Madrid Restaurants and Dining
Madrid is full of wonderful and exciting places to eat out, with a wide choice of every kind of food imaginable. The many stylish locations and enormous variety of excellent, mouth-watering menus provide nothing short of culinary perfection. Spanish cuisine is very varied and includes many different regional flavours such as Andalusian, Basque, Galician, Valencian, Castilian and Riojana.
Whether you are looking for a romantic meal for two or trendy, lively dining, the only problem is deciding where to go as there are so many restaurants to choose from!
Despite Madrid not being next to the sea, the Spanish fishing industry regularly delivers fresh seafood to the city and this is the main basis of many well-known dishes, including paella, with ingredients such as squid, shrimps and mussels, together with rice, chicken and rabbit. Madrid is one of the best places in Europe to enjoy quality seafood.
These are bite-sized snacks that accompany drinks and they are served throughout Madrid. Tapas is a real part of Spanish culture and very popular in the city. The tapas bars (tascas) can become very busy and they usually have plenty of atmosphere. Tapas started in the 18th century when Carlos III asked for his wine to be covered with a plate of food, to stop the dust from getting into it - 'tapa' literally means 'lid', which is where the name comes from. These days, the most common types of tapas include snails, deep-fried squid, mushrooms, baby eels, tripe, prawns, cold potato omelette, meatballs, potato salad, olives, cheeses, cold meats and tortillas. A meal in a tapas bar or café is a very social way to enjoy and share a large variety of food and different tastes.
Madrid has a huge variety of local and Spanish food, but when it comes to international food, there is not much choice. There are not many international restaurants and finding good quality alternatives can be difficult. American fast food chains are plentiful, as are their Spanish counterparts.
Restaurants in Madrid do not tend to cater very well for vegetarians and the choices are often fairly limited and basic, although choosing specific meat-free tapas can provide an easy way for a vegetarian to eat in this city. Good vegetarian restaurants do exist, but their numbers are small.
This is probably the most insignificant meal in Spain and is usually eaten between 08:00 to 10:00. A typical breakfast usually consists of little more than a 'café con leche', which is half coffee and half hot milk, with many different types of coffee to choose from. This is normally served with toast or fresh pastries, such as 'churros', which are popular fritters which are often deep-fried in front of you. Churros are soft and crunchy and simply must be dunked in your coffee - or as the Spanish favour, in a cup of thick, hot chocolate. If you are looking for something more filling, other options include breakfast tortillas and sandwiches. Many hotels also serve more continental breakfasts.
Lunch in Madrid rarely begins before 13:30 or even 14:00 and can last as late as 16:30. This is the main meal of the day for most locals and virtually all restaurants offer a lunchtime menu, which tends to provide the best value food. This is usually a three-course meal, with fairly limited choices for each course, and wine is often included in the price , which may be mixed with a sweet carbonated drink. The first course will generally be a selection of light food, such as soup, salad, lentils or chorizo sausage. For the second course, fish, meat or poultry is usually served with vegetables, although in Madrid, offal is also popular and may be offered. Dessert is often simply a choice of fresh fruit, delivered daily, such as oranges, peaches, pears, strawberries, grapes and melons, or pastries overflowing with whipped cream. Lunch is often followed by a welcome afternoon siesta.
Compared to other countries, Madrileños eat very late in the evening and although dinner may begin at 21:00, sometime after 22:00 is a more usual time to start the meal, particularly in the summer and also at the weekend. Madrid's countless snack bars and cafés keep people going during the long time between lunch and the evening meal. Many of Madrid's better restaurants are more enjoyable in the evenings than at lunchtimes, when they attract a mainly business clientele. Evening dinner may consist of a full meal, or something lighter, such as tapas.
Dining in Madrid doesn't need to be expensive. Here are a few tips on how to eat cheaply, but still eat well.
- When dining at lunchtime, select the lunchtime menu
- Seafood is usually one of the cheaper options for a meal
- Sit-down meals are usually cheaper at lunchtime, so try eating smaller meals in the evenings
- Tapas is a great way to sample many different types of food, at a low cost