I love Mexican food. I mean, I properly LOVE it. A holiday spent in Tulum with tequila on tap was possibly as close to utopia as I’ll ever get on the food front. Tacos, guac, and burritos – I love them all equally and don’t get me started on margaritas – second to gin (and possibly water due to pure necessity) it definitely edges its way into my three most supped liquids. So imagine my intrigue when I’d heard about the menu at Peyote San – a place that’s managed to fuse Mexican munchies with sushi. Definitely worth a gander I mused and suffice to say it was.
Located near Colon (or as I affectionately refer to the area with the ‘giant flag’) Peyote San restaurant is en route to where the good shops are. From the outside looking in it could easily be missed, but the interior is anything but shy and retiring. It’s instantly instagramable (yes, that’s now a word along with with TMI and FML) largely due to the bold graffiti-type images that adorn most of the walls.
If you’ve travelled to the Big Apple it certainly feels reminiscent of somewhere swish that you’d find on the Upper West Side – choc-a-bloc with beautiful people sipping elaborately prepared cocktails. However, fear not, it wasn’t a case of style over substance as every last morsel was utterly delicious and well worth the late school night in my case.
I’ve yet to visit Japan (although it’s on my bucket list) and the cuisine at Peyote San was the next best thing. I worked my way through A LOT of food to make this review as authentic as poss so drumroll please – I can vouch that the tatiki tuna, chicken gyoza, black cod and the Japanese curry with bonito were all delectable as were the pretty potent Asian Malgalita’s – a Peyote San take on a classic Marg and unquestionably are to be enjoyed with an air of YOLO – and not the worry of reaching for ibuprofen the following day.
Given the uniqueness of the food, it was also a really nice touch that the chef came over to talk us through the menu and his knowledge and evident passion for the food made the evening all the more gratifying. Peyote San definitely isn’t the type of locale to visit if you’ve got too much month left and not enough money. It’s definitely more of a date night treat or a birthday splurge.
Having said that, come Saturday nights, tables are shuffled to the sidelines so that patrons can get their groove on. Having lived in Madrid long enough now to know that Madrileños would favour spending their last fiver on a night out (than something sensible), Peyote San shouldn’t remain on your wish list, pop it in on your hit list now.
Lady Madonna, because Sundays are made for brunching
As an ex-pat in Madrid there are a couple of things that I really miss from home. The M&S food hall (say no more). Boots – I mean who doesn’t love a decent 3 for 2 offer; and last but by no means least, a Sunday roast. So in lieu of Roast Beef and Yorkshire puddings, Sundays in Madrid are all about brunch, as opposed to lunch.
Lady Madonna has always been a firm favorite of mine (you can even read my review on the restaurant here). With its pretty little terraza, it’s an ideal spot for a post work drink, or a solid choice when you’re looking like a decent dinner that won’t break the bank.
Little did I know that brunch was an option and this was no half baked attempt; they offer a set menu that will set you up for the day – I mean breakfast is supposed to be the most important meal of the day right?
I opted for eggs benedict followed by carrot cake – both paired with coffee, juice and a mojito that proved to be quite the effective hair of the dog. But there were a good five savory options as well as deserts, and if mojitos aren’t your thing there’s also bloody mary’s and mimosas on offer.
I arrived feeling slightly fragile from my Saturday night antics and left with my appetite having been satiated and feeling virtuous that I’d even enjoyed a little bit of sun all by midday. The best bit, the fixed brunch menu comes in at only 18 euros. Well, it would be rude not to indulge at such a snip.
Picture the scene. Lashing rain. Lightning illuminating the dirty teabag coloured sky. Rumblings of thunder so fierce that part of my apartment window collapsed (true story, that’s not just for dramatic effect). Oh and have I mentioned that this is July in Madrid, not November in Blighty? So you can only imagine my level of ganas when it came to venturing out into a monsoon on a bleak and downright bloody freezing Thursday evening.
The reason for rallying was that my Mum was in town and I didn’t fancy having to try (and realistically fail) to produce dinner from the slim pickings in my fridge. So off we waded to Le Coco; a short stroll over to the neighbouring barrio of Chueca with our brollies in tow. From the outside Le Coco is dinky and unassuming, well, that’s what I could make out from my rain soaked fringe at least. But upon entering, not only was it a haven of dryness, it was a cosy one at that.
