The Madrileños are crazy for tapas, the snack-size nibbles that accompany a glass of wine or beer, and many nights out begin with a tour of favorite tapas bars before dinner. Recently, a rising generation of chefs has seized upon tapas as a primary means of expression. Here are some of the best places to try these delicious miniatures in their new leading role.
Michelin-starred chef Paco Roncero does wildly inventive tapas at the glamorous Estado Puro, where the ceiling is decorated with peinatas, the hair combs once worn by Spanish women. Among the best tapas here are the skewered lamb in pumpkin foam, octopus in a mango-and-wild-mushroom vinaigrette, and “meat bombs” (meat-and-potato balls).
Plaza Cánovas del Castillo 4.
Run by Catalan chef Sergi Arola (who had two Michelin stars at his restaurant La Broche until it closed in June), the stylish Le Cabrera has a tongue-in-cheek ’70s retro décor and a terrific menu of inventive tapas such as sardines with passion fruit vinaigrette, and miniature steak tartares.
Calle Bárbara de Braganza 2.
In addition to an excellent selection of wines by the glass, friendly Casa Lucas offers an intriguing selection of very inventive tapas. If it’s available, try the delicious “Madrid” — an intricate canapé of tomato, scrambled egg, blood sausage, pine nuts and raisins.
Cava Baja 30.
Popular with a well-dressed younger crowd, Olé Lola is one of the best and most inventive of the new-style tapas bars in Madrid. The menu of chef Juan Pablo Barila evolves constantly, but crowd-pleasers include mussels with cheese sauce, salmon tartare, and chicken “lollipops” with soy-honey sauce.
Calle San Mateo 28.