There are infinite reasons to travel to Madrid: art, history, a buzzing nightlife, beautiful weather and, last but not least, food!
Madrid’s food scene is dynamic and varied and the sheer number of food establishments in town means you are never more than a few metres away from some food. Despite this abundance, or maybe because of it, it can be hard to pick a good place and, in the past, I remember having less than spectacular food experiences.
Scarred by the memory of horribly dry pastry and cold tortilla (I know, first world problem, forgive me) this time, I enlisted the help of some local friends and picked their brain about what they consider the best restaurants in Madrid. ‘Best’ in my book is a place with good, genuine food, welcoming ambiance and a non-exorbitant price tag and my friends raised to the challenge with spectacular results. They sent me a list of places that I had the pleasure to test at the weekend: they were all great and made my short Madrilean break even more special.
If you are looking for ideas on what to order, also check out this article by Savored Journeys about foods you must eat in Spain
Please note: all opinions expressed in this article are my own and I received no compensation for them. These are my favourite addresses and personal considerations about where to eat in Madrid.
8 of the best places to eat in Madrid
The suggestion about Mama Framboise came accompanied by the following statement: ‘It’s the best breakfast in Madrid‘ This cute cafe is in the stylish neighbourhood of Colon, a few metro stations away from the city centre area of Puerta del Sol. If you are not staying in Colon, you might find the need to get the metro off-putting, but if you do take the (short) metro ride, I believe you will not regret it: Mama Framboise is a lovely place and the breakfast is delicious.
As the name suggests, Mama Framboise is a French-inspired patisserie serving a mix of Spanish and French bites, ranging from bocadillos, to savoury pancakes, macaroons, pastries and cakes (also available for take-out). Its decor is what I would call shabby chic, with a touch of more contemporary style. Big solid wood tables, chalkboards with daily specials, panels of wallpaper make the room warm and welcoming while the big screens at the back of the bar showcase beautiful images of the food served and invite you to make use of their catering system. The place has a lovely local flair to it and it’s a great address for a weekend brunch.
- Where to eat in Madrid: breakfast
- Location: near Colon metro station
- When to go: for breakfast or tea, tends to fill up at weekends
- What to order: we had a great ‘tostada de Jamon’, coffee and lemon cake. All excellent.
- Suitable for families with kids? Yes. There is not a lot of room for buggies but children are welcome and there are basic baby changing facilities
Again an establishment in Colon and recommended by the same (and super trustworthy) friend who recommended Mama Framboise! Platea is not a restaurant as such but an old art-deco cinema now converted into a stylish market and food hall. Located on c/Goya, Platea looks like a conference centre from the outside (or a grocery store, depending on the entrance you see first) but is neither: a huge, elegant indoor space, Platea has several gourmet food shops and restaurants serving anything from jamon to sushi and drinks.
The architecture is what is truly peculiar about this place: looking around, you can still clearly see the different levels that would have hosted the cinema seats and the screen and despite a stylish modern refurbishment, the art deco details of the original establishment are preserved.
- Where to eat in Madrid: tapas, lunch, dinner
- Location: near metro Colon
- Worth if staying in a different part of town? Yes
- Suitable for families with kids? Yes, at least in the morning, when we visited for a quick bite. Possibly less suitable with young children in the evening, when concerts and art events also take place.
- What to order: we couldn’t get over the cured meat and cheese shops, but the choice ranges from Michelin star restaurants to Mexican and sushi bars
Mercado San Miguel
Located beside Plaza Mayor, Mercado San Miguel is famous both as an established food market and historical building. Built between the late XIX – early XX century, the Mercado is the last remaining cast iron market hall in Madrid and it is worth a visit for both its architectural significance (and beauty) and the quality of the food served: walking along its aisles, marked by black, elegant cast iron columns, you are assaulted by the delicious smell of grilled fish, mushrooms, tortillas, and freshly fried seafood – the only problem you will have here is to pick one stall over the other as they all look absolutely delicious!
