Stayed in Madrid at an out-of-the-way Ibis Hotel in September 2008. There were a few restaurants around the hotel, but nothing that truly shouted Spanish to us. We saw a little bar called La Hacienda and decided to stop in, have a drink and figure out where to eat. What an experience!
We began having cocktails. The staff didn't speak a word of English and we didn't speak a word of Spanish, but somehow we all managed to understand one another with a lot of smiles and tons of laughter. We finally figured out how to articulate what ingredients were in our drinks and boy, what mighty big ones they were when they arrived at the table! They also came with small baskets of chips, nuts and corn puffs. It was all fairly typical of bar munchies. However, no sooner had we polished off the baskets and ordered another round drinks when the real tapas started flowing. Presunto, olives, cheese, bread, shrimp, deep fried this and that, more olives and items we all liked, but truly had no idea what they were. We must have had several different items and while my husband had one drink, the rest of us had at least 3-4 cocktails.
By the end of the night all four of us were expecting to pay at least 100 euros, if not more, but to our shock and amazement the total bill was less than 20 euros each, tip included. Between four people having a fantastic time in a cozy bar with such great staff, that was a major bargain and a fabulous memory.
Favorite Dish: I wouldn't say there are any fantastic dishes at La Hacienda. The atmosphere is bar-like and the staff is wonderful and that's what made the experience terrific. Nevertheless, I can safely say that all four of us can recommend one thing: when they bring out those lime green olives that you'll coo with awe over because they're so unusual looking and taste so delicious at the time, don't eat them unless you've packed some powerful perfume for the morning. ;)
I found Taberna Alhambra thanks to a link that Santi (VT Redang) gave me once. I chose this place based on proximity to our hotels (walking distance), proximity to the metro - as some of us were moving on to P de A (see my separate tip about it) and because their tapas menu suited us with the request that I got: a cozy place with ham, cheese and fries.
Now, they didn't have fries but we got potatoes with 2 sauces that were very good, together with a surtido ibérico that we 3 shared: ham, cecina de vaca (dried meat), salami, queso manchego and morcilla. To that we drank beer.
The place was cozy indeed, for being located on a street close to Sol and Plaza Mayor. They have a dining room that has an "upper" floor and there was a lot of people coming in and out. Even tho the waiter was rather busy, we didn't really wait that long to get to order, our food or the bill.
Now, El Madroño is a place that we found while walking by Plaza Mayor on Sunday evening and looking for a place to eat that seemed fine. By recommendation from Úrsula, I tried the dish called "huevos rotos con jamon", which is fried potatoes, fried eggs with the yolk running and ham. It was delicious! To that I had a glass of sangría.
We sat outside and enjoyed seeing people walk by and traffic, life in general. Something I liked about El Madroño is that there's poems and shields about Madrid in their menu and in their paper table cloths they put on the tables, sort of like being proud of being madrileños :)
Both places offered the menu of the day together with the regular dishes.
Tapas is a local dish, which you can find almost everywhere around Madrid. It is something like snack, small dish in endlessly many varieties served in the evening.
Tapas restaurant are everywhere, just choose one.
Nearly all bars will give you a small plate of tapas (appetizers) when you order a drink. Sometimes it is only olive or chips - but often a little paella or a potato tortilla.
Avoid the places with only tourists - I enjoy little pubs with sandwich boards out front showing specials. Los Abuelos has several Madrid locations, and usually offers a nice tapas menu for a reasonable price.
Favorite Dish: Patatas bravas (if they are spicy) or Gambas (garlic shrimp) or Tortilla Patata (sliced potatoes) or even Octopus (sliced thin in garlic sauce) YUM
Cafeeke was the place where we had dinner on Friday night. Their specialty is tapas and beer from Belgium. Úrsula (VT Urzu) arranged to have a 3-course menu (of the sort) plus 3 drinks for 17 euro. Miguel, the guy who attended us, was very nice and friendly enough to take our group photo about 10 times, hehe.
One of the courses was mussels with 3 different sauces, mustard being of them. Then we had 2 different tapas courses with rösti, sausages, "frikadeller" (small meat balls) and croquetas, among other yummy things.
This was our first experience in Madrid. This is a franchising cafe there are many in Madrid.
It is like a fast food restaurant but a bit different. They have a menu full more than 100 tapas. Ordering is a bit hard but fun. This is a place if you wish to try different tapas.
Favorite Dish: I can't remember but we have ordered 6 - 7 tapas & 4 - 5 of them were good.
La Venencia is simply a sherry tasting tapas bar with, lets say, not so much ambience as character! Not for everyone, the bar has not had a change of decor in many a year but this, I think, just adds to the atmosphere of the place.
They serve a range of sherries straight from wooden barrels accompanied by a few optional tapas dishes. Just give the place a chance and see if its charm wins you over.
Oh, just don't ask to take any photos, the owners don't allow them! Very apologetic about this they were, refusing to take a tip from us saying "no photo no tip" when we came to pay.
This ancient tavern has changed little in over 100 years. It is more of a bar than a tapas place, but the short list of tapas served is delicious, particularly the boquerones. The belle epoque decor is extremely attractive, with painted ceilings mixed with azulejos tiled walls (see photos). Enhancing the charm of the place are the dusty wine and sherry bottles stacked above the bar area. Definitely a fun experience in Madrid.
"Tapas Bar" Madrid is part of a national chain in Spain. I don't really like doing chains... especially of the Burger and fries variety. However this is a Tapas chain (obviously!) and we don't tend to get them back in the UK.
The Tapas Bar I used was on the Plaza De Santa Ana (well actually Prado, but you see it from the Plaza). Very reasonably priced and great food. Try the Montaditos; 6 for 9.95e... well worth the money. One of the cheapest Tapas bars I found too!
Get here early in the evening because there are not many tables and you will not want to stand all night waiting for the delicious tapas to arrive. You probably will not want to share the tapas either because they're so good. Shout your order through the kitchen window and the bell will sound when the food is ready. Try the wild boar blood pudding, the savoury toasted bagels, Roscas, or their famous fried egg dishes, and wash them down with a glass of beer or Fino sherry. You will find this bar in the lively nightlife district of La Latina, not far from the Rastro (Fleamarket). The old-fashioned interior was recently restored in a simple and attractive combination of plaster, brick and woodwork.
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