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Top 10 tapas bars in Madrid

Spain’s capital is awash with tapas bars but how do you find the good ones amid the sea
of tourist-traps? Madrid-based food writer James Blick tracks down 10 of the best, from
classic bodegas to slick new dining spaces run by young chefs








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James Blick
The Guardian, Tuesday 12 August 2014
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Casa Gonzalez, the
picture-perfect tapas bar. Photograph: James Blick/madridchow.com
Casa Gonzalez
Were Woody Allen to set one of his romantic European whimsies in Madrid,
Casa Gonzalez – with its picture-perfect yesteryear facade, smartly tiled
interior and moreish hoard of conserves, cheese and charcuterie – would be
a shoo-in for the romantic Spanish bar scene. What’s more, the goodhumoured and well-moustached owner Paco (whose grandfather founded the
place in 1931) keeps a knockout cellar at this wine bar-slash-deli. Nab a table
near the big bay window, load it with jamón ibérico de bellota (acorn-fed
Iberian ham, €10.10), cured manchego cheese (€6), and a spicy bottle of red
and watch the light fade over the cobblestones outside – a most cinematic
start to any tapas crawl.
• Calle León 12, +34 914 295 618, casagonzalez.es. Open everyday, MonThur 9.30am-midnight, Fri and Sat 9.30am-1am, Sun 11am-6pm
TriCiclo

Kaffir lime leaves and kumquats (not in the same dish.30). as is tipping.Baked spring onions in romesco sauce at Triciclo The buzz from the blogosphere was deafening last year when TriCiclo opened in the capital’s leafy literary quarter.70 a glass) and the only tapas are sliced-to-order cured meats. +34 910 244 798. 8pm-12. Be on notice that the proprietors run a strict ship: photography is forbidden. where the only tipple is dry sherry from a barrel (from €1.es. sherry creeps up on the unwary). Reservations for the white and woody dining room are essential. and please don’t bother Lola.30am La Venencia Time grinds to a meditative standstill in this dimmed. thankfully) and most plates are available in small tapa sizes.30pm-4pm. Their seasonal menus include diverse ingredients like cod glands. but – and this is a Madrid truism – there’s always space at the bar. fish and cheese (try the mojama – salt-cured tuna: a mouthful of ocean for €2. meaning you can taste a little of everything. the slightly senile black . Open Mon-Sat 1. sherry-soaked locals ruminate over copitas of Amontillado. tobacco-stained cavern. Young chefs Javier Goya. Javier Mayor and David Alfonso were doing something that felt very new in Madrid: serving inspired. pig ears. By day. eltriciclo. but at night it regularly ignites into a raucous knees-up (cheap and stronger than wine. internationally-inflected tapas in a pompous-free bar environment. 28. • Calle Santa María.

80-€5.30pm onwards El Tempranillo Friday night. no website. Photograph: James Blick/madridchow. closed Sun eve and Tues . 10pm – dinnertime in Madrid and the cheek-by-jowl tapas bars along Calle Cava Baja are heaving. a treasure trove of food and drink. €2. Tues-Sun 8pm-midnight Bodegas Ricla Bodegas Ricla. Escape the tyranny of choice within the boisterous brick walls of tumbledown El Tempranillo. so go early if you’d like to sit. +34 913 641 532. Wed. Thur 7pm onwards. “Solo vinos españoles” – only Spanish wines – is scrawled in a defiant hand atop the excellent wine list. this shabby bodega might seem a culinary long shot but ageing.30pm3.30pm onwards. €5. with puckish brothers Emilio and Jose Antonio behind the bar while mum Ana tirelessly shuttles her homemade fare from the Lilliputian kitchen. from €2. no website. • Calle de los Cuchilleros 6. Open daily 12. hole-in-the-wall Ricla – with its tin bar. a culinary rock that does – alongside more elaborate dishes – a top-notch selection of pinchos (slices of baguette topped with everything from foie with roast apple to cuttlefish with caramelised onions.80) and Ana’s spectacularcallos a la madrileña (even the most apprehensive palates will surrender to her smoky take on Madrid’s infamous tripe stew. 7. Locals heave in for tiny tumblers of vermouth on tap. • Calle de Echegaray 7. swollen wine vats and lazy ceiling fan – is a homespun treasure trove of fine food and drink. Mon.50).30pm.90). and the vino is stockpiled in a gloriously ramshackle wall-to-wall wine rack. razorsharpboquerones en vinagre (pickled anchovies. Open Mon. Founded in 1867. +34 913 652 069. no website. +34 914 297 313.cat curled up down the back. WedSun 1pm-4pm. Fri-Sat 7.com To the untrained eye. Open daily 1pm-4pm. • Calle Cava Baja 38. it is family-run. There are only a few tables.

