Meat is part of Spanish culture. It's not just part of the diet: jamón is practically part of the national psyche (and not eating it is utterly incomprehensible). Living in or visiting Spain can definitely prove challenging for non-meat eaters, but if you're armed with the right information, you'll manage to survive (and hopefully not solely on a diet of potatoes). For more details on what to order and how to avoid 'surprise' jamón, see this post about being a vegetarian in Spain.
As a cosmopolitan city, Madrid has more vegetarian and vegetarian-friendly restaurants than most. However, traditional restaurants abound, particularly outside the city centre. While pescetarians will almost always find something to suit them, vegetarians have it a little more difficult. Here are a few recommendations for those who don't eat meat, including plenty that will also appeal to their carnivorous fellow-diners.
|Sala de Despiece: suitable for vegetarians. The asparagus confirms it.|
|Burrata & raf tomatoes at Sala de Despiece|
Read on for my recommendations of restaurants and tapas bars in Madrid.
Sala de Despiece – Calle Ponzano 11. At the newly-trendy end of Calle Ponzano north of the city centre, Sala de Despiece couldn't be much cooler. With waiting staff resplendent in lab coats, menus dangling from meat hooks and walls made from polystyrene cartons, you could be mistaken for thinking you were in the back room of a butchers. However, the menu features plenty of vegetarian options (categorized with a 'V' for verdura), which change according to the seasons but always include a delicious burrata with pesto. The tomates raf are simple but lip-smackingly delicious.
Orixe – Calle de la Cava Baja 17, La Latina. An often-crowded, standing room only Galician-style tapas bar (with a more expensive restaurant). Peruse the pintxos lined up on the counter, with their helpful flags explaining their contents. There are usually a couple of vegetarian numbers, including a four cheese pintxo and another loaded with roast vegetables.
La Musa – Plaza de la Paja and Calle Manuela Malasaña 18. For a more modern take on tapas (and the possibility to sit down), try La Musa. Vegetarian options include fried green tomatoes topped with goats' cheese shavings, vegetable tempura, a selection of salads and aubergine houmous.
El Cisne Azul – Calle de Gravina 19. Specializing in mushrooms, this traditional bar has range of tapas with and without meat (but mostly with some variety of edible fungus).
Mercado de San Antón – The first floor of this revamped, gourmet-focused market houses a range of stalls selling tapas-size tasters from around the world, including Spain, Greece and Italy. The rooftop restaurant also does a couple of vegetarian dishes, although the service can be less than smiling.
Restaurants with vegetarian options
La Finca de Susana – Calle Arlabán 4. Questionable service, but low prices, a smart setting and a wide range of dishes make up for it. There are a good number of vegetarian dishes among the starters and mains, although note that the starters are actually the same size as main dishes. Other restaurants in the same group with similar menus include Ginger and Public.
La Kitchen – Calle Prim 5. A swanky restaurant that's worth splashing out on. Vegetarian starters (also suitable for sharing as mains) include a baked goat's cheese salad, and the boletus mushroom risotto is a significant cut above the average take on this dish.
Lateral – branches include Plaza Santa Ana and Calle Fuencarral 43. A Madrid-based chain serving up a range of modern tapas and raciones, including mushroom crepes, a variety of baked cheeses, quesadillas, croquettes and substantial salads.
Habesha – Calle Manuela Malasaña 17. A budget-friendly Ethiopian restaurant with a vegetarian section on the menu. The €10 mixed plate is a great introduction to Ethiopian food and includes a welcome variety of flavours.
You'll also find plenty of Indian restaurants in Lavapiés which serve a good selection of vegetarian dishes. My favourite is Shapla at Calle Lavapiés 42.
Viva la Vida – Plaza de la Paja. Buffet-style restaurant with funky decor and a wide selection of vegetarian and vegan salads, rice dishes, bakes, pasta and more. Fresh juices and home-made desserts are also available. Pay by weight.
Yerbabuena – Calle Bordadores 3. Significantly smarter than the old-school hippy style of vegetarian restaurant, Yerbabuena is modern in terms of both decor and dishes. The menu features crepes, provolone cheese casserole, vegetable moussaka and more. There's also a menú del día.
El Granero de Lavapiés – Calle de Argumosa 10. An old-school offering, but seeing as it's in Lavapiés it somehow manages to be cool. The menu changes regularly; dishes include veggie burgers, vegetarian paella and other hearty fare.
I'll be updating this list as I find more vegetarian-friendly restaurants in Madrid. If you know of any worth including, please leave a comment below!