Madrid is a brilliant city for foodies, and visitors are spoiled for choice when it comes to places to eat. But where can you sample some of the city’s most famous tapas? We take a look at some of the tastiest dishes to sample and the best tapas bars to visit when visiting Madrid.
Tortilla de patatas
Spanish potato omelette is a tapas staple, usually served as a pintxo de tortilla (slice or tortilla). It is made by frying eggs and potatoes in a pan and, depending on the bar, sometimes adding onion – there is a great debate in Spain over whether tortilla is best with or without onion!
Where to try it
In Salamanca’s Mercado de la Paz, Casa Dani is a neighbourhood favourite if you like your tortilla gooey and runny, while in La Latina, Juana La Loca is renowned for its tortilla made with caramelised onions. In Malasaña, Bodega La Ardosa, open since 1892, claims to serve one of the best tortillas in Madrid.
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While foreigners might consider paella to be Spain’s national food, the truth is, it is more likely to be cured ham. Jamón ibérico is made from black-hooved pigs that are raised eating only acorns, giving the ham a unique taste. The ham legs are displayed on a special ham leg stand and master slicers cut the meat wafer thin.
Where to try it
Casa Gónzalez, in the literary quarter of Las Letras, has been in the same family since it opened in 1931 as a neighbourhood shop. Today, it’s a cosy deli and wine bar, offering quality meats and cheeses from around Spain. Museo del Jamón is a must-visit, if only to gawp at the dozens of ham legs hanging from the rafters. This no-frills local chain does plates of ham, ham sandwiches and many other options.
Pintxos are tapas native to the Basque Country in northern Spain. They typically consist of morsels of delicious food placed on top of a crusty piece of bread. Although not from Madrid, it’s definitely worth seeking out a pintxo bar when visiting the Spanish capital because it’s a whole different way of doing tapas. Typically, plates of pintxos sit on the bar top and customers can choose whatever they want.
Where to try them
Txakolina, on popular tapas street Cava Baja in La Latina, is a typical pintxo bar, with lots of delicious-looking options piled high on the bar. It can get very busy, but squeeze in, find a spot at the bar and try some creative pintxos washed down with a Txakoli, a Basque white wine. Nearby Juana La Loca has a bar of creative pintxos, while on the same street, Lamiak is another bar specialising in Basque pintxos.
Bacalao, or salt cod, is a popular snack in Madrid, especially when coated in batter and fried – delicious. Order some tajadas de bacalao (cod chunks) washed down with an ice-cold caña (little beer).
Where to try it
Two establishments in central Madrid are famed for their tajadas de bacalao – Casa Labra and Casa Revuelta. Casa Labra, just off the Puerta del Sol, is an old, wood-clad tavern that usually has queues snaking out of its door and down the street at weekends, as locals queue for its mouthwateringly good battered cod. Casa Revuelta is another small bar, close to the Plaza Mayor, where locals cram in to enjoy its renowned cod.
The humble mushroom can be taken to new and exciting heights in various tapas dishes in Madrid, with garlic mushrooms that will make your tastebuds sing.
Where to try them
We couldn’t talk about mushrooms and not mention the ‘House of the Mushrooms’ (Mesón del Champiñón), a popular tapas bar in central Madrid that specialises in – you guessed it – mushrooms. They are fried on a huge grill in front of your eyes with garlic, parsley and bacon. Skewer the mushroom with toothpicks and shove it into your mouth to preserve all the garlicky goodness. Bocaíto, in Chueca, is a traditional bar (beloved by film director Pedro Almodóvar) that specialises in quality Spanish produce, including wild mushrooms served with foie gras and wild mushroom toasts.
A crisp outside shell and a creamy inside are what make croquettes one of the most popular tapas in Madrid, available on most tapas menus. Traditional fillings include ham, cod or mushroom, while some places get a little more creative.
Where to try them
Casa Julio in Malasaña has two main claims to fame. One is that U2 once did a photo shoot there, and the other is that it has some of the best croquettes in Madrid. Flavours of the homemade round croquettes include ham, mushroom and a cheese and spinach house special. The prize for the sheer number of croquettes on offer must go to Javier Martín, in La Latina, a bar that has over 30 varieties, including delicious sweet versions.
Whether you enjoy them for breakfast or as a late-night snack, churros should definitely be on your list of things to try when in Madrid. While not strictly tapas, they make an excellent end to a tapas crawl. The deep-fried dough strips are typically dunked into thick hot chocolate for the ultimate indulgent treat.
Where to try them
Chocolatería San Ginés, founded in 1894, is, without doubt Madrid’s most famous churros place. It is open 24 hours a day and makes churros and only churros. Go after a night out and you’ll be surprised by how busy it still is, even in the early hours of the morning. Family-run Los Artesanos 1902 makes golden, crisp churros for locals and tourists. It was founded in 1902 and is another popular churro café in Madrid.
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