When we at Hg2 think of Spain, the first thing that comes to mind is tapas. Jamón, chorizo, quesadillas, prawns, patatas bravas – we salivate at the mere thought of this Spanish institution. It’s interesting to think that once upon a time, tapas was merely a “covering” or “lid” for your drink (the spanish tapar literally means “to cover” or “to put a lid on”) that served the dual purpose of keeping unwanted dust or insects from invading your pint and also allowing to you to drink more without getting drunk. Although the latter is probably as applicable now as it was then, it’s true to say that the tapas institution is not only alive and well, but always reinventing itself for modern taste buds.
This being said, we have scoured the streets of Spain’s capital to bring you the best tapas bars in Madrid – some are well known by locals, others off the beaten track, all, however, are serving up tapas to die for…
1. Almendro 13
If you’re looking for great tapas in Madrid, then a visit to Almendro 13 is a must. The bar is beloved of the local community who come time and time again so be prepared to fight your way in. There’s a good reason for the crowd, though, namely the classics it serves, such as the huevos rotos (fried eggs and potatoes), the roscas rellenas (bread stuffed with meat) and, breaking the tinto stranglehold, its very own manzanilla sherry.
El Tempranillo is a favourite of in-the-know locals as well as the odd celeb (Real Madrid’s Guti is a regular), one of the most exceptional tapas bars in Madrid has a deservedly fine reputation.The almost rustic interior feels very Spanish indeed, as does the hubbub of animated conversation that’s ever present. The tapas menu is extensive, with a long list of different types to try, while there are also more substantial dishes on offer if you don’t just want to snack.
Entre Tapas Y Vinos is one of a 17-strong chain of tapas bars/restaurants in Madrid that are just right for a quick lunch to break up a shopping trip or cultural excursion. It’s a popular place for lone diners, but it’s not a good option if you want a leisurely, relaxing meal. The lunch and dinner menus consist of combination tapas, toasted baguettes and more substantial fish and meat dishes.
Even if you only pop by for a drink, there’s no way you’ll leave Taberna Txakoli without having sampled at least a few of the mouth-watering tapas piled high on the bar. Indeed, this tapas bar in Madrid is always bustling, creating a buzzing atmosphere as the punters enjoy a glass of wine, a caña and as many tapas as they can put away. As you order your drinks, simply point at the bite-sized treats that take your fancy, which are topped with anything from quail’s eggs and Spanish chorizo to crab meat and, of course, jamón.
Taberna Maceira is like none of the other tapas bars in Madrid. Its walls are painted in splodges of green (almost like the work of a class of schoolchildren), but the result gives the interior a vibrant twist. Even the menus at Taberna Maceira are a novelty, scrawled on round wooden artists’ palettes.The speciality is octopus and everyone seems to be eating it, along with other favourites such as salted roasted peppers (totally addictive) and patatas bravas.
Ojala is one of the most determinedly fun restaurants in Madrid, particularly if you pick a table downstairs. There is, however, a chance you may feel like a very large cat as you perch on a cushion in the sandpit basement. Expect a young crowd who tuck into tasty tapas dishes while enjoying the cool video projections and the suitably clubby soundtrack.
Mercado de la Reina is a top-notch tapas joint, restaurant and gin bar smack bang on Gran Vía – a street that’s home to everyone from Burger King and McDonalds, to H&M and Nike. Crates of fresh vegetables adorn the walls, a nod to the quality produce behind the dishes on offer, while there are even trees installed inside, housed in giant plant pots.
8. La Trucha
For authentic Andalusian tapas in Madrid, try this well-known rustic restaurant La Trucha, which is right next door to Viva Madrid. The name refers to the fresh trout, which is the speciality of the house, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try the pescaito frito (fried fish) or berenjena frito (fried aubergines).
9. Los Gatos
One of the most popular cafes in Madrid, there’s paraphernalia everywhere in this fun, down-to-earth tapas bar Los Gatos. You name it, it’s either hanging on the walls or plonked in a corner. The atmosphere is casual and lively, bordering on raucous in the evenings. Goodness knows what they put in the beer but everyone in here has a smile on their face. A tiny counter, crammed in among all the odd objects, displays the delights on offer. Behind this, staff pour cañas by the dozen as the orders are shouted across. It’s cheap, definitely cheerful and well worth a visit.
10. La Carpanta
One of the most stylish tapas bars/restaurants in Madrid, La Carpanta is always bursting with people who come here for the lively, friendly atmosphere, its selection of over 50 wines, the fabulous food and a chance to gawp at the rather stunning-looking staff.
What are your favourite tapas? Anywhere you think should have made it on our list? Leave your thoughts in the comments below!