Eating Vegan in Madrid

Sunday, 9 October 2016

When you think of Spanish food, you don’t necessarily think of it as being particularly vegan friendly. When we were planning where to go on our city break, I was a little bit sceptical of visiting Spain because of this, but as soon as I looked up Madrid and discovered that there were actually a wealth of veg-friendly places to eat I realised I probably wasn’t going to struggle to eat there at all! Today I’m going to share with you the three restaurants I ate at and what the vegan scene is like in Madrid.

(Excuse the poor quality food photos in this post, I had to use a crappier camera because I still feel super uncomfortable whipping out my giant DSLR in tiny, full restaurants…)



The first place we ate it was a fully vegan tapas bar called VEGA only a short walk away from where we were staying in trendy Malasana. It’s a very small restaurant – only a handful of tables altogether, and the interior décor feels very artistic and cosy. To start we had a trio of appetisers for €4.50 including a beetroot hummus, an aubergine pâté and what I think was muhammara (a roasted red pepper and walnut dip) with some bread. The aubergine thing in particular was delicious! Rather than opting for a main each we thought we’d share a handful of tapas dishes together so we could try as many things as we could.

We went for the mushroom croquettes served with a wonderful creamy sauce, focaccia topped with a variety of roasted vegetables and a beef tomato carpaccio topped with nuts, rocket and pesto. The croquettes and the sauce they came with were out of this world – healthy, I assume, but still fried and comforting and delicious. The focaccia was tasty too, and I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the tomato carpaccio! I’m not much of a raw tomato kind of person, but the thinly sliced beef tomato with the flavourful pesto and nuts was a gorgeous, fresh flavour combination.






VEGA also serves a variety of vegan beers including some local ones, which were a delight to enjoy too. It was a great start to our trip and a high standard to set for vegan cuisine in Madrid, but after visiting some of the other restaurants this is probably ranked lowest on my list. Not for lack of quality – the food was fantastic and the service was good, if a little cold, but it doesn't seem from the reviews that anyone else had similar stiff service experiences. It just didn’t have the same comforting, casual and friendly atmosphere as some of the places we visited later. Nonetheless, VEGA is one of the top vegetarian and vegan restaurants in Madrid and if you want high quality vegan dining in a hipster, artistic atmosphere then this is the place to go.



The next stop was a lunch at Rayén Vegano, another vegan only restaurant a little further away from where we were staying. It was a bit of a pain to get to in the end because one of the most central and accessible Metro stations near us was closed for renovations and it made for some very inconvenient train journeys and a lot more walking than we would’ve preferred, but Rayén at least was worth it. It serves all organic food and is adorable inside, with cute tables, cushions and doilies and pro-veganism messages mounted on the walls. At lunch they do a set menu with two choices for each course, and we opted to try one of each and swap halfway through.






The starters were a soup made from apples, and a salad that I can’t quite remember exactly – it was either marinated vegetables or roasted vegetables, but either way both dishes were delicious.  I never would’ve thought to include apple in a savoury soup but the flavour combinations were wonderful.  Next was a vegetable tart with a creamy mushroom sauce, and curried chickpeas and vegetables on a bed of seasoned rice.  Again, both of these were amazing!  The seasoning they use was minimal but tasty, letting the fresh, organic produce speak for itself and the mushroom cream sauce was… wow.  I’m not exactly sure what was in the tart – I believe it was bean and tomato based – but the sauce worked brilliantly with it.

Finally we had a pair of desserts, which were a chilled cacao cheesecake and blueberry muffin.  The cheesecake was incredible, like eating a creamy, dark chocolate ice cream with a digestive biscuit base.  The muffin as lovely too with a gorgeous blueberry sauce filling, but it really needed the filling as I found it just a little bit dry.  The flavour combinations were still on point though, and we enjoyed the lunch so much that we booked a table for dinner the following night.






For dinner at Rayén they have a full menu that you can choose from, so we decided to have just a couple of mains and desserts between us. First up were the vegetable momos, which are apparently a Tibetan dish. They’re essentially little dumplings that were filled with veggies, some of which seem to remember were pickled? They were very tasty and incredibly moreish, and the soy dip they were served with was perfect. The other dish we tried was East Asian-style miso marinated tempeh, stir fried veggies and a bed of seasoned rice. Again, this was delicious and it was my first experience of tempeh – definitely going to be trying to get my hands on some for my own cooking soon, the texture was great!

Dessert was a pair of cakes, one carrot and one chocolate mousse cake. The carrot cake was beautiful with a faux cream cheese frosting and wonderfully moist in the middle, and the chocolate mousse cake was unlike any cake I’ve ever really had before. The cake itself was quite dense and a tiny bit dry, and it was on top of a biscuit-y base and topped with a chocolate mousse frosting.

