Thankfully, there’s more to Madrid cuisine than tapas and steakhouses. But, as you walk along the city’s Gran Via, you’d be forgiven for thinking those were your only choices. When researching where to eat in Madrid, we wanted something a bit special but not over the top.

And so we found ourselves at the doorway of Las Carboneras de Lu, in the upscale Salamanca area of the city, not far from the Town Hall.

The entrance is actually a wine shop; we were a little early for our 1.30pm reservation and we needed to perch on the tasting area stools while waiting for service to commence.

And that’s the thing about eating out in Madrid – it starts late, for both lunch and dinner. Don’t turn up early and expect to be seated because it won’t happen. Unless, of course, you’re at an establishment with continuous service all day (like a tapas bar).

Like most Australians, we’re used to eating lunch earlier in the day. Getting a table at 1.30 is as early as you can get a reservation for lunch in Madrid and so, naturally, we were the first patrons of the day.

The ‘Carboneras’ name comes from the fact that the dining room is a converted coal cellar, with exposed brick walls and vaulted ceilings. It’s cosy and calm.

The food is described as traditional Spanish with innovative French touches. Greedy Girl thinks it’s rather more French but asi es la vida!

Being a vinoteca, there’s a bewildering array of wines to choose from, but we had our first Lost in Translation moment when trying to select a glass. The restaurant offers only its house wines by ‘coppa’ – everything else on the list is by the bottle.

With gluttonous husband opting for a local IPA “La Cibeles”, which he thought was pretty fine, Greedy Girl had a glass of Momo Rueda – a verdejo. It was perfectly drinkable.

And so we settled in, with some lovely bread and excellent local olive oil. It wasn’t long before an amuse bouche arrived.

Where to eat in Madrid Las Carboneras de Lu

“Ham and cheese”

This is a little soft dot of jamon mousse with a slick of white cheese. A delightful way to start and a good foil for the first sips of the wine.

There’s no tasting menu on offer, so we chose two starters and two main courses. First up for Greedy Girl were tempura-battered zucchini flowers stuffed with cod brandade.

Where to eat in Madrid Las Carboneras de Lu

Zucchini flowers

The brandade was unbelievably creamy and quite stunning. The green sauce on the plate tasted strongly of anchovy while the golden brown slick on the bottom was a touch sweet and sticky. Delish.

Gluttonous husband chose morels with ‘boletus’ (a type of Porcini) foie and truffle sauce.

Where to eat in Madrid Las Carboneras de Lu

Mmmm, mushrooms …

Both of these dishes were intensely good comfort food and excellent for sharing. Being quite rich dishes, we were happy to eat half and hand the plates over.

Next up for gluttonous husband was the dish featured at the top of this post – roasted Iberian suckling pig.

OMG. What an amazing dish. Crispy, fine skin, soft flesh, beautifully rendered fat. Absolutely delicious. Clever touches from the chef included a dried apple crisp and a cinnamon and apple wafer – just to give the more traditional elements of the dish a twist.

Greedy Girl chose a retro dish – Tournedos Rossini. Again, what a beautiful plate of food, with stunning foie gras on top. The dish was simply presented with a roasted onion and cooked baby carrot.

Where to eat in Madrid Las Carboneras de Lu

Tournedos Rossini

While the wait staff all had a smattering of English, it was perhaps another slight issue that they didn’t ask how the beef should be cooked. As such, it arrived very, very rare. But again, given we were sharing plates, it wasn’t a problem.

Greedy Girl ate all the seared edges of the beef fillet and left the still-mooing centre for gluttonous husband. Sorted. Both our dishes had small gravy boats of sauce on the side – every last drop was mopped up with bread.

To accompany our mains, we had a glass of the house red – a 2016 Cair Cuvee. It’s mainly Tempranillo with 15% Merlot. Light, fruity and great with meat.

It was time for some dessert – Greedy Girl couldn’t resist the chocolate coulant with violet ice cream. The waiter said it took 14 minutes to cook. All good.

Where to eat in Madrid Las Carboneras de Lu

Chocolate coulant

It was cooked perfectly – still wonderfully gooey inside, but wasn’t the intense chocolate hit Greedy Girl hoped. Still, it went down a treat. The violet ice cream and sugar work was pretty, but not to Greedy Girl’s taste, so that was snaffled by gluttonous husband, who’d chosen his own ice-creams from a big selection.

Where to eat in Madrid Las Carboneras de Lu

Ice cream selection

On the left is spicy chocolate, while on the right, it was Bulgarian yoghurt with ‘groseberries’ – well, that’s what the menu said. Perhaps it should have read ‘gooseberries’. Gluttonous husband loved the spice with the chocolate and the way the yoghurt version acted as a bit of a palate cleanser.

As a treat, he paired this with a Pedro Ximenez San Emilio sherry from Jerez. It came out of the bottle like black syrup. Gluttonous husband was a very happy chappy.

Deciding not to have coffee, the staff brought us a final little sweet offering.

Where to eat in Madrid Las Carboneras de Lu

Orange and chocolate petits fours

These were little orange and chocolate cake squares, with the chocolate variety topped with mini Oreo biscuits. Delish.

And we were done – the bill, including a decent tip, came to 160 Euros, more than reasonable for the quality of food, wine and service we’d enjoyed.

The restaurant came up in a random search online and, when the reviews all seemed glowing, we immediately booked in. It’s tucked away in a side street, so you’d never find it out walking and exploring in Madrid, but it’s well worth seeking out.

Las Carboneras de Lu

Calle Villalar 7, Madrid

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