Beat it, Barcelona. Everyone knows that Madrid is the new hot bed for the trendiest restaurants and passionate foodies!
In every corner of the capital, award-winning chefs are trying out new and exciting things with fabulous Spanish products.
Because choosing a restaurant in Madrid is always a struggle we’ve rounded up our favorite modern Spanish restaurants, where you’ll get gorgeous ambience and different variations of the new cocina española. Check out any of the below for a deliciously good time in Spain’s foodie capital.
Aüakt is a beauty of a restaurant located at the northern edge of trendy Chueca. The place is a real stunner, done up in soothing beige minimalism overlapping with raw earthy textures. Exposed stone walls, pots of leafy plants, soothing ferns and dreamy plumage create an uber-organic yet chic backdrop. The restaurant is spacious with high ceilings, bar seating, tables and an intimate dining room in the back, which means it’s a great place for groups, dates and everything in between.
The creative menu revolves around healthy food that doesn’t sacrifice substance or flavor. When you sound out the letters of Aüakt, it comes out as aguacate, or, avocado in Spanish. So it makes sense that everybody’s favorite piece of produce, the avocado, makes a cameo in most of the items on the menu.
Aüakt’s food is a delightful amalgam of quality products, fresh preparation and a touch of exotic flavor. Think carrillera (braised pork cheeks) with Thai sauces and raw tuna with cucumber gazpacho. The original cocktail list is also fabulously refreshing. All the drinks are packed with fresh juices, fruits and spices to make you feel like you’re still imbibing something healthy and not totally alcoholic.
The best part is that Aüakt stays open and serves food all day, a feature that’s difficult to find in Madrid especially for a restaurant of this caliber. This means you can come in for a stylish breakfast, lunch, midday snack or dinner, and enjoy the gorgeous space at any time of day. Channeling a contemporary and healthy food concept, Aüakt kills it in both quality and originality.
What to order:
Aüakt: It would be silly to come to the restaurant and not try their namesake dish (it’s okay, we totally didn’t know what the dish was either until we sounded the letters out loud in Spanish). Two grilled avocados drizzled with a sexy carnal sauce, topped off with the house version of ceviche with raw prawns. Yep, that Aüakt tastes just as good as it sounds and definitely the first thing you should order.
Boniato Asado: A boat of chargrilled sweet potato topped with secreto ibérico (the super fatty bit between the shoulder blade and loin of Iberian pigs) in a Japanese seven spice mixture. Secreto ibérico is the most guiltily fatty part of the meat and the sticky sweet glaze gives it a rich teriyaki-type flavor.
Atún: Raw chunks of meaty tuna tossed with avocados, sprouts, pickles and tobiko on a bed of fresh green cucumber gazpacho.
Tacos de Pollo: Aüakt’s version of chicken pad thai with peanuts, tomatoes, pickled onions and of course, avocado, heaped onto three soft-shell tacos. Not the most authentic pad thai or tacos that you’ll ever eat but still delicious and full of flavor.
Negroji: If you haven’t tried a negroni with cava, Aüakt’s Negroji with goji berry liqueur is about to change your life. The best part is, it doesn’t even feel like you’re drinking!
The charming and sophisticated Arzábal at the Reina Sofía Museum serves gorgeous modern Spanish cuisine befitting of one of the most visited museums in the world. Restaurants inside museums usually aren’t anything to write home about, but you definitely must not skip this one after your museum tour. In fact, we might even recommend skipping the museum and just heading straight to the restaurant.
Arzábal Museo Reina Sofía is the second restaurant of the same name by chef duo, Álvaro Castellanos and Iván Morales. Arzábal represents classic Spanish cooking, recreated from nostalgia of home cooking and traditions, always made with love and care. Arzábal is refined but not pretentious. The food is modern and elevated, without any hint of trying too hard.
