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Madrid never ceases to amaze with its food offerings. The latest fine-food experience is Lobby Market www.lobbymarket.es found in the dead centre of the city right on the Gran Vía at number 10. Lobby Market opened its doors just a few months ago, but the exciting new concept in dining and the highly varied menu options have already made it a popular place with the hungry hoards.

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Inside, and spread over three distinct areas, you’ll find myriad possibilities to enjoy a quick snack, relaxed lunch or a special dinner. At the front of the restaurant is an informal bar where you can enjoy an icy beer or glass of wine along with a selection of tapas including thin slivers of Iberian ham, boletus croquettes and tangy potato salad. Enjoy the cool ambience which includes two vertical gardens filled with lush ferns and bromeliads, exposed brick and artful, oversized photos of market produce.

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For an informal lunch or dinner choose a table in the middle section of the restaurant. Cane chairs, woven placemats and industrial-style hanging lamps provide the perfect atmosphere for a fun meal with friends. Summer favourites include Burratina cheese with raff tomatoes and pesto sauce, tiger prawns or wild sea bass ceviche.

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Lobby Market also offers an elegant dining room with an impressive double height ceiling. Tall wooden bookcases fill the walls adding warmth and character. The elegantly-set, square and round tables are accented by 19-century-style chairs. The gastronomic excellence continues with boletus risotto, pan-fried veal with baby potatoes and ‘mojo’ sauce – a cool blend of fresh coriander, olive oil and garlic, or the Japanese inspired beef tataki with yakiniku sauce.

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Paella and other savoury rice dishes are perhaps Spain’s greatest gastronomic contribution to international dining. Today from Madrid to Melbourne or Barcelona to Boston you can enjoy these tasty dishes which come packed with seafood, chicken or vegetables. Visitors to Spain’s seaside town of Salou on the Mediterranean coast. can savour some of the best at the restaurant Arena (www.arenarestaurant.com)

Perched right next to the boardwalk, with spectacular views of the swaying palms and the blue Mediterranean, guests can choose to dine in the glassed-in dining room or the al fresco summer terrace. Open for both lunch and dinner Arena’s relaxed but stylish atmosphere is perfect to linger on over post prandial coffee or, in the evenings, when the tables are set with flickering candles, to sit back and enjoy the gentle breezes and an icy gin and tonic.

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Arena fully embraces the regional cuisine of the Tarragona province and the menu provides ample opportunities to make some interesting gastronomic discoveries. With the restaurant’s close proximity to the sea it’s natural that there are plenty of seafood options.

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Start the meal with juicy clams drizzled with tomato and just a hint of chilli, or mouth-watering carabineros prawns prepared on the griddle. Follow on with char-grilled octopus, or baked, line-caught fish-of-the-day. Summer and salads go hand in hand, and the perfect way to cool down is with a bowl of salmorejo soup – a typical Spanish liquid salad prepared with ripe tomatoes, cucumber, garlic and red peppers all topped with slivers of prime Iberian ham.

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While there are many culinary gems to be enjoyed no one should miss the excellent paellas and other rice dishes which come flavoured with cuttlefish, clams, prawns, lobster or octopus all simmered in a rich seafood broth.

The al fresco dining scene really comes alive in Madrid from June to late September when the long hours of daylight and warm days and nights make it perfect to sit outdoors and enjoy a relaxed meal followed by a couple of leisurely drinks. Here are three of the best terraces in the Spanish capital for ambience, cuisine and location.

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Right in the heart of Madrid on Plaza Cibeles is Cien Llaves. (www.cienllaves.com) The garden restaurant is surrounded by lush foliage and towering trees and is fast becoming one of central Madrid’s preferred dining spots. Situated behind the late-18th-century aristocratic mansion Palacio Linares, the noble edifice’s façade, stone stairs and gurgling fountain provide the perfect backdrop to enjoy either lunch or dinner. Highlights from the menu are beetroot gazpacho topped with whitebait, baked John Dory and a truly delicious black paella with cuttlefish.

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Within the verdant gardens of the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum is the newly opened Thyssen Terrace. (www.elmiradordelthyssen.com) The beautiful, architect-designed space is dominated by a mass of undulating curves in pristine white which form the roof. Tables and bench seating are tiered so that everyone gets a good view of the garden and the nearby Paseo del Prado. Open all day, this unique space is perfect to enjoy breakfast, lunch or an evening glass of wine with tapas. Feast on bacon and cheese quiche, Caprese salad, chilled soups and gourmet sandwiches. Early evening is the perfect time to sit back on one of the white sofas with a glass of Spanish wine and a selection of tapas.

