Eating out in Madrid: where’s good to eat, and what to avoid

27 March 2020

"There’s a lot to be said for the Spanish culture and lifestyle. A relaxed approach to life, with late nights and lazy mornings – the country is made for students like me". In his second blog Ben recommends us the best places to eat in Madrid.


There’s a lot to be said for the Spanish culture and lifestyle. A relaxed approach to life, with late nights and lazy mornings – the country is made for students like me, who can barely function most mornings and just want to hit snooze on the alarm clock.

Recently, the positives of the Spanish lifestyle have been making headlines once more – by 2040, Spaniards are expected to have the longest life expectancy, overtaking the famous longevity of the Japanese. Much of this reason is due to the famed ‘Mediterranean diet’ of the Spanish – a palate full of fish, mountains of fruit and vegetables (especially oranges and tomatoes, which are sold in huge bags), and seeds and nuts. All very healthy foods. That’s not to say that they don’t forego all of life’s vices – a glass of wine or beer is seen on the dinner table with all meals. What’s life, after all, without the smaller pleasures. This, combined with the slow, low-stress ‘mañana’ (basically, ‘meh, I’ll do it tomorrow’) attitude to many things in life means that Spaniards are certainly reaping the benefits of the good life.


I’ve certainly been able to benefit from parts of this lifestyle, despite Madrid being over 300km from the Mediterranean – even the seafood paella can be decent, despite the distance from the sea. Eating out is often brilliant, though I have got bored of the tapas staples of patatas bravas and plates of Serrano ham. Many restaurants, such as my personal favourite, El MiniBar (also the favourite of thousands of TripAdvisor reviewers), have produced modern tapas dishes, incorporating Asian and other European tastes into their small plates. Two of the best are some sort of molten cheese covered in a sweet chutney, and a really, really good duck tapas dish. In a similar style, Rosi la Loca, a restaurant absolutely covered in flowers on the outside, and parrots on the inside. There, in addition to decent paella, their tapas dishes each have a fun quirk. One of the best I’ve seen is literally tuna tataki floating on a gondola of dry ice. Oh, the cocktails are all pretty good, if a bit sweet, and each has its own fun quirk – like a metre long straw!


Plus, being in a Spanish-speaking country, the Mexican food is also brilliant! At places like Takos al Pastor, you can get €2 tacos which are seriously good. The margaritas are also only a fiver, which, for what you’re getting, is a brilliant deal. The only problem is that the place is so popular, you have to queue around the block to get in.


I should also mention Madrid’s speciality sweet treat, churros (for those who don’t know, imagine a long hot doughnut). When you get them from places like the San Gines Chocolatería, you get a mug of piping hot chocolate with them. Really good to cure a hangover or just have a fatty-sugar hit to start the day.

However, my experience with Spanish food certainly has been hit and miss. For every brilliant tapas or churro place, there are fifty places that will literally just give you a piece of dry meat (chicken that looks and feels like rubber, anyone?), cold chips and a few pieces of lettuce. If you’re really lucky, you’ll get a few lumps of mystery meat in what I guess is supposed to be ‘gravy’! This sort of food, which I’ve stumbled across in my hungry state too many times now, definitely isn’t what the locals are eating, especially if they want to live to a hundred!


That’s my downfall, really. It doesn’t help that my own ability to cook is limited essentially to pesto pasta, spaghetti Bolognese and pasta salads (in total probably about 80% of my diet). Better to gamble that a random cafe won’t give me rubbery chicken, than to endure another disappointing pasta salad.

Or, I could learn to cook properly. But I’d break that resolution, and the bank, in favour of churros and tuna tataki any day.


By: Ben Cartwright