Bentley’s. Calle Alcalá, 105. Madrid

A new hamburguesería in the Retiro area has been well-received by local residents, and it is clear why: excellent quality beef in brioche-style buns with good combo toppings and a great atmosphere, coupled with quick and friendly service make for a positive dining experience. We tried the Trufa (truffle oil, cheddar, bacon, caramelized onion and avocado) and the Picante (jalapeño slices, cheddar and a creamy sauce) and both were winners. Only a few (9-12) fries are served on the side, as they’re trying to get you to order their famous onion rings too. There are five sizes of burger patty: 200g (€8.90), 250g (€9.90), 350g (€11.90), 500g (€14.90) and 1kg (€32) which can’t be fun to eat. Nevertheless, many have tried and made it onto the wall of fame separated into the successes and the failures.

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Taj. Calle Principe, 10. Madrid

Not to be confused with the more upmarket Taj near Banco de Espana, this is a relatively new place offering some good deals if you book online. The food is better than average, especially the mixed grill and Chicken Jalfrezi, but the Lamb Rogan Josh lacked the real heart ‘n’ soul of Moharaj’s version. Starters were a little lacklustre and the service can be a bit too officious. They’ve got the location though: right next door to O’Neills Irish pub for the post-match crowd.

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Vi Cool. Calle de las Huertas, 12. Madrid

Brightly lit, touristy and English-friendly: not a great recipe for full-on authentic culinary success. But Vi Cool pulls it off, especially with their signature dishes: albondigas con salsa de chimichurri with a fondue of goats cheese (10€)- the mini meatballs are so delectable and easy to pick-and-dip that this could be one of the first tapas that makes it into the Death Row Meals list for me. Pulpo pizza (12€) was decent, and the fried prawns with mint leaves were perfectly cooked and served with aioli. Good wines are served by the glass, and service is reassuringly friendly. I’m still not convinced by the decor, though: oversized black-and-white wallpaper photography of a grocer’s stand just smacks of insistence on freshness.
I haven’t tried the burgers yet, nor have I sat upstairs, but I will be back for more very soon; an exciting prospect.

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Metro Anton Martin

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Tandoori Station. Calle Ortega y Gasset, 89. Madrid

We finally made it here on a busy Friday night, after months of trying to fit it in our diaries. It was well worth the wait. A funky, bustly dining space, much more comfortable than the terrace that occupies pavement space on an unattractive street. Besides, sweating outside on a charmless road for 15% more just didn’t appeal to us.
Service is friendly and fluent English is spoken to you if your Spanish doesn’t sound native. Accurate and detailed explanations are given of the ingredients and dishes, and presentation is perfect.
Our Madras Wali michli, a swordfish curry with a touch of coconut in the sauce, was one of the best Indian fish mains I’ve ever tried, while their daal makhani is thick and hearty. The karhai wala paneer was a perfectly balanced melange of chunks of cottage cheese with a punchy tomato and ginger base. Garlic naan was crisp and well-baked.
Leaving just enough space for dessert was a good idea as we were treated to a cinnamon ice cream that was subtle and mellow, yet fed that need for some tongue’n’tastebud-cooling relief. Other diners seemed very content with their choices. Pukka.

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Metro Manuel Becerra / Lista

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The Harvest Company of Natural Goods. Paseo de la Castellana, 40. Madrid

Part of the mini-plaza of outdoor art on the Castellana next to Ruben Dario metro, Natural Harvest is a buzzy little prospect. Their tostas are fairly good, well balanced with – not quite – the finest ingredients, but their pizzas are much better than the average Italian joint. They also serve great wine and fancy salads and starters; they can do no wrong.

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Metro Ruben Darío

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Baye Fall. Calle Mesón de Paredes, 55. Madrid

After trying Baobab a few months ago, I was keen to eat at the competition just a few metres down the road. In the absence of a set lunch deal, we ordered three dishes between the three of us, with three different juices: Hibiscus flower, ginger, tamarind. The hibiscus tasted of perfumed milk, like a bad memory of synthetically-flavoured shakes from the 80s, the tamarind one was spicy-sweet – though I usually prefer this as a thicker sauce with Indian chaat – and the ginger juice was punchy and refreshing.
The star dish was definitely the thebou dem, a melange of fish and vegetable stew on short-grained fried rice. The thebou yape and yassa were both served on white rice, the former with chunks of juicy lamb, the latter with prawns and lamb; all were accompanied by incredible batons of sweet potato or yam. These were the only three dishes that were available at 2pm on a Friday, and we had a similar experience at other African restaurants where three-quarters of the menu was just not available on that day. Dessert was lacklustre – dry bunuelos, like a deep-fried scone or muffin without a filling.
Service might be charmless but it is certainly quick, and the food here, for my money – under 10€ each – is better than the other big Senegalese joint in town: succulent meat, hearty portions and wonderful flavours.

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Metro Lavapies

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La Fundamental. Calle Argumosa, 12. Madrid

Definitely a symbol of the area’s changing fortunes, this restaurant that functions as much as a cafe/bar than regular eatery (like Economico and Achuri on the other side of the street) is slick and polished, professional and generally more upmarket than any others on the street. Their coffee is great, pizzas tasty, and staff are friendly. The bar is wonderful to observe and drinks are served with integrity and flair: your gateway to the gentrification of lower Lavapies.

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Metro L

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