Tapas, a classic Spanish culinary treat, are certainly not to be missed during your stay in Madrid. We’ve rounded up some of the best that the Spanish capital has to offer, in restaurants ranging from the traditional to the modern to the Michelin-starred
Tapas have a long history that may date back as far as the 16th century. There are many stories around their evolution from a simple snack offered to weary travellers to a gastronomic experience in their own right – and the offering in the Spanish capital certainly doesn’t disappoint when it comes to high-end tapas.
Tapa is the Spanish word for cover, referring to a long-gone time when pieces of cheese or bread, or a little dish of snacks, were placed on top of drinks – initially to keep flies out. Today, tapas consists of small plates of either hot or cold food with typically Mediterranean flavours. Whether you’re a traditionalist who enjoys classic patatas bravas (potato in spicy tomato sauce) with a side of aioli (garlic mayonnaise) or you’re an experimental diner searching for the most unusual combinations around, Madrid’s food scene has something for you. The beauty of tapas comes from trying new combinations and sharing plates with friends, so get ready to pull up a chair, gather round and tuck in to some of Madrid’s top menus.
La Casa del Abuelo
If you’re seeking an authentic Spanish tapas experience, La Casa del Abuelo is a great place to start. Founded in 1906, it was initially a spot where locals could enjoy sweet wine and donuts. By the 1930s the tapas menu was in full swing and the chefs were selling more than 1,500 snacks per day. To rejuvenate the business in the 1940s, the owners decided to focus on prawns, and the rest is history. As well as a full tapas menu, the house is particularly famous for its garlic prawns, which have been devoured by the rich and famous of Madrid for over 70 years; we’d recommend ordering two portions as they’re too good to share.
La Casa del Abuelo, Calle de la Victoria 12, 28012 Madrid, +32 91 000 0133
It’s not often that tapas comes with a side of Michelin star, but that’s the case at contemporary Madrid restaurant Álbora. Strictly speaking, the Michelin star belongs to the fine-dining restaurant upstairs; however, that’s not to say the elegant tapas bar on the ground floor hasn’t inherited a little of its shine. The tapas menu includes a plethora of forward-thinking culinary treats such as seaweed bread with baby squid and ham mayonnaise, and poached egg, Iberian ham and potato foam. Although not traditional, the soft-shell crab brioche roll is a definitely a highlight. Álbora’s offering is utterly delicious, unashamedly creative and a truly modern take on traditional Spanish fare.
Álbora, Calle de Jorge Juan 33, 28001 Madrid, +34 91 781 6197
Mercado de la Reina
Mercado de la Reina on Madrid’s bustling Gran Vía aims to create the perfect balance between nightlife and gastronomy. The very reasonably priced set menu offers sharing plates as well as classic individual tapas – and a quiet word with the executive chef can result in a personalised set menu just for your group. The real secret of Mercado de la Reina lies in the Gin Club, which offers a place to retire to once the Padrón peppers and Ibérico ham croquettes are done. The low lighting and list of over 40 gin and tonic combinations contribute to a perfect setting where you can digest and discuss the grilled octopus dish you’ve just eaten – or get ready to discover more of Madrid’s lively nightlife.
Mercado de la Reina, Calle Gran Vía 12, 28013 Madrid, +34 91 521 3198
Head chef and founder David Marcano worked at the world-famous Arzak restaurant in San Sebastián before launching his eponymous enterprise in Madrid in 2012. After enjoying rapid success, his restaurant moved to its current larger premises in 2014 and has been serving up delectable Madrid-style dishes ever since. The tempura artichokes and egg en cocotte with black truffle are not to be missed, while unconventional croquettes featuring mussels, prawns and Idiazábal cheese from the Basque region really set the tapas menu apart. David Marcano aims to bring traditional Spanish food to a point of culinary excellence, it certainly seems as though he is succeeding.
Marcano, Calle del Doctor Castelo 31, 28009 Madrid, +34 91 409 3642