infamous matadors and the sepia-stained faces of long-gone Abuelo bartenders.es. lacasadelabuelo. and there are some lovely Madrid wines by the glass. Fri-Sat noon-1am Celso y Manolo Tasca Celso y Manolo Recently opened Celso y Manolo is a lovingly nostalgic nod to Madrid taverns of old. elaborate) free tapa with each drink and a loud.50).La Casa del Abuelo The tangy smack of freshly fried garlic draws you through the door of this striking dark wood and marble tavern. whipped-up before your eyes by gabby. Its version of Madrid’s original street food. housed in the retro surroundings of a former family-run tasca. old-boy waiters who’ve been doing this dish for decades. fresh parsley. • Calle de la Victoria 12. Pair it with the house red (a sweet tempranillo that plays perfectly off the garlic) while scanning the photo wall of famous former diners. Catalonian red shrimp (€12. The original 1950s marble bar remains. the lights have been dimmed – a moody antidote to this cities’ penchant for bright bars – and the homely menu zeroes in on regional ingredients: grilled organic Cantabrian lamb chops (€8). or a salad of sweet Huesca tomatoes the size of babies’ heads (€8). +34 915 318 079. loyal . +34 910 000 133.90) is a palate-searing blend of plump Mediterranean prawns. 8pm-midnight La Castela On the moneyed east bank of the central Retiro Park. The must-try gambas al ajillo (€9. is a winner thanks to lashings of lemon-infused alioli (€4. Open daily 1pm-5pm. Sun-Thur noon-midnight. a generous (and here. Open daily. dried chillies and indecent wads of garlic.50). • Calle Libertad 1. La Castela fiercely guards the traditions of a true Madrid barrio bar: lightening-fast waiters. celsoymanolo. still run by the family that founded it in 1906.es. the much-maligned bocadillo de calamares.

local clientele.com. digging into grilled garlicky mushrooms. southern stables. +34 915 740 015. • Calle Doctor Castelo 22.com Down a little dark street in the depths of bar-drenched barrio La Latina. Open daily noon-4. Sanlúcar is a gaudy. €1.50). eggplant drizzled . However it’s the food – simple with a soupçon of sophistication – that makes this unassuming taproom truly sing. brightly coloured football scarves and close-ups of desolate Virgins. jaunty. Sun 1pm-5pm Casa Toni Amid the sea of tourist-trap tapas bars and “Irish pubs” around Madrid’s main Puerta del Sol square. Get a few tortillas de camarones (prawn fritters. 8. then 7. €4. out-of-nowhere slice of southern Spain. So grab a frothy caña(draught beer. a sharp bowl ofsalmorejo (cold. fuelled by frisky flamenco and surrounded by outrageous folkloric decor: bullfighting gear. €12) is tip-top and the blisteringly fresh seafood nesting on ice – fat mussels and candy-sweet razor clams – sublime. Seafood freaks should venture the briny ortiguillas – deep fried sea anemones (€9). Open Tues-Sat 1pm-5pm.30pm-midnight. • Calle de San Isidro Labrador 14.50) and a grilled slab of presa ibérica (one of the juiciest cuts from Spain’s hallowed Iberian pig. closed Sun eves Sanlúcar Sanlúcar. Casa Toni is a rough-and-ready touchstone for real food.com. Their unctuous rabo de toro (bull tail stew.30am. garlicky tomato soup. €12) and make like a madrileño. keen prices (everything’s under €10) and a warm welcome.30pm. latabernasanlucar. Day and night. dive into a bowl of almejas a la manzanilla (clams in sherry sauce. a motley crew of hungry regulars – from young lads lining their stomachs to sixtysomethings grabbing a bite after the opera – huddle at rough-hewn tables. +34 913 540 052.30pm-12. Photograph: James Blick/madridchow. restaurantelacastela. €2). €9). A spirited crowd of boho regulars pile in for cold beers and hearty. a slice of southern Spain in La Latina barrio.

with honey and the best beer-battered baby cuttlefish I’ve tasted. . Those itching to experience some classic Madrid nose-to-tail cuisine should try the creamymollejas (lamb sweetbreads) and – careful here – a crispy zarajo (fried lamb guts wound around a vine).