Published with permission from LuxuryWeb Magazine
Nestled in the heart of Madrid, facing the majestic Royal Palace (Palacio Real) and steps away from the renowned Royal Theater and Opera House, Café de Oriente offers a culinary experience steeped in Spain’s rich gastronomic heritage. Renowned for its sumptuous fare and frequented by Spain’s elite, including occasional visits from the king himself, this restaurant boasts a storied past and a clientele of discerning gourmets.
Spread across two distinct levels, Café de Oriente presents a unique dining ambiance. The cellar, once a wine storage vault, now hosts diners in a historical setting, while the street-level area dazzles with its opulent Belle Époque decor, featuring a bar, numerous tables, and private rooms for exclusive gatherings. The outdoor plaza space, used primarily in summer for alfresco dining, transforms into a cozy, heated haven in winter.
Café de Oriente is a versatile culinary destination, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The bar is a lively spot for enjoying drinks and tapas throughout the day until late into the night. While set menus offer curated dining experiences, the à la carte selection is my personal favorite, especially when paired with a choice of fine wines. Early evenings are perfect for indulging in tapas at the bar, accompanied by a glass of Amontillado or Fino, staples of my Madrid visits.
This venerable establishment is a favorite among Madrid’s upper class and intellectuals. Its proximity to cultural landmarks ensures a continuous influx of patrons year-round. The menu is a delightful blend of classic Spanish dishes and innovative Mediterranean-inspired creations, like the chipirones (baby squid) cooked in its own ink. While the service indoors is generally exemplary, the outdoor area can sometimes experience overwhelmed staff during busy summer months, indicating a need for more waitstaff.
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Among the culinary highlights are the appetizers, particularly the duck liver terrine with smoked eel and caramelized banana, and the fresh artichokes stuffed with veal cheeks stewed in Armagnac, accompanied by morel mushrooms.
Main courses like the roasted piglet with crispy skin, venison loin with chestnut puree and raspberry sauce, and the lamb shank stewed in red wine, are standout dishes. Seafood offerings, such as crispy mullet and sautéed squid in garlic and txakoli wine sauce, are equally impressive. The desserts, especially the Tiramisu and dark chocolate soufflé with tangerine sorbet, are not to be missed.
Seasonality plays a key role in the menu, ensuring freshness and variety. The tapas at the bar are particularly noteworthy, offering an unmatched taste of Spanish culinary artistry. The wine list is extensive, featuring top Spanish labels from regions like Priorat, Ribera de Ruedo, and Rioja, along with international selections, including French champagnes and German Rieslings. The bar’s offerings of Cava, including favorites like Juvé & Camps Reserva de la Familia and Segura Viudas, add to the allure.
Café de Oriente is more than just a restaurant; it’s a destination for those seeking a taste of Spanish history and culinary excellence, all wrapped up in an elegant Belle Époque package. Whether you’re there for tapas at the bar or a full-course meal, it promises an unforgettable experience that, considering its quality, comes at a surprisingly reasonable price.
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