The stunning space at the Reina Sofía can’t be beat, as the restaurant takes up the entire outer courtyard and the wing right beneath where Guernica hangs. The large leafy terraza is a gem that you won’t find anywhere else in Madrid. The outer salon encased in glass has a chimney blazing in the winter, then goes totally al fresco in the summer. The inner dining room is warm and intimate, with bar seating, tables and private areas. Whether you’re dropping in for tapas or sitting down to a multi-course meal, Arzábal has a beautiful table waiting for you with the most gracious staff to make you feel at home.
The food stays faithful to classic versions of beloved Spanish dishes. Arzábal’s menu is supremely comforting yet refined. Chef Iván explains how the Patatas a la Importancia con Cigalitas is made in the way his grandmother used to prepare it at home. It’s a dish with immense sentimental meaning to him, which is why he thought it’d be special to share it with his diners. All the dishes at Arzábal follow the same theme of invoking connection and care. The restaurant particularly likes to offer dishes that take many hours to prepare, which people simply don’t have the time to cook at home anymore. The menu is sectioned into seasonal items and Clásicos, which diners simply won’t allow the restaurant to take off the menu. The hilariously named Vino Terrible is the delicious custom-made wine by the Arzábal, which is a must-try that you can get by the glass.
Arzábal creates a warm, authentic dining experience that belongs in the Reina Sofía just as much as the art hanging in the museum. It’s the perfect place to try refined Spanish classics at the most enchanting terraza in Madrid.
What to order:
Croquetas de Ibérico con Leche de Oveja: Arzábal’s croquetas are some of the most popular in Madrid. These little babies are impossibly crisp on the outside while creamy on the inside without being too heavy. We don’t know how they do it, but we’ll happily munch on a dozen more while we think about it.
Salteado de Arroz con Trufa y Setas: This season’s crowdpleaser serving up sautéed mushrooms, rice and a sinful amount of truffle. Gooey, salty and so truffle-y, you’ll wonder if it’s a sin to savor this much truffle in every bite.
Patatas a la Importancia con Cigalitas: An ideal combo of stewed potatoes with little crayfish, just the way Chef Iván’s grandmother prepared them in their home.
Lomo de Carne Roja Rubia Gallega: A juicy loin of rubia gallega, a native cattle breed and the pride of Galicia. The meat is prepared simply: sliced with just a sprinkle of sea salt so you can savor all the unique texture and marble.
Platea is Madrid’s most theatrical gastronomic experience: an upscale food hall scanning multiple floors installed inside an old theater in Salamanca. Wandering through the glittering pintxo stands and vermut bars is a must for anyone visiting Madrid. But the best seat in Platea is, without a doubt, up top on the mezzanine floor at Canalla Bistro.
Canalla Bistro by Richard Camarena is the one and only full service restaurant inside Platea. Get ready for big flavors and a big scene. Because dining at Canalla Bistro is all about the experience. The restaurant is installed on the mezzanine section of the theater, giving you a fully open vertical view of the masterpiece that is Platea. The music is supplied by Platea’s DJ on the main floor. The superb blend of funky, melodic house makes you feel like you’re in a hip supper club rather than a restaurant. Floating above the lower levels buzzing with patrons will definitely make you feel like you’re in on the A-list. All the well-dressed, fashionable diners next to you will make you double down on that feeling.
Canalla Bistro is Valencian chef, Richard Camarena’s, most “eclectic, rule-breaking, and cosmopolitan” restaurant. The menu at Canalla Bistro doesn’t shy away from strong, exotic flavors and the chef loves dishing surprises. Eclectic treats like bao with Pekin pork, sashimi, and pad thai with Iberian meatballs are tucked into the menu next to creatively modernized classics. Eating at Canalla Bistro is bold, fun and you never know what you’re going to get.
Be sure to get a table on the ledge so you can get a view of all the action on every floor. Bumping to the music with a cocktail in hand while absorbing the opulence that is Platea is half the fun. Add in Iberian fusion dishes you’ve never tried before plus the hip, energetic staff, and dining at Canalla Bistro will become an experience that you’re not likely to forget.
What to order:
Buñuelo Cremoso y Crujiente: The Imprescindibles make up the international starters list. These tapa-style snacks are bite-sized and fun. Our faves were the Buñuelo Cremoso y Crujiente: a creamy, crunchy fritter with codfish. Fans of croquetas will love the soft, sinful bites of fried batter with bacalao smothered in cream.