I absolutely loved Rayén Vegano; the food and atmosphere were both wonderful and you can tell that the staff are vegans who love their lifestyle and sharing their food and their ethics. Perhaps the only downside is that it is a very ‘healthy vegan’ restaurant that focuses on nutritious, organic produce, so if you’re hankering for vegan junk food you won’t find much to satisfy your craving here. It’s a very small restaurant so if you go for lunch you’ll want to get there early, and if you’re going for dinner I would suggest you book in advance. The three course set lunch was crazy affordable at only €13.50 per person, but dinner was a little pricier at closer to €10 for a main. Definitely make some time to check it out if you’re ever in Madrid!


One place we were both super excited to visit was Llanten Veggie Bar once we saw that they had vegan chorizo on the menu – vegan chorizo! We simply couldn’t visit Spain and not have a vegan version of chorizo, come on. Llanten was just north of where we were staying and was either a not-too-long walk or a short Metro ride away, and is a traditional style vegan tapas bar. The décor is very simple and basic and it doesn’t look like anything fancy from the outside, but the food is really where it counts.







We first visited Llanten for a tapas dinner and shared our longed-for vegan chorizo and a couple of vegan empanadas. The chorizo was incredible. It was beautifully seasoned and subtly spicy, and the texture was more similar to black pudding than real chorizo. It lacked that chewy, fattiness that the genuine article has which, quite frankly, I was never a fan of anyway. Served with some lovely, crispy chips and an oddly coloured green, creamy sauce (which was also amazing, it just looked strange) they really hit the spot, and the empanadas – filled with mushroom – were amazing too. For dessert, we shared a mango cheesecake which wasn’t super mango-flavoured but was still smooth and creamy.



We loved the food at Llanten so much we came back for another round for lunch on what I think was our last full day, opting for the vegan chorizo (again) and a couple of burgers that we’d spied on someone else’s table on our first visit and decided we had to try. Again, these were amazing. The burgers were Mexican-style from what I can remember and were largely black bean based, but were still crispy and light and were served with a salad, skinny fries and a kind of spicy guacamole crossed with a tapenade that was the perfect combination of smooth, fresh, spicy and sour.

The meals we had here were definitely what we needed after the delicious but a little too on the healthy side for a holiday food that we’d had at the other places. Llanten is an excellent place to go in Madrid if you want vegan comfort food with a slightly traditional, Spanish twist. The staff are extremely welcoming and friendly and everything was really affordable and totally mouth-watering – just thinking about that chorizo again is making me hungry!



The last restaurant I have to share is one that serves meat but is otherwise veg- and vegan-friendly. Zombie Bar is a quirky, colourful bar that also serves a variety of burgers and I’d read that as well as having their own dedicated vegan burger, all of their other burgers could be made with the vegan patty. So, for a quick lunch we wandered over there and I had an amazing burger with pickles and onions, served with a side of still-hot, crispy chips. The patty, which I believe is soy-based, was incredible and startlingly similar to actual meat in texture. The food here was probably some of the most expensive we had in Madrid (the menu is similar in content and price to Hobgoblin in Brighton – gourmet burgers with vegan and vegetarian options for around £10-£15 each) but if you love a good vegan burger, give it a go. It’s a super casual place as it’s mainly a bar and it doesn’t even have a sign outside so you need to know where you’re going before you set out, but the food and cocktails are both great there, and it’s also super weird-in-a-good-way!  The menu is a little comic book, and they give you your bill and change in an old VHS box!

We were only in Madrid for a few days so I didn’t get the chance to try all of the vegan and vegetarian places I would’ve liked – we had tried to stop by La Oveja Negra and B-13 bar, both of which are more traditional tapas bars with an anarchistic feel and menus full of traditional style tapas and vegan junk food, but unfortunately both were closed whenever we came by and La Oveja Negra in particular was a bit too far out of our way to trek back to again. As well as those, just around the corner from us was Sanissimo, a vegan-friendly veggie deli and café and if you check HappyCow.net, there are a ton of other restaurants there that have vegan options or can in some way cater to vegans and vegetarians. One of the craft beer bars we frequented – Irreale – was in no way aimed at veggies but had a very clearly marked, fully vegan option on their food menu (I had wanted to try it but on that day, they weren’t serving food, boo).

Don’t let Spain’s culinary reputation fool you, Madrid can be a haven for vegans and I hope this post helps anyone looking to visit!

3 comments

  1. I lived in Madrid for half a year for student exchange and my apartment was maybe less than 5 min walk away from Vega. It was the first vegan place I visited and I really liked it! And I went to B13 and I loved loved loved it! The portions were huge and the food was delicious. Definitely give it a go if you ever go back to Madrid.

    P.S. This post made me feel so nostalgic for Spain haha

    Emily | http://www.emilytrinh.com/so-there-she-was/

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  2. My mouth is watering at all your descriptions of the food! This is a really reassuring read - holidays are something I've been wondering/worrying about since I stopped eating meat, so it's good to know there are options :) xx

    Toasty

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  3. I am going back to Madrid soon and this post has made me SO excited! When I lived in Spain even being vegetarian was classed as a bit weird haha! Love this post so thank you! xx

    www.raspberryketchup.com

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