Madrid is an exceptional city for any art lover. And a gastronomic metropolis for the most discerning palates. To help you get the most out of your time, here are some restaurant recommendations for every museum. ENJOY!
Knowledge doesn't take up any room, but it does makes you hungry. That's for sure. On more than occasion we've been gazing in awe at the details in Picasso's Guernica and then suddenly started thinking about a tasty oxtail stew. And to be honest, the noise of our rumbling stomachs has interfered with sound of the audio guide giving a master class on The Garden of Earthly Delights by Hieronymus Bosch. That's apt: delights. Everything leads to the same place.
Madrid, with its museums teeming with world-class masterpieces, is also a gastronomic metropolis where no doubt you'll only have time to sample a tiny portion of the wide range of restaurants on offer. So the best way to squeeze as much out of your time as possible is to find a few 2-for-1 packs, made-to-measure packages combining paintings with stews or sculptures with fries. Here are few combo recommendations.
The Prado and Horcher: for a classic treat (and one of my favourites)
Ok, we have to admit that the Jerónimos quarter where the Prado Museum is located isn't exactly the liveliest part of the capital. Here people come to admire the work of grand masters like Goya and Velázquez and then enjoy a gastronomic evening on a par with such delights. So after marvelling at cultural milestones like Las Meninas, which not even a culture hater would dare to question, it's a good idea to head to Horcher (Alfonso XII, 6), the classic of all classics when it comes to fine dining, and give yourself a treat. If you go at the height of the hunting season you can savour delicacies like goose and woodcock, or in late spring you'll be able to enjoy the prodigious gazpacho. But make sure you leave some room for the baumkuchen or "tree pie", a dessert like nothing you've seen before and a true spectacle for the senses.
The Reina Sofía and Arzábal, deluxe tapas with art
Is there anything better than finding a great place for lunch or dinner right next to the museum you want to visit? Yes, in this case the establishment is actually inside the museum. Or as good as. That's what you get with the Reina Sofía. No sooner have you recovered from the Stendhal syndrome after admiring the collection of Spanish art and being awestruck by Dalí's Great Masturbator and Miró's House with Palm Tree, then it's time to leave and turn right to find the entrance to Arzábal (Sabatini Building, Museo Reina Sofía, Calle de Santa Isabel, 52). This branch of the most famous neo-tavern in the capital serves all the great hits of the house, such as croquettes made with Latxa sheep's milk and potato salad with tuna, but they also know how to add a French touch with dishes like skate with black butter, or capture the essence of Spain with beef sirloin meatballs in a red wine sauce. The height of luxury! And when the weather is fine, there's a great terrace where you can browse the exhibition catalogue you've just bought in the museum shop. Or maybe you got one of those pins featuring a work of art, even though you know you'll never wear it...
The Thyssen and a sophisticated dinner under ground
Madrid's Art Walk ends at the Thyssen Museum, where impressionists like Degas and Van Gogh go hand in hand with pop artists like Lichtenstein and Warhol. So once you've stuffed yourself (virtually) with art movements you're going to need to digest them in a rather austere setting. You'll find it at the Bodega de los Secretos, a truly unique place in Madrid . At this medium-priced restaurant in the Barrio de las Letras or literary quarter, dinner is served in a 17th-century underground wine cellar, where the walls are lined with niches, domes, arches and ornamental pendentives. The cuisine is much more contemporary, ranging from dishes like burrata on cream of tomato and basil with black olives to the trio of mini steak tartars with hints of truffle, anchovy and wasabi, through monkfish suquet with rissole potatoes and scallops. Long live fusion!
Contemporary art and the-restaurant-that-everyone's-talking-about
According to those who know about these things, there's no better place in Madrid to enjoy excellent exhibitions than Fundación Mapfre. The two galleries on both sides of Paseo de Recoletos are a winning combo where you'll find world-class artists like Giacometti and Cartier-Bresson. You can combine the Foundation's excellent taste with a stroll of no more than five minutes to the heart of the Chueca district and Calle Augusto Figueroa. What will you find there? Roostiq (Augusto Figueroa, 47), the restaurant that has turned serving the finest local products in the capital's most atmospheric setting into an art form in itself. Delicious pizzas, free-range Ávila chicken, mouth-watering grilled vegetables, an exquisite cheesecake and a very fine wine list. And to top it all, packed to the gills.
Video games and northern cuisine
One of the most popular exhibitions of recent times in Madrid is Game On. The History of Video Games 1972-2020, at Fundación Canal Isabel II until the end of May. From Pac-Man to Minecraft, everything you can see and play here is art as well. To recover from all those pixels, nothing better than a short stroll down Paseo Castellana and then through the adjacent streets until you come to Asgaya (Doctor Fleming, 52), Madrid's flagship Asturian restaurant. All the gastronomic hits of this northern region are served here, including cachopo, fabada stew, sardines and Asturian green beans. And to finish, you can choose from the famous rice pudding and the French brioche toast. Decisions, decisions...
Sorolla and pizza: Mediterranean to the power of three
Ok, we'll admit it: we love museums dedicated to just one artist because you can really immerse yourself in their work. And we've always found the little Sorolla museum in Chamberí particularly charming, including the lovely garden that makes you feel a little faint, like a 19th-century romantic... So in the spirit of concentrating on just one thing in this gastronomic pairing, we suggest you head up Calle General Martínez Campos to Santa Engracia and then down to Grosso Napoletano (Santa Engracia, 48) where they do some amazing pizzas in their oven in the space of a few seconds. If this is what they call fast food, then we'll take a generous slice, please!
So how about it? Are you going to start looking for a cheap flight to Madrid to get away for a couple of days?