The central part of the market has some tables and stools where you can have a bite or even just a drink. Beer and wine are both served and drinks and food vendor follow the same philosophy: ‘provide a high-quality gastronomic experience thought the best local produce possible’. Go during the week for your best chance of grabbing a seat – the place is packed at the weekend.
- Where to eat in Madrid: tapas
- Location: beside Plaza Mayor
- Suitable for families with children: only at quite times: at the weekends or after-work the place bursts at the seams and negotiating your way through the crowd is all but easy and plain impossible with a buggy or holding hands with a child
La senda de Xiquena
In Chueca, close to plaza de Cibeles, this is the only place on this list we picked simply because we liked its look when passing by! It is a small local tapas bar that attracted our attention because of the many local office workers taking their lunch there: always a good sign! I wouldn’t cross the city specifically to eat here, but if you are in the vicinity, their tortilla is special and the empanadas delicious (I am told the chef is from Argentina)
- Where to eat in Madrid: lunch tapas
- Location: C/del Prim
- Suitable with children: I wouldn’t say the palce is unsuitable but the high bar-style chairs and the small space might prove tricky with very young kids or buggies
- What to order: tortilla (really special, one of the best I ever tasted, and empanadas)
Casa Lucio is one of those names that keep coming up when talking about the Madrid food scene and for a reason. Located in La Latina distric, very close to Plaza Mayor, this is a great address for traditional and earthy tapas. This place is very popular but if you elbow your way in and ask for a table, as opposed to a seat at the bar, you will be served in a quick and efficient manner. Highlights for us were the pimientos del padron, jamon and a tomato and goat cheese tartare.
- Where to eat in Madrid: traditional tapas
- Location: Cava Baja
- Suitable with children: yes, but try to get a table downstairs, much quieter and close to the facilities
Cafe de Oriente
Located just in front of the Royal palace this cafe is in a quintessential tourist spot but it’s worth a visit if you feel like treating yourself to coffee and cake in stylish surroundings. The name made me think of a Moorish style cafe, but the dominant influence here, in my opinion, is old Europe (think Vienna and the Sacher cafe): it’s a very pleasant spot, decorated with carpets, elegant sofas and chandeliers and strikes a good balance between old world charm and a more modern vibe, thanks to the Leonard Cohen soundtrack, paper origami decorating the bar and pleasant and young staff. Not the cheapest address in town by any stretch of the imagination, but worth it if you feel like a touch of luxury.
- Where to eat in Madrid: coffee and cake
- Location: Plaza de Oriente, in front of the Royal palace
- What to order: coffee and cake
- Suitable with children: yes, especially the outside (covered) terrace
A great address for dinner, if you are looking for more than just tapas. Bar Tomate is the Chamberi district and is a stylish but understated restaurant serving a varied menu of Mediterranean and Basque-inspired dishes. We ordered a mix of traditional tapas as a starter, sushi and bigger main courses of meat and fish.
- Where to eat in Madrid: brunch, lunch, dinner
- Location: Fernando el Santo, Chamberi
- Suitable with children: yes (lunch only)
- What to order: if you like meat, their beef ‘tagliata’ is special
I mention this restaurant last, but it was one of the highlights of our weekend both in terms of quality of food and ambiance. Punk Bach defines itself as ‘the most cosmopolitan brasserie in Madrid’ and is a very special place: its name comes from the idea that ‘we all have a bit of punk and a bit of retro in ourselves’ and both decor and menu strike the perfect mix of these two sometimes incompatible styles: distressed mirrors and round lampshades hint to old Parisian cafes, the bar in the centre has more of a New York/Meat packing district flair to it and the tartan waistcoats of the waitress add an extra twist to the mix. Decor aside, what makes this place special is the food: both the beef and the squid were delicious and the custard and biscuits I had as dessert were to die for. The place is not cheap but, in my opinion, worth stretching the budget: excellent for a special occasion or date night
- Where to eat in Madrid: dinner (special occasion)
- Location: Paseo de la Castellana
- Worth travelling to it from the other side of town: YES
- Suitable with children: no
These are my top picks for food in Madrid, I am sure you’ll have more addresses to add: please let me know in the comments where I should go my next time in town!
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