Chueca has transformed itself from a down-at-heel neighbourhood into one of the most stylish and exciting barrios in Madrid over the past decade. It is the hub of the city’s LGBT scene, and its boutiques, bars and restaurants are buzzing both day and night. But despite the area’s popularity there are plenty of affordable tapas options, from student favourites to a celebrity chef’s take on Japanese–Spanish fusion.
This wood-panelled old tavern was founded in 1929 and is a local favourite just off Gran Vía on Calle Hortaleza. Order a vermouth, a fortified wine that is a popular aperitif, or a glass of wine (there are over 40 different wines from around Spain available by the glass). The cold cuts and Spanish cheese tapas are excellent (top-quality Iberian ham is €12; Manchego cheese is €6), while there is also a good range of canapés and raciones – portions slightly larger than tapas that are ideal for sharing.
This sidrería, or cider bar, will likely be packed to the rafters if you arrive in the evening – the tapas here are so abundant and, more importantly, so free, that the bar is a firm favourite with students and those on the hunt for the best free tapas in Madrid. Order a cider or a beer for around €2.50 and you’ll get a plate piled high with different tapas, from Serrano ham and croquettes to Spanish omelette and patatas bravas (cubes of potato in a spicy tomato sauce).
There is a dining room at the back, but the real action and atmosphere are in the buzzing bar area of this charming tapas bar. It’s a favourite of legendary Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar (see the photo on the wall for proof). The tapas are traditional Spanish with a twist. Toasts, including smoked crab, cod and asparagus, start at around €6, while there is a good range of tapas such as croquettes from around €2.
It may not be tapas in the traditional Spanish sense, but celebrity chef Alberto Chicote adds a Spanish touch to his Japanese dishes at this Chueca restaurant. The whole menu is based around yakitoros, Chicote’s self-coined term that means mini-Japanese kebabs, cooked over a charcoal grill. Whether you fancy meat, fish or veggies, there is something for you and best of all, the prices are reasonable. Aubergine tempura with red miso and paprika is €3.90, beef bone marrow grilled and caramelised with katsuobushi (dried and fermented tuna) is €6.60 and wagyu ribs grilled in teriyaki sauce is €7.40.
The style and elegance of this Chueca favourite belies its reasonable prices with its creative and often Instagram-worthy dishes. The ‘Bazaar-style’ tuna tartar is €7.58, white artichoke with langoustine is €8.50 and egg with chorizo over Parmentier potatoes is €8.49. As well as tapas, Bazaar offers pasta and rice dishes and a good variety of fish and meat options.
This bustling local joint has great tapas options and a lively atmosphere. Prices are decent for creative, delicious tapas such as aubergine with parmesan (€5.50) and Iberian pork sirloin marinated in bitter orange (€8), while there are also lots of tempting raciones (larger portions ideal for sharing) available, such as octopus in a pepper and Cava sauce (€10.75).
This tapas chain specialises in free tapas and has a menu of options to choose from that come free with every drink. The different free tapas, of which there are over 20, include everything from Spanish omelette and crab salad to cheeseburgers and hotdogs. A good option if you’re after a no-frills place that is easy on the wallet.