This page is your guide to eating and drinking in Madrid, with independent reviews and photos of 65 bars, cafes and restaurants. On this page:
We visited all of these bars at least once during September and October 2004 while studying Spanish at Eureka (also recommended).
Madrid has a lot of bars, like any capital city, but in Madrid it seems as if there are more, perhaps because the city centre is so compact and because they tend to stick together in certain streets. What is more, in this kind of climate people spend a lot of time outside, so good bars show up by the crowd of people outside.
Tapas - just bar snacks, but good
Spain does not have a monopoly on bar snacks (tapas), but in contrast to Northern Europe, bars in Spain are more likely to have tapas that are nice to eat, and if you find a good one then that is your evening meal sorted. Especially if you had a huge Spanish lunch.
Basically, there is no such distinction as 'tapas bar' in the same way that you do not talk about 'beer snacks pubs' in England. The difference is more that tapas are more evolved than crisps and pork scratchings, and more sophisticated than bitter ballen in Holland. Furthermore, some bars' tapas here are far more evolved or sophisticated than others.
The tourist zone - guirilandia
Madrid attracts a lot of tourists, but fortunately for the discerning, the inevitable bad-value tourist traps are all clustered together in a relatively small area around Plaza Mayor, as far North as Calle del Arenal, as far East as Calle del Principe, as far South as Plaza de Santa Ana and Calle de Segovia, and as far West as Calle de Bailén.
Perhaps if I had already been living in Madrid for a while I would not be so determined to avoid other foreigners. In any case, I was keen to find out what Spaniards do when they go out. It was also interesting to separate the bogus concept of 'tapas bar' from the reality of Madrid bars.
Best cafe: Delic has a great terrace, menu and funky interior. The runner up is Cafe del Real, which is friendly and comfy at any time of day, but lacks a terrace and is a little too touristy for my taste.
Best tapas: Casa Parrondo has a wide range of tasty good-value tapas, and has a great bar atmosphere to go with it. Second place goes to Txirimiri, which has far more sophisticated foody tapas, but is more pricey and pretentious than is strictly necessary.
Best wine bar: Montes combines a great summer afternoon location with excellent wines, no-nonsense tapas, and plenty of style. A close second, and a better evening place, is the atmospheric but more expensive Taberna Tempranillo, which has gorgeous wines and exquisitely delicious tapas to accompany them.
Best restaurant: more or less a tie between Taberneros, which had the best lunch menu, and Taberna Matritum, which served excellent and original food. Both had excellent service and a pleasant ambiance.