As soon as we were seated (which was immediate) we were handed a drinks menu. We happily plumped for pisco sours, which brightened both of our moods – shame the same couldn’t be said for the colour of clouds that loomed ominously. Anyways, enough of my weather related whining, let’s get cracking on the food because boy we did we eat our bodyweight. In our defence, as it felt like winter outside we definitely packed in enough dishes to help us with insulation.
So first there were prawn dumplings, plump, juicy and incredibly moor-ish. I ate 6 without breaking a sweat – although sweat I did, when I dragged myself to a 9am pilates class the following day to work them off. Next came tempura langoustine that rendered me speechless. Friends will confirm that this only usually happens when I’m asleep, so for a dish of something shrimpy to shut me up, well, we’re talking about the unfathomable here. They were amazing. Genuinely. Le Coco is worth a visit for this reason alone.
Now some peeps might have been full after those couple of helpings, not us. Remember the rain, well it had started up again by this point, which gave us the perfect excuse to plump for tacos, a burrata the size of my fist, before ending with the crème de la creme of pasta dishes – and I’ve been to Puglia, I think I know my stuff. It heaved with lobster, crab and cream. I don’t know what they did with these three ingredients but it was downright orgasmic. Hell, if that dish were a man, maybe I’d date it – frankly it was infinitely more delicious than the bulk of Tinder’s offerings. I jest, but really, for a place that looked on first glance similar in style to many, many places in the area, the food was anything but predictable.
We wrapped the evening up with a couple of celebratory cavas for making it out of the house to battle the elements. And I left having forgotten that my red suede shoes (or my Dorothy/Wizard of Oz shoes as I liked to affectionately refer to them) are basically now akin to soggy road kill. Sometimes things don’t look that pretty from the outside, Le Coco goes to prove that it’s what’s on the inside that counts.
Bosco de Lobos – casual, cozy and chic restaurant in Chueca
Last month I reviewed the sexy, swish Ana La Santa. If we were to talk in terms of siblings, whilst Ana La Santa may be the mature older brother in the dining out stakes, this means that Bosco de Lobos may be the cuter, younger sister. Smaller in size and with a less obvious position within the city (it’s tucked away between Calle Fuencarral and Hortaleza) sort of straddling Malasaña and Chueca if you will, it’s the ideal place for a simple lunch on their sun kissed terraza or for a casual date night that won’t break the bank.
The atmosphere was (on a Friday night) buzzing to say the least; packed with punters all gagging to sample their take on eclectic European fare, ranging from wood fired pizzas, to steak tartare, to heaving pasta dishes. They do a little bit of everything and instead of this being to their detriment (like that friend you have who spreads themselves too thinly) it’s all lip smackingly good.
Like most, I enjoy dining out (ok, perhaps more than most) but I like to do so in places that lack pretention and that do simple things with style. Bosco de Lobos ticks both boxes. Special mention has to go our waitress, Iryna who was a fountain of knowledge on the wine front, recommending the perfect Rioja to be paired with my steak. We rounded off the evening with a couple of puds and a G&T thrown in for good measure.
Speaking of round, that’s exactly how my midriff felt after eating like a Queen. It doesn’t hurt that the setting is as tasty as the food, lots of sultry low lighting and artfully dishevelled bookshelves, making the whole place feel cosily lived in rather than sterile Scandi in tone.
Unlike La Musa, they do take reso’s so I implore you to make one – you can thank me later.
New restaurant openings (or in fact any kind of opening) within Madrid are pretty much ten a penny. When strolling round any of the barrios, you’d be hard pressed to not spy an exposed brick or a jam jar cocktail vying for your attention, in what’s becoming an increasingly crammed marketplace.
However, there are some new spots that feel no need for fanfare and know full well that the masses are going to flock in their droves. Cannibal holds this covetable spot. The restaurant equivalent of someone tall, dark and handsome – Cannibal is poised to become the darling of the Madrid restaurant scene and you won’t just need to take my word for it; you could ask anyone who was there last Saturday (when it was packed to the rafters).
Madrid non-newbies will remember that the site of Cannibal once housed the infamous brunch spot ‘Cafe Oliver’ and when it closed its doors, many mourned the loss. So imagine my excitement whilst on my daily walk to work when I spied renovations.
