I have to confess that the main reason to go to Madrid last time was to see a movie — a bit decadent, I know … Being a diehard fan of the Spanish TV series Isabel, I did not want to miss its cinema sequel La Corona Partida; therefore, short after it was out, I booked the tickets and headed to Madrid.
It was noon, and we were already hungry, because our day had started pretty early. The Mercado de San Miguel was a five minutes’ walk from our hotel, so we went there and kicked off with some traditional tapas. I will not write much about it, because the place is already so well known, and there are enough reviews. Just stop by if you are in the historic center. You will not want to leave before trying something.
- A few steps away from the Mercado de San Miguel, you can find the Plaza de la Villa, a charming small square showing different 17th-century styles. 5 min (450 m) walk from Metro L2/L5-Opera
Let’s keep moving! If by any chance you are close to the Teatro Real, and you think that it is time for a break, there is this snug coffee bar, located on a side road, La Ciudad Invisible. The staff is friendly, and the atmosphere is relaxed and casual. They serve fair-trade coffees and teas, and their list of drinks and cocktails is not short. The juices, shakes, and smoothies are freshly prepared with natural products. They also have salads, sandwiches, tapas, and homemade cakes in case you feel like having a bite. In the morning it is closed, but you can go for a nightcap until midnight. It also opens on Sundays, when you can try their brunch. It was nice to find a place like this, especially in such a busy area.
- La Ciudad Invisible is also a travel specialized library with free WiFi, where you can buy travel guides or borrow some. 2 min (130 m) walk from Metro L2/L5-Opera
Looking for typical Castilian cuisine, we tried this time Casa Lucio, in the heart of the bustling Cava Baja. It is for sure a genuine, traditional restaurant in Madrid, almost a landmark. Although the place was amazingly busy, the staff was friendly and efficient. I had never seen so many tables put together in one room. The order came promptly, and we were delighted with each plate.
As starters we had pimientos de Padrón (salted green peppers) and the most-famous huevos estrellados (scrambled eggs) served with fries. Now that we have tried the huevos estrellados, we understand why it is Lucio’s signature dish. It is such a simple thing but still so perfectly cooked that it turns into something fabulous!
The main course was churrasco (a piece of beef from a male calf). To reach the right doneness, the cooking was finished on a hot plate at the table.
We had a bottle of Alión 2012, which perfectly paired with the beef.
We liked the experience at Casa Lucio and will certainly return because they have so many dishes we still want to try.
- Casa Lucio is so good, so popular, so busy, and so booked out, that you must call really in advance to get a table. 4 min (350 m) walk from Metro L5-LaLatina
Between what is called the Golden Triangle of Art, made up of the three major art museums of Madrid (Prado, Reina Sofia, and Thyssen-Bornemisza) and the Plaza de Santa Ana, you will find La Mucca de Prado. I really like La Mucca with its laid-back, urban ambience (high ceiling, big windows, lounge music), great location, courteous service, delicious drinks, and an open-all-day kitchen — unlike many restaurants in Spain. They carry a varied menu of well prepared food to satisfy all appetites (tapas, salads, pizza, burgers, pasta, and dishes with Spanish, Mexican or Thai flavors and, of course, desserts). This is a place where definitely everybody finds something. They have a daily lunch menu and also a ‘solidarity dish’ that is the pizza boletus, if you order it, 50 cents are donated to a children’s foundation.
My favorite drink here is the sangría de cava, which tastes amazingly fresh with cava instead of wine. The bar also prepares pisco sours!
Girls had sea bass en papillote with vegetables, which was light and perfectly cooked. Men ordered some pasta with Moroccan style meatballs, also yummy.
The wine was a delicious Hacienda Monasterio 2012 from the Ribera del Duero.
- Book online if
you want to get a table. The place is popular and especially busy in the
- 4 min (300 m) walk from Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza or from Plaza de Santa Ana.
- Some pieces of furniture and decoration used in the restaurant are also for sale. Perhaps you walk out with a souvenir.
- 6 min (450 m) walk to Casa Patas — for absolutely terrific live flamenco.
For sure, there are many good places in Madrid, but Casa 9 is absolutely my favorite foodie spot in this incredible city. Eating here feels like being at your good friends’ house. Actually, after so many visits for lunch and dinner, the hosts, Mario (maître) and Javier (chef), have become some kind of friends. They give us a sincere, warm welcome every time they see us. What is really nice is that they are like that with all their guests.
What I appreciate the most is that Javier takes special care in selecting only seasonable and fresh products, cooking traditional dishes his own way. He seems to be a sincere, spontaneous person, and his dishes reflect that. What you get on your plate is authentic, but at the same time creative, making it especially enjoyable. You can tell he loves what he is doing. From time to time he leaves his kitchen for a chat to see if you are liking his food, and he may even give you the recipe! Apparently, he comes from an Asturian family, where food played a major role at home; I think, I can identify myself with that. Mario is the perfect host, welcoming and checking that all is running smoothly and that every guest will leave his house satisfied.
They have a different menu with a couple of choices for lunch and dinner. The menu changes daily, depending on what was found fresh in the market. The price is more than fair. As an example, you can get a fantastic weekday lunch, which includes starter, main course, dessert, water/wine/beer, and coffee, for Eur 15.95!
This time I ordered the croquetas — crispy outside and incredibly smooth inside. They were the best I had ever had in Spain. I told Javier I will not be able to order them anywhere else. My main course was also excellent: fish fillet with fresh boletus. To finish we shared dessert, so we had tarte tatin and chocolate pie with vanille icecream, delicious.
I am including pictures of other things we have tried in previous visits. I would not think of being in Madrid and not stopping by Casa 9.
- Located a few steps from the Gran Via. 2 min (180 m) walk from Metro L1/L5-GranVia
- The restaurant is really limited in size with room for perhaps only 10-12 small tables, so call to reserve, because it is such an excellent place that it is always booked out.
On our last day in Madrid, we wanted to go shopping and just eat something small before taking the plane. We followed a friend’s recommendation to go to Calle Fuencarral – my favorite for shopping in Madrid – and look for the Mercado de San Ildefonso.
A street corner building that has opened last summer as a gastronomic mark; watch out while you walk down the street, you may miss it. It holds 18 really tiny food stands, three bars, and two terraces.
It is definitely oriented to young people with its hip, upbeat atmosphere. The food stands offer tapas or small portions to eat there or to go.
I tried charcoal-grilled beef from Bovinus Luxury. The beef was amazingly tender and full of roasted flavors, delicious.
San Ildefonso has been a great discovery for us!