Madrid's 10 Best Restaurants For Al Fresco Dining

Madrid's Plaza Mayor | © Sebastian Dubiel/WikiCommons
Madrid's Plaza Mayor | © Sebastian Dubiel/WikiCommons
Photo of Thomas Rees
9 February 2017

As essential to a Castilian summer as gazpacho, tinto de verano and a siesta, dining al fresco ranks highly among Spanish national pastimes. In Madrid, hundreds of restaurants boast terraces, gardens and rooftop views. Ideal for laid-back lunches or dinner under the stars, here are 10 of the city’s best.

The view from Tartan Roof | Courtesy of Tartan Roof

La Terraza del Casino

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$

Overseen by legendary Spanish chef Ferran Adrià and run by Paco Roncero, one of his most talented disciples, La Terraza del Casino has a strong claim to being the best high-end restaurant in Madrid. The menu is constantly changing, keeping pace with the seasons and the creative output of the restaurant’s chefs who devise dishes like seaweed lollipops, nitro-poached maize with black truffle gel and foie gras air, and lobster with pink grapefruit and olive oil. The terraza itself, on the roof of the opulent Casino de Madrid and surrounded by stately buildings, is among the city’s most elegant.

Restaurante Sacha

The toast of food-loving locals and many of Spain’s best chefs, Restaurante Sacha is a charming neighborhood bistro in the north of Madrid, renowned for its outstanding seasonal cuisine. Book ahead to secure one of the tables on the leafy garden terrace and enjoy the simply prepared market produce. Among owner Sacha Hormaecheato’s signature dishes are crisp, fried artichokes; beef with bone marrow; sea urchin ravioli; and clams with salsa verde. The wine list is similarly superb, while the smartly dressed staff are invariably helpful and courteous. At around €70 a head, Sacha is no budget option, despite being well away from the center of town. But it’s unquestionably worth it.

Gau & Café

Restaurant, Spanish
Gau&Café by night
Gau&Café by night | Courtesy of Gau&Café
Perched atop a ruined chapel in artsy Lavapiés, a city center barrio that’s fast becoming one of Madrid’s trendiest, Gau & Café’s location is almost too good to be true. Order a gin and tonic from the bar (they’re the height of madrileño fashion these days), choose from the café-style menu which features Spanish classics alongside dishes like Vietnamese summer rolls and couscous with spiced lamb and apricots, and drink in the views. With close-ups of the chapel’s circular tower, picture perfect in its dilapidation, and a panorama that includes some of the city’s few remaining corralas, traditional apartment blocks with courtyards and communal balconies, you’ll get an insight into Madrid’s architectural history in the process.

Restaurante El Espejo

With a pavement terrace and an elegant glass pavilion decorated with patterned tiles and varnished woodwork, Restaurante El Espejo is among the most genteel of Madrid’s al fresco establishments. Its classic Spanish menu is strong on tapas and raciones (portions) with more substantial dishes, including loin of pork, grilled hake, and apple mille-feuille with apricot sauce, to follow. Just a short walk from the treelined avenues of Madrid’s Parque del Buen Retiro and the recently redesigned Museo Arqueológico Nacional, its a good place to relax and take stock after a day of sightseeing.
El Espejo, Paseo de Recoletos 31, Madrid, Spain, +34 913 08 23 47

El Viajero

Bar, Restaurant, Tapas, Spanish, $$$

Located in the heart of La Latina, a neighborhood renowned for its tapas bars and for hosting the sprawling El Rastro flea market on Sunday mornings, El Viajero draws an artsy young crowd. The restaurant on the ground floor specializes in South American-style grilled meats, receiving favorable reports, but the garden terrace on the roof is the real draw. Adorned with pot plants, bric-a-brac and flowering trellises, it offers views of the surrounding churches and makes a great place to watch the sun go down. There are cocktails to enjoy as you wait, with pizzas, salads and a few sharing plates on offer too.

Restaurante El Oso

Restaurant, Spanish, $$$
Specializing in the cuisine of Asturia, a region in the north of Spain renowned for its seafood, cider, and pungent mountain cheeses, as well as for fabada asturiana, a stew of white beans cooked with chorizo and morcilla (blood sausage), El Oso (‘The Bear’) is one of the best traditional restaurants in Madrid. As carefully thought out as the menu, the restaurant’s wine list includes bottles from over 100 Spanish bodegas. Though worth a visit at any time of year, it’s especially popular during the summer when the patio terrace and tranquil gardens are open to guests.

Los Galayos

It’s easy to write off the restaurants on Madrid’s Plaza Mayor as gastronomically vacuous tourist traps; places you’d go to nurse an over-priced beer and admire the view before moving swiftly on. While that’s true of many, Los Galayos is different. Living up to its top drawer location, this madrileño institution has been going strong since 1894, churning out Castilian classics like chuletón (bone-in rib steak), suckling pig with fried potatoes, and roast cod with peppers. If you’re in the mood for something lighter, there’s an extensive tapas menu too.

Restaurante Los Galayos, Calle Botoneras 5, Madrid, Spain, +34 913 66 30 28

Azotea del Círculo/Tartan Roof

A mountain-framed panorama of the city, the view from the Azotea del Círculo, on the roof of Madrid’s grandiose public arts center, the Círculo de Bellas Artes, is nothing short of spectacular. Along with a varied program of film screenings and concerts, the Azotea plays host to a series of pop up restaurants designed by celebrity chef Javier Muñoz-Calero. The latest incarnation, Tartan Roof, offers a menu inspired by South America and the Asiatic, featuring inventive works of fusion like pad thai with crunchy noodles, langoustines, cashew nuts, mango and pico de gallo. On the drinks menu you’ll find classic cocktails, wine, cava, and a long list of speciality gins.

Círculo de Bellas Artes, Calle de Alcalá 42, Madrid, Spain, +34 913 60 54 00

Restaurante Cafe del Río

From Cafe del Río’s terrace on the far bank of the Manzanares River you get fantastic views of Madrid’s Palacio Royal and of the Santa María la Real de La Almudena, the city’s vast Catholic Cathedral which was finally completed in 1993. Though it costs a little more to sit outside (as it does in many madrileño restaurants) Cafe del Río is surprisingly affordable given the location. A set lunch menu of bistro-style dishes, such as ibérico pork with caramelized onions, salmon en papillote and fried aubergines with honey, costs just €12. After dinner you can wander along the river bank, now an expansive park with landscaped gardens.

La Cocina de San Antón

Restaurant, Spanish, Mediterranean, European, Vegetarian, $$$

After years languishing in idle dilapidation, Madrid’s food markets have been through a renaissance. Though a little pricier than some, Mercado San Antón is one of the best, in large part thanks to this laid back roof terrace restaurant. Along with cocktails and magnificent views, you’ll find a range of tapas-style plates to choose from, including gazpacho, wild asparagus in romesco sauce, and superb ibérico ham. A new ‘Cooking’ scheme means you can even buy cuts of meat from selected stalls in the market below and have them cooked to order in the restaurant. ¡Buen provecho!

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