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Providing an exotic touch of the Orient is the elegant al fresco terrace connected to the Chinese restaurant Tse Yang. (www.cafesaigon.es) Set inside the five-star hotel Villa Magna on Paseo de la Castellana the summer terrace attracts locals and visitors who are keen to enjoy the intimate space surrounded by greenery. Adding to the allure is the gentle scent of jasmine flowers and some of Madrid’s best Cantonese food. Tables are laid with white cloths, fine porcelain and glassware. Start the experience with a selection of gourmet Dim Sum or perhaps succulent scallops with fresh ginger. Follow on with a wide choice of traditional Cantonese dishes including Peking Duck and turbot drizzled with an aromatic chilli sauce.

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Get ready to taste, smell and see haute cuisine inspired by the paintings of Spanish artist Salvador Dalí.

The Westin Palace, (www.westinpalacemadrid.com) in the heart of Madrid, has prepared a special dinner menu inspired by the most famous Impressionist and Surrealist paintings created by the famed artist.

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This exciting gastronomic event ties in with what is perhaps the largest exhibition of works by the artist. The Reina Sofia Museum, just a short stroll from The Westin Palace, is currently showing more than 200 paintings by Salvador Dalí. The Exhibition continues until September 2.

Providing the creative input for this highly imaginative project are a number of Michelin-starred and prestigious chefs from Cataluña – the area in north-east Spain where Dalí was born and spent much of his life. They are preparing dishes where the visuals are a reflection of some of the great painter’s masterpieces. The chefs behind the project include Quim Casellas, Marc Gascons and Vincenç Fajardo.

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Guests can enjoy these highly sophisticated meals in the unique ambience of La Rotonda restaurant under the 100-year-old stained glass cupola. Dalí was a regular guest of The Palace and spent many afternoons in this delightful space.

The gastronomic, ten-course menu includes dishes which bring to life on the plate the essence of Dalí. ‘Still Life’ – a delicate fried anchovy, ‘Eggs on the Plate, Without the Plate’ – quail eggs on discs of bread and ‘Persistence of Memory’ – a combination of Dublin Bay prawns with prime Spanish meat. Make sure you enhance the dining experience with a selection of fine Spanish wines.

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Get ready to enjoy some of Madrid’s finest and most exciting haute cuisine. Set in the heart of the Hesperia Hotel in Madrid’s business district the two-Michelin-starred restaurant Santceloni (www.restaurantesantceloni.com) has become the preferred rendezvous venue for those looking to experience highly-creative cooking based around the values of traditional Spanish cuisine.

Chef Óscar Velasco helms the kitchen and makes sure that every plate is both a feast for the eyes as well as the taste buds. Guests can choose from à la carte or special gastronomic menus which include up to ten varied dishes.

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Highlights from the present menu are marinated mackerel salad, oyster soup with tomato, onion, veal and beans and roast duck with prunes, olives and pear. Those with a sweet tooth will adore the smooth white chocolate dessert with passion fruit, ginger and mango.

Make sure you save room for a sampling from the selection of exquisite cheeses. Over 30 varieties are arranged on a scrubbed pine table which is carried to the guests’ tables. Choose from cheeses from Spain, France and England as well as further afield.

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Wines are exceptional and include some of the best in Spain, France and abroad. Sommelier David Robledo has prepared a master list of over 600 vintages which is updated constantly to include recently acknowledged and awarded vintners. Those who enjoy food and wine pairings can enjoy a different glass of wine with each dish.

True to the restaurant’s two-Michelin-star status, food, wine and service are all exceptional. Making sure that everything runs smoothly throughout the meal is Maitre Abel Valverde who was recently awarded Best Maitre by Club de Gourmets.

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Santceloni’s décor is as stunning as its food. The dining room is set over two levels. Walls are dressed in soothing tones of natural wood while the chairs and tablecloths offer splashes of autumn tones. All plates, flat and stemware as well as tables sculptures have been created especially for the restaurant giving it a highly original ambience.

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Highly creative cuisine options and an amazing cocktail list are the strong points at Mérimée www.merimeegastrobar.com conveniently located in the centre of Madrid on Calle Fuencarral.

Open for lunch and dinner, the stylish restaurant-cum-cocktail bar is the perfect spot to refuel after checking out the nearby fashion boutiques.

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Floor to ceiling windows fill the space with natural light during the day, while at night the lights are turned down low to provide the perfect ambience for romance. Tables are set with a combination of tall, wing-backed and low, club-chairs. They provide the atmosphere and comfort for guests to linger. At the room’s centre is the bar with features an elegant back-lit filigree screen and comfortable leather stools for those who enjoy watching the mixologists work their craft.

Now that the warm weather has arrived in Madrid, don’t miss the delicious gourmet salads on the menu. Highlights include grilled chicken with rúcula, caramelized, cherry tomatoes and yogurt dressing with shredded cucumber.