Now painted in an inky blue hue, the newly opened Cannibal is hard to miss. The name alludes to what’s on offer dinner wise. The raw stuff. Tartare. Ceviche. Carpaccio. But don’t despair if you’re not a fan of the cold stuff, the menu offers a mean hamburger and THE most delish Peruvian Pork dish that was inhaled within mere minutes.
Now I could wax lyrical about just how good the food was – because it truly was. We’re talking last meal type claims (if like me burrata and steak carpaccio is your idea of food heaven). But it wasn’t just the food that had my company and me swooning; it was the service.
In a country where asking for the bill is usually met with a grunt, the team at Cannibal couldn’t have been more charming or attentive – much to the glee of my dinner companions. They happily talked through the menu with genuine interest, they were knowledgeable about ingredients and at no point were our glasses empty. I know this kind of vibe is to be expected in a country like the states, but in the land of jamon this is rare.
It goes without saying that the decor satiated my interiors porn thirst and it didn’t hurt to have a window seat on a balmy evening, where you would people watch over your dulce de leche pud.
Like all restaurants reviews, I’m always torn between spreading the word and keeping schtum for fear of a place becoming busier than the Bernabeu on a match day, but the secret’s out.
Embrace your inner cannibal and happy feasting. Who cares if it’s bikini season with food that good? That’s what kaftan’s are for.
Eduardo opened The Place for the reason we all hope anyone would open a restaurant: he wants you to come over and try his food.
His finely tuned menu is the result of years of travelling around the world. Every dish we tried transported us to a different place, but every ingredient used is home-grown in and around Madrid.
This is reason enough to make The Place “the place to be”, but while we were there, other punters didn’t seem in any hurry to leave. They came for a coffee, suddenly had a cheese/meat platter in front of them, then dinner, and before they knew it, were holding a Caipirinha. Folks were getting totally carried away, confirming that The Place is also a pretty nice place to hang out.
You can come to The Place for any reason (food, cocktails, wifi), but we were here for dinner, and as you do here in Spain, we decided to share everything.
The Asian-style Waka-Mola Salad with a guacamole and soy-sauce dressing is how I shall make salad from now on. The tabbouleh told tales of the Middle East, and the French-style quiche was packed full of Mediterranean vegetables. The subtle spices in Eduardo’s pumpkin soup momentarily transported me to India before I was hoisted north to Iceland with the Viking Veggie toasted goats’ cheese sandwich, and back to earth with a rustic baked ricotta cheesecake.
As you can see, Eduardo has a bit of a thing for cutlery. The hallmarks on each handle tell a story, and if you look closely, you’ll find pieces from all corners of Europe, which is exactly where he picked them up. My teaspoon was made in Sheffield between 1900 and 1940! If you’re into cutlery too, you’ll find a haul of Spanish gems in theRastroevery Sunday.
There’s also an unusually good selection of artisanal beers – blond Czech lager and Cibeles Imperial IPA are on tap – and several bottled beers. You’ve also got plenty of local wines to choose from, plus an extensive cocktail and spirits menu.
The front of the restaurant has a large solid-wood table, ideal for either groups or MacBooking soloists, and when summer eventually arrives, the wall-to-wall windows will be flung open. Even better is the snugthrough the back where the seating is comfy and cosy and stylishly un-matching. If you can, nab the sofa next to the wood-burning fireplace and upright piano and have a jangle on it if you graduated beyond Chopsticks.
Urso Hotel & Spa, Take a holiday (from a 'holiday')
When you tell people that you live abroad the general response is usually something along the lines of ‘Oh you must feel like you’re on holiday all the time!‘ or ‘Think of all the sun and sangria!’ to ‘You must be perma-tanned!’ Admittedly, whilst there is a lot of sun and I do feel like I’m on ‘holiday’ when I look up at all the pretty balconies in Malasaña, La Latina and the like, I’m most certainly not perma-tanned (without the help of something I purchased from Space NK) and life’s mundane tasks have a way of finding you wherever you live *read/washing/ironing/cleaning/taking the bins out.
So no matter whether you’re fortunate enough to live in a sunny clime (in this case the marvelous Madders) there comes a time when you fancy a holiday within the city; if true indulgence floats your boat then look no further than the exquisitely elegant and seriously stylish, Hotel Urso.
