With it's famous food scene, abundance of restaurants and local delicacies, Madrid is a food-lovers dream destination. Our travel editor shares his musings on eating late and enjoying a lazy Sunday lunch in Spain's capital city.
The journey of having a Sunday lunch in Madrid starts not with where, or what, but when - no self-respecting Madrileño, or even an honorary or temporary one, would start before two thirty or three in the afternoon. Before that point, your time is yours: if you have counted yourself among late-night revelers the night before, you may be sleeping off the gin tonics and shuffling around in your bathrobe, fumbling around for coffee and toast. If you were more industrious, and got to bed at a comparatively more decent hour like one or two, you might treat yourself to a morning run around Retiro park, and renting a scooter or bike to do some light errands.
One way or another, it’s time for lunch, and there are a few ways to go, all of which arrive more or less at the same destination. For the avoidance of doubt, there are examples of restaurants in each category, though excellent restaurants of all kinds in Madrid number too many to count, and encourage everyone to do proprietary exploring.
Go for a traditional Spanish lunch, preferably on a terrace, ordering perhaps a salmorejo with jamon iberico, a whole fish, arroz meloso, fresh bread (they will bring high-quality olive oil, but generally only if you ask), and a bottle of Crianza. Though the food is excellent, it’s eclipsed by the ritual, as the food and wine draws you into a proper Sunday lull. Maybe you go to Triana (c/ Narvaez 48) in the Ibiza neighbourhood, and stop by Florida Retiro (Paseo de la República Dominicana, 1) for a digestif afterwards if the weather is nice, or Madridaje (c/ Menorca, 19) for a glass of wine and a cheese plate if it’s not so favourable.
Dust off your coat and tie and Sunday dress - which isn’t required, but it’s just there gathering dust - and head to one of Madrid’s outstanding traditional restaurants, or even one of its Michelin starred offerings, which are a value relative to many other cities. La Terraza del Casino (now ‘Paco Roncero Restaurante’, Calle de Alcalá, 15) in a historic building, will treat you to a multi-course tasting menu, even indoors in the peak of summer, as light pours through the windows into an impeccable art-deco dining room. Pristine tablecloths, attentive service, thoughtful wine pairings, and signature pastries will distract you from the fact your weekend has nearly ended. Note: It’s not actually open on Sunday, but who can keep track of the days, anyway - maybe Wednesday is the perfect time for a Sunday lunch. For actual Sunday options, check out the unforgettable seafood and traditional service at Restaurante Rafa (Calle de Narváez, 68) or, if you have your heart set on an over-the-top tasting menu, Coque (Calle del Marqués del Riscal, 11).
The Madrid lunch tradition is alive and well, even in the absence of Spanish food. Turn up to La Lupita (Calle de Villanueva, 15) for DF-style tacos and perhaps some margaritas, then saunter over to La Comedia (Calle del Gral. Pardiñas, 7) for pistachio gelato. Or nothing says Sunday lunch like a trip to an Uruguayan steakhouse - book La Charrua (Calle del Conde de Xiquena, 4) for authentic chorizo, mollejas, and grass-fed beef, and maybe cap it off afterwards with a drink or coffee at an outdoor terrace in Chueca.
With so many options, the Madrid Sunday lunch is more of an attitude than a destination, a way to ease out of the weekend in style. All roads inevitably lead to the siesta about 5 or 6pm, where you snooze off during an inconsequential football match with the balcony doors open, waking up in time for dinner - or maybe just a sparkling water and a nice 10k walk.