, a bar specializing in mezcal and tacos (see the octopus in photo), where it’s easier than in the restaurant to find a table (both are in the same building on different floors). There are lots of interesting exotic and multicultural projects too: La PanamericanaLa Cevicuchería (a spin-off project by the owners of Tampu), Tiradito (a sort of reformulated Wakathai, run by Lima-born Jaime Pesaque) and the newly opened Kena, a Japanese-Peruvian buffet created by the brilliant Luis Arévalo; others include Jaime Renedo’s Asiana NextdoorKabuki (which has two Michelin-starred restaurants), the Lebanese Du Liban and 19 Sushi Bar.

 

5. Branches of well-known restaurants

Gastroeconomy_Villoldo

The success of restaurateurs from different parts of Spain who set up in the capital reflects a demand for well-prepared regional dishes. Three in particular top our list: Villoldo (see photo), featuring the Palencian-style cuisine found at Estrella del Bajo Carrión; La Carmencita, where visitors can enjoy a twist on traditional Cantabrian cuisine by Carlos Zamora and family; and Alabaster, the Madrid branch of Alborada in Coruña.

 

6. Month of news

Gastroeconomy_OsteriaLaNorma

The news of the last few months keeps coming: for instance, Al Trapo, hails ‘the return of’ Paco Morales with his carefully formulated ‘casual haute cuisine’ at Hotel de Las Letras; The Hall, ‘phase 2’ of Nodo; El 31, located in the premises of the former Club 31; More, under chef Iván Sáez; Ostería La Norma, where Alfredo Gelso (previous owner of Dámaso, La Fiorentina and Da Alfredo) offers a new style of Sicilian cuisine (see photo); Que si quieres arroz Catalina, opened recently by Grupo La Misión in Casa de Campo, specializing in rice dishes by the young chef from El Bulli, Rafa Morales (formerly overseeing La Alquería, at Hacienda Benazuza, Sevilla). What else? Oh yes, Diego Guerrero, who’s whetting our appetite with tweets on social media about his new venture. We wish every success to this Vitoria-born chef who has 2 Michelin stars earned at El Club Allard, in Madrid. He has been living in the capital for nearly 14 years and has plans to open a restaurant very soon where, for the first time, he’ll be in charge of both the business and the kitchen.

 

7. Clandestine and private clubs

Gastroeconomy_ComplicationsBar

Semi-clandestine or private eating clubs are on the riseA de Arzábal, is the club privé run by Arzábal; Yugo Sushi & Kobe is a Japanese ‘bunker’ located under a take-away joint; Complications Bar (in the photo above), the jazz bar in Franck Muller’s new boutique in the Jardín de Serrano shopping mall; and Club Matador.

 

8. Organic shopping baskets

Gastroeconomy_MamaCampo_Colmado

Has the demand for everything organic reached fever pitch? When eating the best tomatoes or buying eco-produce at the market ceases to be cool, Madrid will be the better for it, and a much more interesting place. If going organic is a fad, we don’t want it, especially if it’s over-priced. What we do want is good quality, reasonably priced produce. Places like Mamá Campo offer just this; they have recently expanded into three separate businesses in and around Plaza de Olavide: La Cocinita de Chamberí, their first venture, a children’s health food store; a well-stocked health store (see photo above) and a recently opened restaurant (two weeks old), which serves dishes made with the produce from the store. Elsewhere, new ideas for businesses are springing up around the city like the online minimarket Petra Mora and two noteworthy bakeries, Madre Hizo Pan and Panic, opened four months ago by Javier Marca on Conde Duque.

 

9. Sweet offerings

Gastroeconomy_Fonty

Where to go for breakfast, afternoon tea or to have fun between meals? Cake shops turned tea-rooms: Pomme Sucre, Mamá Framboise and Fonty, a French-style patisserie opened last autumn selling croissants and buns to die for.