Ensaladilla de Confit de Pato: The ensaladilla with duck confit is the most flavorful out of the homemade potato salads. Soft duck, hoisin sauce and shredded green apple make for a tasty appetizer to whet your palate.
Parpatana de Atún: Parpatana is the fatty bit under the fish’s mouth where the head joins the rest of the body. The super juicy fish glazed with tamarind melts in your mouth with every bite.
Paletilla al Carbón: Paletilla, the front leg of lamb, is cooked over charcoal and served on a bed of eggplant and miso. Lovers of lamb will be amazed how the meat is so soft that it falls apart as if you’re cutting butter.
Mayahuel: Platea’s main cocktail bar boasts a swanky menu of signature drinks which diners can enjoy at Canalla Bistro. Our favorite (as well as everyone else’s) is Mayahuel, the sweet smoky concoction of mezcal, mint, ginger, agave, chile, cranberry and raspberries.
Espectacular Plátano Helado: The spectacular frozen banana is the most inventive dessert on the menu. For this little number, nothing is what it appears to be. The yellow peel is made up of passion fruit gel which cases the white chocolate mousse making up the “banana.” Then the whole thing is mixed in with crushed cookies with banana caramel and you’ve got a spectacular treat that artfully combines all the textures and flavors you crave.
There’s honestly too many Michelin starred restaurants in Madrid to keep track of (22 in total were crowned this year). But if the mood strikes for that swanky Michelin gastronomic experience, we recommend Cebo for its low-key, intimate ambience. Located inside the swish Hotel Urban, this edgy, straightforward venue takes you on a contemporary ride through Spain’s prestigious culinary regions.
Chef Aurelio Morales, an alumnus of Tickets and El Bulli, whips up a menu that’s supercharged with youth and creative energy. Everything you taste at Cebo, whether it’s vegetable broth tinted blue with prawn eggs or red caviar in a crispy sweet egg yolk cone, promises to be fun and inventive. The artistic tricks and flourishes don’t compromise substance or manipulate products so much that they become unrecognizable. The food isn’t trying to disguise itself as anything it’s not. What you get at Cebo is straightforward execution that deftly layers flavors which you can clearly distinguish. The overall effect is highly innovative while remaining grounded in familiar products and their national denomination.
There are three options for set menus at Cebo: Nuestros Clásicos, Somos and Somos Cebo. Each menu starts off with a gorgeous stand of snacks in colorful bite-sized forms. The Classics menu is a recognizable lineup of traditional Spanish products such as Andalusian squid, anchovies and croquetas flavored with callos (Madrid-style tripe). Somos Cebo and the shorter Somos menus step up the classics with contemporary techniques and some dashes of international flavors. Chef Morales is gifted in trying out creative presentation without pushing it to anything too outlandish. The tasty rice with sepia and salmorreta sauce from Alicante is wrapped up in the flaky bits that stick to the side of the pan after the rice cooks. The meat and fish proteins are cooked tenderly then simply presented with nothing to take away from the pure flavor.
The wine pairings also take you on a journey throughout the diverse wine regions of Spain—from Tenerife to Burgos to Castilla y León. From the lightest yet crisp white Rioja to a blooming fruity red from Valle de la Orotova, the wines are just as exciting to taste and notable as the food.
We love the 25-cover space which allows for a comfortable and intimate dining experience. Although, this doesn’t mean that diners are cramped together in a tight spot. The restaurant stretches across the entire length of the hotel lobby and the table themselves are elongated to provide extra surface area. Everyone from the maître d to the sommelier to the chef himself makes you feel fondly taken care of. Due to the small number of covers, the service stays genuinely attentive and personal.
Cebo provides an intimate Michelin dining experience that’s clear-cut and unassuming. The thoughtful menu which shows off the best of food and wine in Spain will have you reflecting on it even days after dining there. It’s our favorite type of fine dining that’s all about execution and creativity and no airs.