Nestled on Calle Mejia Lequerica, Hotel Urso is a relatively small but perfectly formed boutique hotel. Discovered through the Mr and Mrs Smith website (which I cannot recommend enough) it’s the kind of hotel you’ll never want to leave. Fluffy white robes adorn the bathroom door, there for the taking when the spa takes your fancy. Pillows so soft, that lifting your head up from one feels like a chore (or maybe that was partly due to too much gin the night before). But still, it felt like having a glimpse into how the other half live – all freshly brewed coffee, sumptuous soft furnishings and complimentary welcome fizz at the hotel bar.
Service wise, Hotel Urso couldn’t be faulted. In a country that often leaves a lot to be desired on that front (why do I have to beg for a bill?!) nothing was too much trouble. We forgot our toothbrushes – two new ones appeared by magic. My mum on arrival managed to fall up the stairs – turns out marble floors, heels and mimosas don’t mix (but cue an ice pack appearing at lightning speed) – I can only stress here that apples don’t fall far from the tree and that making an entrance must run in the family!
When check out time swung round (which wasn’t until 12; a Mr and Mrs Smith perk might I add) neither of us wanted to leave – or part with the 400 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets.
It’s worth noting that if splurging on a night away isn’t an option – unless money starts growing on trees (as a deluxe room wasn’t cheap) they have jazz nights every Thursday and the pop up restaurant ‘The Table By’ which are well worth a visit, with a different chef dominating in the kitchen each month.
I left Sunday morning plotting how many private classes I’d have to teach so that I can return, and soon. Should I be lucky enough to do so, my mum will be wearing flats.
Bosco de Lobos: Dine in a secret garden in good company
In the middle of Chueca, deep in the courtyard/garden of the Colegio Oficial de Arquitectos de Madrid, you’ll find a glass house that feels more LA than Madrid, and inside that glass house, you’ll find Bosco de Lobos. Bosco de Lobos is part of En Compañia de Lobos, a restaurant group that has Ana La Santa in Madrid as well as four restaurants in Barcelona and another in Mexico City. It calls itself a restaurant, bar, garden, and a place for work and meetings. And indeed it is a grat place to meet, especially for groups. After hearing nothing but great things about it from my friend Carla, and seeing a picture of Blanca Suárez devouring spaghetti on Instagram, it was abundantly clear that I needed to get there.
And so one Wednesday night, my group from my first trimester of grad school got together for a reunion dinner in this wonderful place. While you may get lost the first time you get there, you just go to the back of the Colegio de Arquitectos, and you will find it hidden behind the entrance.
Walking back to the restaurant already gives you a sense of awe, that you know you’re in a beautiful place and will be transported from the rest of the city out there.
After a walk down the path to the main entrance, you’re welcome at the bar and ready to be transported to dine in a restaurant that has a comfortable feel.
Walking inside is like being welcomed into someone’s house, with comfortable tables and shelves with a wide assortment of books. When the weather’s warm, tables are set up outside in the garden, allowing for more space. However, we were there in January, so that gives an excuse to go back again.
Here’s a photo from their Facebook pageso you can see what it looks like during the day!
We sat in an area overlooking the garden with a wide selection of books and plenty of space for the six of us to have a bonding experience.
Bosco de Lobos serves Italian cuisine, with pizza and pasta the stars of the menu, however there are meat dishes and some tapas. Many websites laud the lasagna (and that will be what I’ll have to have next time), but two of us order the roast chicken, one ordered steak, two ordered pizzas (one the whole-wheat vegetable pizza and the other the taleggio con trufa de invierno), and then I ordered the paparadelle with red-wine meat ragout.
The portion size was great, especially since I do not eat pasta very often. I was not overly stuffed, and I even had room to try the vegetable pizza. What was nice about the sauce was that it was meat-based, while not as heavy as a bolognese, and the paparadelle was fresh and perfectly cooked. They even left me with my own block of cheese with personal grater had I been in the mood for more.
Everyone in the group was satisfied with our meal, and we spent over two hours together catching up, just like old times.
When you have a group dinner and are looking to feel right at home in the middle of a tranquil garden, then Bosco de Lobos is the place to go!
Today I’m sharing a secret discovery. I considered keeping it to myself both out of selfishness and to preserve its charm, however I’ve decided that La Hummuseria deserves to be experienced by anyone who appreciates healthy, wholesome food and a familiar, friendly atmosphere; or indeed anyone with a penchant for hummus. Even if you don’t, it’s hard not to fall in love with it because it’s so damn tasty and healthy.
