With regular appearances in countless best-restaurant lists across the world, Spanish cuisine is becoming a force to be reckoned with on the international scene. There are hundreds of fantastic restaurants in Madrid, especially if you venture away from the tourists traps lining Gran Vía and the Plaza Mayor (traveller’s tip: never enter a restaurant if it lists its menu in more than four languages). If you really want a taste of the best cooking Madrid has to offer, splash out on one of the nine Michelin-starred restaurants in the centre.
Zalacaín, Calle de Alvarez de Baena, 6
Credentials: Founded in 1973 and credited with bringing nouvelle cuisine to Spain, this traditionally opulent restaurant regularly attracts Spanish royalty and celebrities.
Style: Classic French cuisine with Basque and Spanish influences in historic settings.
Recommended dishes: Oysters with caviar and sherry gravy, monkfish ragout.
Club Allard, Calle de Ferraz, 2
Credentials: Formerly a members-only private club, Club Allard is located in a sumptuous early modernist building close to the Plaza de España. Head chef Diego Guerrero has won numerous awards for his simple dishes.
Style: Exquisitely crafted prize-winning dishes designed to confuse your eyes and your tastebuds, served in exclusive surroundings.
Recommended dishes: Beef terrine with foie cream, garlic bread churros.
Diverxo, Calle de Pensamiento, 28
Credentials: Head chef David Muñoz previously worked at Hakassan and Nobu amongst others. Located in the Tetúan district, home of Madrid’s Asian restaurants and specialist stores, so you know you’re getting the most authentic ingredients.
Style: Fusion Iberian-Oriental cooking which is inventive, hugely popular and highly praised – it’s often impossible to get a table.
Recommended dishes: Spanish tortilla maki, rabbit and carrot dim sum.
La Broche (Hotel Miguel Angel), Calle de Miguel Angel, 29-31
Credentials: Part of the luxury Hotel Miguel Angel, this restaurant was formerly presided over by Sergi Arola. It’s now run by Angel Palacios, another El Bulli graduate fast making a name for himself after running the American incarnation of La Broche in Miami.
Style: Minimalist décor plays host to fresh market ingredients and a great deal of experimentation and creativity.
Recommended dishes: Raw seafood and seawater gelée, fois gras with roasted apricots and cocoa.
Ramon Freixa (Hotel Selenza Madrid), Calle de Claudio Coello, 67
Credentials: The Catalan chef who lends his name to his restaurant, formerly of Barcelona’s one-star Racó d’en Freixa, honed his craft in Barcelona, Belgium and the French countryside, giving him a passion for seasonal cooking and fresh ingredients.
Style: Seriously over the top extravagant dining situated on one of Madrid’s most exclusive streets.
Recommended dishes: Sauteéd wild mushrooms with octopus, mini pancetta meatballs.
Kabuki Wellington (Hotel Wellington), Calle de Velázquez, 6
Credentials: Head chef Ricardo Sanz began his career in a tapas bar, then trained for four years at the famous Tokyo Taro. This led to the creation of Kabuki style cooking, with the different disciplines informing each other.
Style: Variations on Japanese classics using local Spanish ingredients. What’s more, desserts are crafted by Oriol Balaguer, one of the world’s top pastry chefs.
Recommended dishes: butterfish with black truffle nigiri, beef mushroom and noodle soup.
Santceloni (Hesperia Madrid Hotel), Paseo de la Castellana, 57
Credentials: Owner Santi Santamaria i Puig is one of the finest chefs in Spain, earning three Michelin stars over the course of his career, with the first star awarded to Santceloni when it had only nine tables.
Style: The focus of this restaurant is on seasonal fare, offering the best of what’s available in Mediterranean flavours over the course of the year. It also offers one of the best wine lists in the whole city.
Recommended dishes: Terrine of tuna and foie gras, quail’s eggs with onion consommé and black truffle.
La Terraza del Casino, Calle de Alcalá, 15
Credentials: With Ferran Adria of the world famous El Bulli restaurant at its helm, La Terraza offers what they call an ‘auteur kitchen’: think the creativity of Heston Blumenthal infused with Spanish traditions and flavours.
Style: A typical Spanish menu deconstructed and reimagined, with spectacular views over the city. A great way to sample the cooking style of El Bulli for a fraction of the price.
Recommended dishes: Paella in the style of Rice Krispies, liquidised croquetas, mojito served with dry ice.
Sergi Arola Gastro, Calle de Zurbano, 31
Credentials: Sergi Arola, formally of La Broche, trained for 8 years under Ferran Adria in Barcelona. He claims he doesn’t believe in having more than 3 ingredients on the plate at the same time.
Style: This restaurant specialises in tiny bite-size delicacies, crafted with great care and creativity. The service has also been highlighted as impeccable.
Recommended dishes: Fresh anchovies with apple salad and cider syrup, venison in Moroccan spices.
Lindsey Ford is a blogger for Subway Hotels, writing about hotels near Madrid metro stations.