Where to eat in Huertas

From the Plaza Santa Ana down to the Paseo del Prado, the pokey streets of Huertas brim with top-notch eating, lively drinking and an intoxicating dash of history. This was the literary quarter during Spain’s Golden Age and thus was home to Cervantes – the man behind Don Quixote – among other long-gone local luminaries. Nowadays, the barrio is a wonderfully anachronistic whirl of old taverns and chic celebrity chef joints.

So, want to know where to eat in Huertas? Read on…


Broad-chested Castilian bar with rustic trimmings and slap-up food

El Lacón bar in Huertas Madrid

El Lacón is the real deal – an often packed and always atmospheric spot for no-fuss drinks and honest fare. The menu is a mix of down-home raciones from across the peninsula and the prices are spot on (plus they’ll do medias raciones on request – half servings so you can try a wider selection). The bar is famous for its tapa policy – with every drink ordered you can choose a hot tapa from a short blackboard menu (the selection changes constantly and includes anything from fried fish to patatas a la gallega). Callos a la madrileña (a cockle-warming tripe stew) is always on the list. So, if you’re too chicken to order an entire bowl of this most Madrilenian dish elsewhere, this is the place to try it for the price of a caña. There’s a dining room above the bar if you want to take a load off and mention must be made of the sleeve-garter-wearing waiters. They work with rare efficiency and grace and, if you’re sharing raciones, will cut up your parties’ food before your eyes… just like mum used to.

Calle de Manuel Fernández y González, 8  28014
914 29 60 42
Metro: Sol or Anton Martín

Yes, yes and yes

Bull tail potatoes at TriCiclo restaurant in Huertas, Madrid

It was another new opening in Madrid. I was expecting ok food. Kinda interesting. Nothing great. The menu hit a few very ‘now’ and therefore very worrying notes: does any recently-opened Madrid eatery not serve tuna tataki or steak tartar? And then the food came. Elegant, fresh, precise and surprising. It was – almost across the board – excellent. The first piece of cooked bacalao I’ve liked in a long time, the potatoes stuffed with bull tail had a lovely charred flavour (needed a tad more bull, though…), the gazpacho was excellent, the foie terrine gorgeously gamey. The menu is smartly divided into three parts: market produce without much maquillage, riffs on Spanish classics, and dishes from abroad. But. There is a but. But this but is a good but. You can choose ración, half ración and tapa sizes (called 1/3 raciones) of many dishes. I wrote that last sentence on bent knees, in gratitude. It’s frustrating to be constantly corralled into Madrid’s traditional ración size, compared to the smaller half-ración and tapas sizes available down south. Now, I know all parts of Spain have their own eating culture. But bugger it – tradition is never a reason not to change. Let Madrid learn something from its southern sisters. The mixture of serving sizes means you can swing by for a bite at the bar or sit at a table and splurge. I suggest you hit up TriCiclo for both. And when you do, get the tataki. It was very good.

Calle Santa María, 28

910 24 47 98
Metro: Anton Martín

Welcome to my happy place

vinoteca moratin, restaurant Madrid

If I only had one measly day in Madrid (how sad), this little corner of heaven is where I’d pull up a pew and tuck in a napkin. Down the hill in Huertas, near the Prado, Vinoteca Moratín drags me back every time with it’s rare blend of attentive, unaffected service, reliably delicious and interesting food, reasonable prices, tasteful decor and a killer wine list (mainly Spanish and French). Snug and satisfying, it’s where my wife and I go to eat, talk and get a bit drunk, far from the BS and boring hype that too often dominates the world of eating out. The dining room only seats 25-odd, meaning talented chef Marcos has time to advise (and not in an icky pretentious way) diners on the menu and wines. But, with so few tables, you’ll need to call well ahead, or turn up at the last minute with your fingers tightly crossed. If you strike out, lick your wounds, hit the tapas bars on nearby Calle Jesus (try Los Gatos and Cervecería Cervantes), and try again the following night.

Calle de Moratín, 36
+34 911 27 60 85
Metro: Anton Martín or Atocha

600 kms from Jerez, this is Madrid’s sherry sanctum

To quote Withnail, walking into La Venencia is like stepping into a nicotine-stained lung. Smoking in Spanish bars is now verboten, but this old-world, achingly-atmospheric sherry saloon remains wonderfully discoloured by tobacco and time. The five sherries come by the glass (from €1.70 to €2), half-bottle (about €7) or full bottle (about €12), and the bottles are refilled from barrels stacked behind the bar. Order a tapa of mojama (salt-cured tuna) and maybe a little cecina (the often-ignored beef equivalent of jamón) to accompany. La Venencia is in the guidebooks, but it’s still frequented by fusty locals and the owners keep the tourists in check by ruthlessly enforcing a no-photo policy. Avoid stepping on the resident black cat and never leave a tip (scan down this NY Times piece to find out why). Oh, and Hemingway used to drink here (along every other gin joint in Madrid it seems…).

Calle de Echegaray, 7  28014
+34 914 29 73 13
Metro: Sol (lines 1, 2, 3) or Anton Martín (line 1)

James Blick

3 thoughts on “Where to eat in Huertas

  1. Nice blog, James. You are right about Triciclo. Looked a bit fancy and I was prepared for disappointment, but the dishes were really well thought out and the flavours spot on. Some of the portions were a little on the small side for the money, but it all tasted great, including the rice pudding which doesn’t normally do it for me. Also, they paced the dishes nicely and brought them in a sensible order. I’ve seen that site go through many incarnations and I hope this one lasts a while.
    I’ll try out your bravas recommendation some time and let you know what I think.

    • Yeah, Triciclo is a tad on the high side…. Offers something a little different though, as long as you’re not looking to fill up. Let me know what you think of the bravas.

      • Had the bravas today. Potatoes and sauce both truly excellent. My wife gave them a 10 (and she’s harder to please than me!) Nice chat with the owner (yes, he’s called Paco) and told them I had been sent there by your blog. Will definitely head back there again. Many thanks.

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