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Croquettes at Santerra
Photograph: Santerra Neotaberna Croquettes at Santerra

12 best tapas bars in Madrid

We honour some of the most classically delicious mini meals in town with this list of the best spots for tapas in Madrid

By Vivian Herzog and Andrés Galisteo

If you’re on a quest for the best tapas in Madrid, you’ve come to the right place. You don’t have to tell us twice that we’re in one of the best cities for enjoying tapas. The Spanish capital boasts more bars than any other city in the country, and it’s the perfect place to hop from one to the next sampling each spot’s speciality. Tapas are hot right now – but it’s not like they ever went out of style. So if you want to taste the most authentic version of Spain and eat like a local, here are some of our top choices, from seafood delights to patatas bravas, from our favourite tapas bars in town.

RECOMMENDED: Full guide to the best bars in Madrid

The most amazing tapas in Madrid

Croquettes at Santerra
Photograph: Michelle Thomas

1. Croquettes at Santerra

Restaurants Spanish Barrio de Salamanca

Miguel Carretero created Santerra as well as the restaurant’s amazing ham croquette, which was chosen as the best in the world in the 2018 edition of the Madrid Fusión gastronomic congress. Its main ingredient is none other than an excellent Iberian ham of course, but the exact crispiness that this chef gives it and the creaminess of his béchamel are in a class of their own.

Tortilla de patata (potato omelette) at La Primera
Photograph: La Primera

2. Potato omelette at La Primera

Restaurants Spanish Centro

So by now you know that in Spain, a ‘tortilla’ is an omelette, and the most popular is the potato omelette, or ‘tortilla de patata’. And at La Primera they’ve got a tortilla to end all tortillas. Savour every bite as you gaze out at the views of Gran Vía, and you’ll be as surprised as we are that there’s not more word of mouth about this spectacular tapa that’s served here for breakfast and as a snack throughout the day. The fourth of Paco Quirós’s restaurants (Cañadío, La Maruca and La Bien Aparecida), La Primera is worth a visit if only for this.

Tigre at Viavélez
Photograph: Viavélez

3. Tigre at Viavélez

Restaurants Spanish Chamartín

Yes, we know that the most famous things on the menu here are the croquettes, and they are indeed fantastic. But were here to tell you about something else, something (dare we say) even more exciting. The incredible ‘tigre’ at Viavélez is made from chopped Galician mussels and béchamel, tomato and a touch of cognac. You can gobble it up, shell included, as that’s actually a crispy wonton with squid ink that simulates a real shell. Trust us on this one.

Salmorejo at La Ardosa
Photograph: La Ardosa

4. Salmorejo at La Ardosa

Bars and pubs Tapas bars Malasaña

This traditional chilled tomato-based soup hails from Córdoba, but its made its way to us here in Madrid. With a bit of bread, garlic, good olive oil and excellent tomatoes, the centuries-old La Ardosa does it right. They top it off with a bit of scrambled egg and salt-cured tuna known as ‘mojama’. You might be tempted to lick the bowl clean.

Patatas bravas at Docamar
Photograph: Docamar

5. Patatas bravas at Docamar

Bars and pubs Quintana

The sauce recipe is a secret. If it weren’t, the dish wouldn’t be the local legend that it is. Tapas fans in Madrid (and from around the country) flock to this spot to get these ‘patatas bravas’, which have got to be the most popular of Spanish tapas. Docamar’s ‘bravas’, with their lightly spicy secret sauce, are the crispiest, crunchiest and most irresistible in town.

Rabas at Cañadío
Photograph: Cañadío / Semilla Comunicación

6. Rabas at Cañadío

Restaurants Spanish Barrio de Salamanca

It’s impossible to mention chef and restaurateur Paco Quirós without mentioning fried-squid ‘rabas’. He’s been making them for decades, first in the city of Santander and now here in Madrid. The rabas at Cañadío send you on a virtual trip to Cantabria in the blink of an eye (or rather, in a single bite). Each serving has a delightful mix of crispy tentacles and tender meat. You don’t want to miss this exquisite fried experience.

Torreznos at La Raquetista
Photograph: La Raquetista

7. Torreznos at La Raquetista

Restaurants Spanish Ibiza

‘Torreznos’, which are essentially oil-fried chunks of pork belly, are one of the most decadent tapas you can find. But La Raquetista cooks them for hours at a low temperature, and the resulting torreznos are light, crunchy, delicious and completely addictive. You’ll go back again and again for this heavenly bacon-y goodness.

Boquerones in vinegar at Fide
Photograph: Cervecería Fide

8. Boquerones in vinegar at Fide

Bars and pubs Tapas bars Chamberí

Along with bravas, soldaditos (see below) and tortilla, another authentic Spanish tapas experience is munching on some little fish in vinegar known as ‘boquerones’. Dont forget the side of chips and a cold beer on tap to wash it all down. At Fide, the house speciality is fresh seafood, and we promise there’s no better place for this simple delicacy.

Russian salad at La Tasquita de Enfrente
Photograph: Jara Varela

9. Russian salad at La Tasquita de Enfrente

Restaurants Spanish Malasaña

Madrid ought to construct a monument to Juanjo López and his Russian salad. That’s how good it is. You’ll see this popular tapa on menus as ‘ensalada rusa’ or ‘ensaladilla rusa’ or sometimes just ‘ensaladilla’. It’s a simple recipe that can vary from place to place, and López makes his with the usual potatoes, carrots and hard-boiled eggs, and he tops it with a seasonal garnish like salmon roe or a wonderfully fresh prawn.

Lamb sweetbread nuggets at Lúa
Photograph: Manuel Barra

10. Lamb sweetbread nuggets at Lúa

Restaurants Spanish Chamberí

Ordering from the bar menu that’s available both at the bar and on the terrace at this Michelin-starred spot in Chamberí is a good way to get an idea of the culinary genius of Manuel Domínguez. The artful chef serves up expertly executed plates of classics, but we’ll always be the ones ordering the ‘mollejas de cordero’ (lamb sweetbread). If you’re feeling unsure, take the leap. You won’t be sorry.

Burrata with salmorejo at Taberna & Media
Photograph: Taberna & Media

11. Burrata with salmorejo at Taberna & Media

Restaurants Spanish Retiro

José Luis Martínez heads up this operation he’s always wanted in the Retiro area. A traditional tavern with modern twists, Taberna & Media offers family recipes that have been lightly updated to fit with the times. Order at the bar or in the dining room, and don’t leave without a dish of the fantastic burrata with salmorejo. Served with mojama, sardines and parmesan, this dish isn’t easily forgotten.

Soldaditos de Pavía at Garra Bar
Photograph: Garra Bar

12. Soldaditos de Pavía at Garra Bar

Bars and pubs Centro

The luxurious bar of the Barceló Torre hotel has started serving casual and affordable nibbles based on traditional tavern recipes. The bar’s versions are slightly unique, however, and use the recipes as a blueprint for fresh, fun and inventive new dishes. The soldaditos de Pavía, which are perfectly fried fingers of cod, are served with garlic mayonnaise, and we’re obsessed with them.

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