 

10. Acclaimed restaurants

Gastroeconomy_Filandon

That isn’t all, Madrid has even more to offer. There are other outstanding names in the food sector: As well as the two-starred restaurants (SantceloniRamón FreixaLa Terraza del CasinoSergi Arola and El Club Allard minus chef Diego Guerrero), there is the recently-awarded three-starred DiverXO (currently moving premises) and David Muñoz’s StreetXO (soon to open a restaurant in London); as well as two Madrid classics, Horcher and Zalacaín. And to complete the list, here is a mixum-gatherum of different places worth considering: SachaLa Tasquita de EnfrenteO’Pazo and the Pescaderías Coruñesas sister restaurants, El Pescador and Filandón,Viridiana de Abraham García, the La Manduca de Azagra featuring a fresh take on the cuisine of Navarre, Combarro (the ‘empanada’ is better than many found in Galicia), Manuel Domínguez’s Lúa , the refurbished AldabaViavélez de Paco RonCasa José (Fernando del Cerro and his family’s cuisine warrant the trip to Aranjuez), Rodrigo de la Calle’s new restaurant in the Villa Magna Hotel, Coque (Mario Sandoval’s restaurant located in Humanes on the outskirts of Madrid), César Martín’s Lakasa La Buena VidaLa Gabinoteca (not forgetting the parent restaurant La Ancha and its sister restaurant Las Tortillas de Gabino), TrezeRamsés (under the supervision and creative design of Valencian chef Ricard Camarena), LaredoLe CabreraAsturianosLa TorcazAlborada, Vaca Nostra and Rubaiyat for meat lovers, SammEl Cisne AzulGaztelupeEl CangrejeroAlmendro 13La ArdosaLa JuanaBodegas Ángel SierraSifónSylkarTartan and La Granja Rural Food. And that’s about it, now it’s up to you to choose.

So, in the end, we’ve managed to put together a list of 100 places to discover culinary Madrid. Bon appétit!

More information

Spanish version of this article to read here

Puedes leer la versión en español de este artículo aquí

10 Trends in culinary management in 2014 

Photo source: The restaurants, Aida Pozuelo (photo of Crumb) and MFG-Gastroeconomy.

Acerca del autor



"Soy economista de formación y periodista de profesión. Mi vocación es escribir, casi de lo que sea. Por una promoción profesional, empecé a escribir sobre gastronomía como vía de escape y, tras unos años, es a lo que decidí dedicarme, con el portal GASTROECONOMY como principal proyecto. Me encanta comer y escribir y sostengo que, en el sector gastronómico, hay mucho que contar desde la seriedad, el rigor y la profesionalidad. La palabra 'foodie', que formó parte del subtítulo de este 'site' en sus primeros años, hoy me da alergia. En todo caso, el lujo es poder escribir, algo que me encanta y que me enseñaron a hacer en mi casa y en el diario económico Expansión (www.expansion.com)”.

5 Comentarios
  • 2014 new cycling rainproof
    Publicado a las 03:24h, 27 mayo Responder

    I really like your writing style, good info , thanks for posting : D.

  • Cecilia Lami
    Publicado a las 10:45h, 18 septiembre Responder

    Your web site and post are amazing and interesting . Please post mire in English!

  • renee
    Publicado a las 18:46h, 09 diciembre Responder

    Cool idea for an article! We are seeing a lot of the same trends over here in Barcelona. Lots of exciting culinary action happening in Spain lately!

  • Latest Mens Fashion
    Publicado a las 08:33h, 17 diciembre Responder

    Excellent article! We are linking to this great post on our website.
    Keep up the great writing.

  • Silvia
    Publicado a las 00:12h, 08 febrero Responder

    Thanks a lot! We tried Osteria la Norma … and we probably had one of the best fish carpaccios, traditional Sicilian pasta and wide selection of Italian cheeses and an ancient Sicilian dessert – check it at http://www.osterialanorma.com

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