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Any fine dining experience in Madrid has to start in the heart of the city, a few steps away from Plaza Mayor, where the market of San Miguel and dozens of booths offer the most complete overview of prized local ingredients. The market is also the ideal place in which to enact the ritual of the tapeo, which means tasting the variegated offering of tapas.
But before you start, here is a mini guide to gourmet venues in Madrid, comprising an exclusive terrace and a restaurant you probably thought was beyond reach.
From 0 to 25 Euros
In Madrid, the art of cake and pastry making dates back hundreds of years so be sure not to leave without tasting a slice of frambuesa, raspberry cake, at the cake shop of La Mallorquina, the oldest in the city. The Antigua Pastelería del Pozo, close to Puerta del Sol, offers excellent white or dark chocolate palmeras while, at Mama Framboise in the Chamberi barrio, you can order almond or raspberry croissants. On this budget you can afford to try all three.
But the real treat is to have lunch or a drink in the Salamanca district, in the hotel where the Beatles, Cary Grant and Rita Hayworth used to stay. The venue is called the Dry Martini Bar, on the premises of the Hotel Gran Meliá Fénix; it is owned and run by one of the world’s most eminent mixologists, Javier de las Muelas. Dozens of Martini cocktail variants and high quality tapas are served up in an exciting atmosphere. Beware, the drinks are priced at around 15 Euros.
From 25 to 50
Azotea Circulo de Bellas Artes is a multicultural centre which was founded in 1919, but its popularity also depends on the presence of an azotea – meaning terrace in Spanish - called the Tartan Roof. It costs 4 Euros to go up by lift, but with the rest of your budget you can enjoy a few tapas. The cuisine is that of chef Javier Muñoz-Calero and his brigade. Here is an example: tuna marinated in vermouth with tomato and herb focaccia bread or a traditional paella, priced at 18 Euros. But on this budget, I personally would simply order a generous portion of Jamon Iberico de Bellota accompanied with a glass of Cava Jaume Serra (4 Euros).
Any excuse is justified to admire the city from La Terraza, the iconic location of The Principal Madrid hotels' restaurant on the seventh floor. Olive trees, citrus and cypress trees combine to create a luxurious atmosphere together with white, black and purple furnishings. To stay within budget you can order two of the signature cocktails or try the "Para picar" (tapas) section, where the stand out dish is the Jamón Ibérico and pan de cristal (a type of spanish bread) (28 euros), paired with a glass of Laurent Perrier Champagne (14 euros).
From 50 to 100
Perish the thought of having a meal at DiverXo, David Muñoz’s revolutionary restaurant, the only three-starred establishment of Madrid. However, if you want to take a plunge in the bizarre folly of the chef who signs himself Dabiz, you can go to Streetxo, where the average cost per course is 15 Euros. Here the cuisine is Spanish, Japanese and Indian, hot, spicy and innovative but, more than anything else, the overall experience is what counts. Get prepared to be served by waiters wearing Dabiz-style straitjackets. The menu changes every minute, rather than every day, according to the mood, the market and the atmosphere of the evening. Lucky you, if you are served a dish of Korean wonton lasagne and vaca vieja beef with shitake mushrooms, spicy tomatoes marinated in vinegar, béchamel of goat’s milk and cardamom or Suckling lamb tandoori with Peruvian-style potatoes, summer truffle and horn of plenty mushrooms (15 Euros approximately per dish).
The Santceloni restaurant is located beneath the luxurious 5-star hotel Hesperia. Chef Óscar Velasco Martin is acclaimed as the heir of great master chef Martín Berasategui Olazabal. The two Michelin stars, well deserved, do not prevent you from trying at least one dish, bearing in mind that a single course will cost you approximately 50 Euros. We recommend the hake with basil and carrots served with a reduced chicken sauce or white pork ribs, fennel, garlic, lemon and barbecue sauce.