La Hummuseria is the dream child of newlyweds Lotem and Shai. Two young psychologists from Israel who visited Madrid on holiday and for all the obvious reasons fell in love with the city. They pondered what the city was missing, namely: hummus and this being their passion Lotem and Shai dreamt up La Hummeseria. In February 2015 they moved to Madrid and in October 2015 La Hummuseria was born. Simple.
Hummus is a traditional Middle Eastern dish made from garbanzos/chickpeas, Tahini and lemon. It is served warm with a touch of olive oil, warm chickpeas and one of their special toppings. Traditionally, hummus is eaten as a meal in itself so one portion could be enjoyed individually without anything other than fresh pitta. However, to keep the hummus company (Hummus is a social kind of thing, says Lotem) you will find freshly cut salads made from the best vegetables in the market, lemon and herbs. The hero is obviously the hummus. There are five varieties of hummus; the base is freshly made every day using the Lotem and Shai’s tradition and secret technique and toppings include mushrooms, lemon and almonds.
To accompany the El Ambiguo: hummus with tahíni verde, we ordered the oven baked cauliflower with almonds. A crisp and simple tapas sized dish of oven lightly baked cauliflower seasoned with lemon, parsley and chives and coated in roasted almond shards. The Ensalada fresca-fresquísima arrived as a generous mix of cucumber, tomato, chickpeas, carrot and a fresh herb, lemon and oil dressing.
We drank iced tea with fresh mint and felt so gloriously healthy that we almost declined Shai’s insistence that we try the Malabi for dessert. I am more than glad that we conceded. Made from Middle East cream scented flowers, peanuts and coconut, this dessert is as fresh and wholesome as everything else and totally delicious.
Hidden off Fuencarral, La Hummuseria is the ideal spot for a lazy weekend lunch; reclining in comfortable art deco chairs on the mezzanine level or to grab a quick snack as a break from combing the Malasana shops. The service is impeccable, you can see Lotem and Shai preparing their food from the open kitchen and they are more than happy to stop and talk to you while you are there. After all, hummus is a social thing.
Finally, in case you were wondering, yes they do offer take aways.
Tapas get all the fame in Spain. Drinking wine, nibbling chorizo, sharing little bites late into the night—the tapa is romantic. Never mind that the definition is slippery and the quality unpredictable, or that an evening of tapa-hopping can cost you more in the end than sitting down for a proper meal.
But I’d like to take a moment to celebrate a lesser-known Spanish food tradition, one that’s equally praiseworthy but seldom mentioned: the menu del día. These three magic words will get you a three-course meal, with bread and wine included, at an incredible fixed price.
Beginning as a government-mandated measure during the Franco years, this practical lunch tradition was designed to provide affordable meals to day laborers during the workweek. While no longer required by law, restaurants have carried the tradition full-force into the 21st Century, with even high-end establishments kneeling down to offer those of us on tighter budgets delicious lunches at bargain prices. It’s not as sexy or unique as the tapa, but the menu del día forms an integral part of the Spanish food culture and is perhaps one of Spain’s best-kept secrets.
Over the last year some friends and I decided to take advantage of the menus around Madrid. I wouldn’t call us a club (ignore that I just did) but rather a shifting group of buddies hanging out over a different meal every Friday. We would fluctuate between two and ten people, though it was always anchored by a couple die-hard members, myself included.
I recommend that anyone with the opportunity start their own tradition as well. It’s a great way to try new food, see new corners of the city, and hang out with all the other no-goodnik three-day weekenders over something other than a bar stool.
We had only four rules. All menus had to be:
1. In one of the central barrios.
2. Less than 15 euros per person.
3. Good quality food.
4. Good quality people.
This list is limited to our menu del día meet-ups over the past calendar year. I included both food and atmosphere in my decisions, though the process was by no means meticulous; I’m going off little more than my general impressions of each place. I also recognize this list skews toward trendy restaurants, which is partly because we liked to use the meet-up as an opportunity to get into otherwise busy spots (Friday lunch was normally little hassle), but also as a much-needed break from the every-day Spanish fare. It’s worth noting that sometimes little Spanish joints in the outer barrios do the best menus of all!
