Can it be that wine is moving in on Madrid's beer territory? More and more locals are opting for wine when it comes to 'aperitivo' hour in Madrid. Vintages from the Rueda, Ribera de Duero and Rioja regions compete for space on the table, and everyone goes crazy for a bit of cava or Lambrusco. It's always the right time for a good glass of wine, and you don't have to be an expert to enjoy one. Just head to these top wine bars in town and they'll help you pick out a grape that suits your taste.
The one unwavering principle of the brothers who run this restaurant/wine cellar is to use seasonal products from the best suppliers. García de la Navarra is a must for good food and has one of the best stocked cellars in the city. Hungry punters come here to share dishes like potato salad and hearty stews. Ask about special dishes that don’t appear on the menu. An easy way to get acquainted with the excellent cuisine here is by eating at the bar.
One of the best examples of a new-style-tavern in the city. Well-cooked dishes with quality produce and tempting wines. Cold cuts, small stews, open toasted sandwiches… The dining area features a few high tables and a lower table that seats eight where you can chat with friends about being a foodie in the know.
One of the most successful examples in the city of what is known as an ‘enlightened tavern’. It has a bar overflowing with tapas and a large selection of wines served by the glass. In the back there's a small dining room where you can sample more elaborate dishes, which, while not overly sophisticated, are tastefully reminiscent of home cooking.
In the heart of La Latina, in the bowels of a downtown hotel, you’ll find this well-lit tavern offering a tour of many types of Spanish cuisine: Iberian ham croquettes, octopus salad, and main courses like roasted piglet, stewed oxtail and grilled squid. But undoubtedly the highlight is its well-stocked wine cellar (good value, even by the glass).
Its name is Latin for 'Madrid', but Matritum has a great selection of tapas and wine from other regions of Spain, most notably Catalonia. Try the 'gambas all cremat' (prawns with burnt garlic) or fabulous canapés such as cabrales cheese with apple compôte or 'sobrasada' – a spicy, spreadable, Mallorcan sausage. The wine list, too, is dominated by Catalan labels, with many notably good bottles from the Penedès region.
Frequented by the bohemian hip element of the Lavapiés, this cool wine bar, with tall windows open on to the street, is gently evocative of the old bodega it used to be. An impressive list of well-priced wines by the glass is complemented by tasty canapés, along with mulled wine and caldo (broth) in winter, or gazpacho and granizado in summer.
Totally unreconstructed, La Venencia is gloriously shabby, with old, peeling sherry posters, barrels behind the bar and walls burnished gold by decades of tobacco smoke. It serves only sherry (locals will order a crisp, dry 'fino' or 'manzanilla', leaving the sweet stuff to the occasional tourist who stumbles in), along with manchego cheese, 'cecina' (air-dried beef) and chorizo by way of tapas. You’ll invariably be served some excellent olives with the first round. Orders are still chalked up on the bar, and an enamel sign asks customers not to spit on the floor or take photos. No tips accepted.
This restaurant's popular name comes from its role as a lefty meeting point years ago, under Franco (but Tienda de Vinos is all you'll see above the door). It's one of the city's real classics so a visit is essential, and no one makes any grand claims about its unchanging and unchallenging menu. To start, there are soups: gazpacho, lentil or house-made broth, followed by liver and onions, lamb cutlets, kidneys in sherry and plenty of fish. Service is known for being deadpan, but if you're lucky, you'll get one of the two charming great-grandsons of the original owner.
It looks a lot grander than it is, which is not to say that the tapas aren't good, just that the bill is a pleasant surprise in these rather lofty surroundings. 'Pintxos' include smoked salmon with cream cheese, cabrales with quince jelly and goose liver with apple.
When it opened in 1929, this was the first ham and charcuterie shop in Madrid. It's undergone a few changes since then, but many of the original fittings have been retained, and great pride is taken in sourcing the best ingredients for tapas. Of the 50-strong wine list, all are available by the glass. Pay attention to the blackboards. The selection of wine and small dishes change from time to time.