Andres Jarabo, founder of Walks of Madrid Tapas Tour, reveals 5 of the most essential and historic tapas bars in Madrid.
I can’t help loving Madrid’s bustling bars. The bug bit me about 18 years ago and the passion keeps growing. But out of the hundreds of tapas bars I know in Madrid, these are the five that I recommend the most. For authentic tapas and drinks in Madrid, here’s where to go!
1. La Castela ~ One of Madrid’s Highest Rated Tapas Bars
In my opinion La Castela is the best tapas bar in Madrid. It looks like just any other bar, but the second you step inside you notice there is something big going on. Is it the atmosphere? Is it the food? Is it the people? I don’t know, but this bar is magic.
What to eat/drink: On the wall there are two blackboards, the smaller one is the list of all the pinchos (a type of tapas consisting of a slice of bread with various toppings). My favourite is “Manitas con ali oli”.
The bigger blackboard shows dishes available both at the bar and the restaurant. My favourites include “gambas al ajillo” 14€ (prawns deep fried in olive oil with garlic and red hot chilli peppers) and “coquinas” 12€ (clams with garlic and hot peppers). They are so small that people call them the “sunflower seeds of the sea”.
2. Casa Lucio ~ Charming and Timeless Tapas Bar
Kings, painters, prime ministers, writers, rockstars, basketball players, entrepreneurs, actresses, this is the fauna you will find in the restaurant Casa Lucio. Its bar only serves cold tapas (ham, olives, boquerones) and the wines are just average, but who cares when you are rubbing shoulders with such glamorous clientele?
What to eat/drink: A glass of wine is only 2.50€ and comes with a free plate of olives and boquerones. A dish of their outstanding ham is 25€. Many people have a drink at the bar while they wait for a table in the restaurant. Be sure to dress up.
3. Malacatín ~ A Magnetic Attraction of the Past
I like all the 19th-century bars left in Madrid, but there is something unique about going to this 1895 tavern,on a cold winter’s noon. I recommend getting there at 12.45pm. People start coming at 13.00 and by 13.30 the place is about to explode.
What to eat/drink: Try their famous “cocido”, a hearty cheak-pea stew which is a classic Madrid dish. If you want to taste it, you just have to stay at the bar and order a sample/degustación, at only 5 euros. You can also sit down at the tables closest to the door (the ones without tablecloths on them). If you want the whole “cocido” experience, sit down in the restaurant and order cocido, 22€ per person.
4. La Ardosa ~ Established 1892
Founded in 1892, they base their success on products that only they have.
What to eat/drink:
- Unfiltered pale Sherry. Order it as “Moriles en Rama”. This is Spain’s most surprising wine. Strong aroma of granny-smith apples, very light on the palate but with an intense umami flavour, awesome pairing for the pincho the tortilla.
- German beer on tap (the best I have ever tasted).
- Pincho de tortilla de patata (one of the signature tapas of Madrid).
- Croquetas de cabrales (blue cheese croquetas)
- Cecina de León (beef ham).
5. Casa Antonio ~ A Pleasant Surprise
Although it has recently gone through a restoration, you can still feel the 120 years of history that this bar packs. The old radio, a piano, the tiles or an ancient contraption to make sparkling water tell us of a brilliant past.
What to eat/drink:
Order a shot of their Madroño liquor – the madroño is the symbol fruit of Madrid. The liquor is served in a shot made from a chocolate-coated wafer. That’s it, after you are done with the liquor you eat the container. As for food their “delicias de Bacalao”, fried battered Cod, are outstanding.