It’s pretty astounding that a restaurant with a waitlist of more than a month offers a 14-euro fixed-price meal. If that’s not a testament to the spirit of the menú del día, I don’t know what is. Make a reservation, wait it out, and go here. The food is a fresh take on the Mediterranean-Asian fusion that’s the rage in Spain these days (thanks, David Muñoz) and the dining room is bright and welcoming with all the touchstones of modern aesthetics (dangling bulbs, faded wood, dark blues and whites) without feeling hackneyed. The food is fresh, creative and delicious. We felt like sexy young business people at English teacher prices.
You know you’ve chosen your restaurant well when you find yourself eating next to Javier Bardem. The rich and famous have good taste, much better than Joe Nobodies like us, but this place stands on its own. The cuisine consists of modern takes on Spanish classics though there are the occasional Asian influences (again, all the rage), and the desserts are incredible. It also has the nicest bathroom in Madrid—shit’s straight out of a William Sonoma catalog. Atmosphere is cozy, intimate, and occasionally Bardem-ridden.
Unlike other restaurants that include maybe two or three options for a first and second course, Momo offers the entire menu for the menu del día. The food is delicious and varied (again, some Mediterranean-Asian fusion going on—I’m spotting a trend). The dishes can sometimes be a bit sauce-heavy (or maybe my tastes are becoming more Spanish) but choose wisely and you’ll love your meal. This is one of my go-to menus del día when I have visitors because of the wide selection. They also have a menu de noche for a reasonable 18 euros (same as the day menu), but if you’re going to be in the area for a reasonably-priced dinner, I’d suggest Baco y Beto.
This restaurant is intimate and classic (the chef himself sometimes takes the orders) with faded white wood walls and a chalkboard listing the daily specials. The food is classic Spanish with a touch of ‘lo moderno,’ and everything is fresh and seasonal. It’s still the best crema de verduras I’ve had in Madrid (had seasonal squash with a couple slices of intense chorizo), which says a lot in a city obsessed with creaming vegetables. Here’s a previous post on Badila.
Just to switch things up here, let’s focus on quantity. Casa dei Pazzi offers a substantial salad as a starter and then a whole Italian-style pizza for your main course.There’s also wine, bread and dessert. You’ll wonder how you got away with paying only 11 euros, half-expecting to look over your shoulder as you leave and see an angry Italian chef charging after you with a pizza paddle.
Maybe the most charming atmosphere in the list, it feels a bit like an old diner, with a few tables around a large bar and counter in the middle, the hustle and bustle of the waiters running around and the steady chatter of regulars. The food’s great too.We showed up at 1:30 and it was fine, but it filled up quickly. Check out our previous post on Los Chuchis.
This trendy restaurant in Malasaña has a similar feel to Maricastaña (see below), with both doing modern takes on classic spanish food, though Galleta’s menu skews a bit more French. They’re also on the same street, so if you don’t like the look of one menu, try the other. I prefer the atmosphere here though—the warm gold lighting, the wide French doors to the street, the wood and brick interior with wild flowers in vases around the restaurant. When we went the food was classic Spanish but good (crema starter, entrecot, a fruit desert) but the menu del día seems to change frequently and dramatically, so you can probably catch it on a great day.
The food is classic menu del día —your typical crema de verduras starter (or hummus or a salad) with a protein-focused second (lomo, entrecot, meluza)—but what they do, they do well. It has a bit of that same late-2000s trendy look to it—exposed brick, sanded wood shelves, dangling lightbulbs and fading white paint—but they manage to pull it off. Galleta wins by a hair, but they’re both nice dining experiences.
We all enjoyed this place. They describe their cuisine as “Latin Criollo” (though it leaned more Spanish than Latin American) with a warm Latin-inspired atmosphere. They publish examples of their menú del día right on the website http://lacandelita.es/carta/menu-del-dia/so you don’t have to take my word for it!
TukTuk doesn’t even need mentioning on an English-language Madrid blog. They do a nice variety of Southeast Asian dishes and have great quantity and quality menu for the price, so it’s always a popular suggestion in the expat community. If you’ve lived here for over a year, you’ve definitely heard the typical “let’s all go TuckTak! Takatuk! TACKATACKATUKKA!” They’re pronouncing it wrong, though—it’s “tuktuk.” Read our full post on Tuk Tuk.
