If you haven't tried the 'cocido' stew at La Bola Taberna or the egg-and-chips dish 'huevos rotos' at Casa Lucio, what are you waiting for? These traditional restaurants in Madrid are among many serving up typical dishes that never fall out of fashion. Home-made stews and checked tableclothes are part and parcel of Madrid's traditional cuisine. If you want to get an authentic taste of Madrid, get going with our list of the best traditional restaurants in town. Because the classics never die.
A restaurant unsurpassed by any other in Madrid for its famous patrons: King Juan Carlos, Bill Clinton and Penélope Cruz among them. This is the place of historical rendezvous, where Aznar's and Bush's wives did lunch back when alliances were in the making. They also know how to cook up one cracking 'solomillo' (beef). The key to Lucio's glory is the use of a coal-fired oven and the best olive oil. Another star dish is the 'huevos rotos', a starter of lightly fried eggs laid on top of a bed of crisp, thinly cut chips. Be sure to ask for a table on the first floor.
Holding court on a quiet backstreet, this dignified, classic Madrid restaurant is considered by many to be the home of 'cocido', the huge and hearty stew lifelong Madrid residents love and a test for the biggest of appetites. La Bola is still run by the same family that founded it in the 19th century, and the 'cocido' (which is only served at lunchtime) is still cooked traditionally in earthenware pots on a wood fire. Unfortunately, this impressive pedigree has led to a certain complacency, verging on the arrogant, in some of the waiting staff.
The world's oldest restaurant (with a signed Norris McWhirter certificate to prove it) is still coming up with the goods after nearly 300 years. For all its popularity as a tourist destination, its nooks and crannies add up to an atmospheric – if cramped – dining spot. Botín turns out great roasts, including that old Spanish favourite, 'cochinillo' (suckling pig). The 'cordero' (lamb) is also superb, as are the house-named 'almejas' (clams). And, yes, seeing as you asked, Hemingway did come here.
This landmark restaurant, which opened in 1839, is credited with having introduced French haute cuisine into the culinary wilderness of Madrid. Founder Emile Lhardy is said to have been enticed to the city by none other than 'Carmen' author Prosper Mérimée, who told him there was no decent restaurant in the Spanish capital. These days it's rated as much for its history and belle-époque decor as for the (expensive) food. The menu is as Frenchified as ever, although there's also a very refined 'cocido' stew, good game and 'callos' (tripe), in addition to an excellent, if pricey, wine list.
Pick your way down the side of the open kitchen to a deep dining room hung with pictures of visiting royals and grateful celebrities, along with rather grimmer photos of the 1906 bombing of Alfonso XIII's wedding procession – which happened right outside the door. Undamaged, and still going strong, Casa Ciriaco was a meeting place for the intelligentsia in pre–Civil War days, and although it no longer attracts too many thinkers, the Castilian fare is a taste of days gone by. 'Cochinillo' (suckling pig) is the speciality, along with partridge and butter beans, when in season. Waiters are as old-school as you'd expect, but very friendly.
Weekends bring the crowds in to this tapas bar. Maybe it's thanks to the croquettes or the home-made meatballs, but it's the 'cocido' stew that's really made Casa Pello a household name in the north of the city. Here you'll find local traditional food, such as the exquisite grilled meats. The terrace fills up fast when the weather's fine and for post-work drinks.
Still going strong after a century, this is the best place in the city for deep-fried lamb intestines and other tasty tidbits. Not for faint stomachs, this offal institution offers superbly prepared testicles, glands and stomach linings, all accompanied by strong red wine. Worth checking out just for the lively scene and for an authentic taste of offal.
One of the best sources of 'cocina casera' (home cooking) in Madrid, Casa Manolo has an endearing, right-at-home atmosphere, enhanced by the black-and-white photo of the owner's grandmother and aunt that presides over the restaurant. But even though it's all about tradition, this place prepares creative mouth-watering salads that put the usual iceberg-based 'ensalada mixta' to shame – the aubergine with tomato and goat's cheese, for example, must be one of the best in the city. And then there's lentil soup, 'cocido' and other hearty stews, all supremely well prepared.
Little changes at this historic spot, from the zinc bar to the bull's head on the wall. Its various owners have all been involved in bullfighting, and roundtable discussions called 'tertulías' of critics, 'toreros' and aficionados are still held here. It's local and friendly, with superior tapas (the best is the scrumptious salad you get free with a drink).