This place was consistently called the best menú del día in Madrid on TripAdvisor last year, and it might still have that reputation, but the second time I went, the quality and presentation seemed to have slipped. Who knows, it may have been an off day. I don’t know how you would characterize their food—it’s a bit of a Spanish-and-everything fusion. I would sum it up as “rich.” Be careful to mix up the starter and second course, otherwise you’ll be like “why’d I order fried cheese in blueberry sauce as an appetizer for pesto-smothered pork?”
I bumped My Veg down a couple notches because they didn’t include a drink with the menu del día, which is an insult to the very tradition! The final cost was closer to 18 euros, making it the most expensive menu we had all year. In terms of quality, it would be closer to the top. All the food was market fresh (they pride themselves on “tomatoes that taste like tomatoes”) and the presentation modern and meticulous. It’s a much fancier place than the outside suggests. Just ignore the terrible name.
I came here after a particularly intense bike ride and without showering, so my memory is one of me hunching over my plate apologetically avoiding eye contact with all the well-dressed businessmen eating around us. The food was delicious though, Spanish food with a modern twist. I managed to take this blurry photo before losing all control and smashing my face into my plate in a black-out feeding frenzy.
I’m a sucker for Thai food and this place does a decent job for the (oddly specific) price. They include tom yum soup or pad thai as a starter, then a stirfry or curry as a second. The atmosphere is a bit odd, it feels a bit like a theme restaurant. While we’re on the topic of thai food, I actually prefer the menú del día at Maiia Thai (Plaza de España), though it doesn’t rotate much,and sometimes the new BambuBox (Chueca) has Tom Kha as a starter, which is nice. I haven’t included either of those on the list because they weren’t done as a menu with the group. Also: Krachai (Alonso Martinez) has very high quality food and some Michelin nods, though the menu is expensive, doesn’t include soup, and doesn’t rotate much.
So this place has a surprisingly nice interior and the food wasn’t bad (a decent-sized burger, a pisto starter for me, someone got a salad) but it’s located in an exceptionally ugly plaza between Sol and Gran Via and attached to a drab little hotel. It’s the kind of place you’d expect to see a man in a disheveled suit drinking a mid-morning cocktail and nervously waiting to meet his mistress.
The menu food isn’t bad, but it’s not particularly noteworthy. We all had some type of chicken or beef stir-fry but they seemed to lack those bright fundamental vietnamese tastes (mint, lime, basil). I also would’ve liked to see pho as a menu option, but that’s wishful thinking. I prefer La Petit Hanoi in malasaña.
Everyone else loved this place (including TripAdvisor, where it has some pretty outstanding rankings). It has a unique design concept I guess, but I was not blown away by the food. I also have no idea how we’re supposed to pronounce it. “El bus?” “El beh- OOS?” I end up saying it like I’m hesitant to recommend it, which I guess I am: “El b’us.”
18. Vivares (chueca, 9.90 euro / 12 euros veg option)
This restaurant is popular for lunch in Chueca, but I can’t figure out why, exactly. We experienced so-so food in a chaotic environment, nothing extraordinary, and the menu felt a bit too long for them to focus on any type of seasonal speciality. My strongest memory is that it was too loud. “Alright, gramps” you’re probably thinking, but the sensation was like being in an adult Chuck-E-Cheese without any of the cool robot puppets.
I enjoy La Mucca for dinner. They have a good boletus pizza and some quality appetizers, and it’s lively and fun in the evening. For lunch, this place disappointed. It was the first menu del día where someone had to set aside a dish—a greasy open-faced sandwich with an odd flavor. We were also sitting on the slanting terraza with the harsh mid-afternoon February sunlight blinding our eyes and giving the greasy Tosta an even more washed-out, dreary look. The highlight was this salad, but even that can be made easily at home for much cheaper. We sat there dreaming of all the better places on this list, knowing that next week was a fresh start.
You might have noticed almost none of these get awful reviews, but that’s simply because none of these places were awful. Maybe it’s a testament to our rigorous selection process, or maybe we just enjoyed ourselves everywhere. If a place were awful, I would have said so.
I think of Homer the food critic: “I’m giving this my worst review ever: seven thumbs up.”
I have more recommendations for menús around Madrid that were not included in this list because we did not go there in our Friday group. I had to set a limit for the list somewhere. Please add your suggestions below or on Facebook and we can compile another post.
(all photos were snapped on scene with an iPhone, unless otherwise indicated)