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Mains are just as tempting and are neatly grouped into meat and fish. For light bites, the gourmet hamburgers are divine. For those with a more substantial hunger the duck confit with prune purée, or the wild sea bass with eucalyptus sauceare both filling and flavoursome.

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When it comes to cocktails, Mérimée is tops. Choose from all the classic mixes as well as more original concoctions. Providing a smooth-as-silk drinking experience is Lavender in Collins Avenue which brings together gin, lime juice, soda and lavender syrup
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While the famous painting ‘The Garden of Earthly Delights’ is just a few minutes walk away in Madrid’s Prado Museum, the luxurious Hotel Ritz www.ritzmadrid.com has created its very own verdant paradise to enjoy gourmet cuisine and fine wines.

In the very centre of Madrid you’ll find a garden – a cool oasis of verdant foliage, splashing water and heavenly delights.  La Terraza Restaurant, within the historic Hotel Ritz, provides a unique spot for alfresco dining in the very heart of the Spanish metropolis.

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During the warmer months, from May through to late September, the doors of the main restaurant are flung open and the tables spill out onto the open terrace and down into the lush garden. The tall, leafy trees provide the spectacular setting for lunch and dinner to be served on starched white tablecloths by smartly-dressed waiters. At night candlelight creates a magical setting which is perfect for romance.

The menu created by Chef Jorge González is a reflection of the traditions of this emblematic luxury hotel as well as current trends in haute gastronomy. You’ll be treated to the likes of the finest Spanish cured ham, grilled lobsters, fresh oysters and seafood paella. For a special treat just order a bottle of chilled Champagne and some of the best Beluga caviar then spend an afternoon enjoying the food and unbeatable atmosphere.

For wine lovers the Hotel Ritz has one of the most envied cellars in the city with thousands of bottles from the best wine regions of Spain and abroad. Don’t miss trying the excellent reds from La Rioja in the north which have a deep ruby colour and a velvety fruity taste. These are the perfect partner to any of the meat dishes.

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Sundays are the time to indulge in  the gourmet Brunch which begins about 2.00pm. Take your time to wander around the various food stations to choose from amazing seafood, dainty canapés and gourmet salads. Live piano music will serenade you while you eat. Second course selections include paellas, succulent roasts or traditional Spanish meat dishes. An enormous table is devoted entirely to desserts and you’ll want to save room for a few of the wickedly tempting morsels on display.

 

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Set in Cáceres – one of Spain’s most beautiful medieval towns in the western region of Extremadura – is a real foodies destination. Atrio Restaurante and Hotel www.restauranteatrio.com allows visitors to enjoy haute-cuisine while staying in the adjoining contemporary accommodation.

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Chef Toño Perez’s unique cooking style, which brings together the earthy flavours of the local produce of Extremadura along with a supremely polished interpretation of haute cuisine is what makes Atrio Restaurante such a gem of a culinary experience. He has fantastic contacts with the farmers producing the famed Pata Negra ham, locally produced organic vegetables, herbs and Torta de Casar cheese.

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What some guests for lunch and dinner may find unusual is that Chef Toño has opted for three set menus, which range in price from €89 to €109 and include six to eight courses. He realised that most people prefer to try a number of small dishes, and the tasting menus offer a progressive crescendo of flavours. While the majority of people are happy with the choice of set menus there is also total flexibility for the diner, and virtually anything is possible. Many starters can be shared by the entire table.

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Pork products feature prominently in many of the dishes and are often partnered with the somewhat unusual bedfellow, seafood. Combining the flavours of the sea and the mountains is something Chef Toño adores. Entrees such as razor clams with thinly sliced Iberian ham, drizzled with a mild curry sauce, or Iberian pancetta served with lobster and spiced with paprika and garlic are some of his most interesting dishes. Another combination, which is set to become a classic in Chef Toño’s kitchen, comes in the form of a gently strewed pig’s trotter served with warm oysters infused with the aroma of lime and ginger. Wines are exceptional and the cellar is well stocked with prestigious vintages from mainly Spain and France. Business partner and wine expert José Polo makes sure every meal is accompanied by a memorable bottle.

Atrio Restaurante’s stunning cuisine is served up in the large dining room which has room for 40 guests seated on chairs by Danish designers Nanna Ditzel and Hans Wegner. Befitting of a two-Michelin-starred restaurant, the elegantly laid tables are well spaced for privacy. The garlanded restaurant and its adjoining hotel with four rooms and five suites is part of the prestigious Relais and Châteaux group www.relaischateaux.com

The interiors throughout the building are minimalist and are based on a black and white palette. Splashes of colour come from the museum-quality contemporary art. Paintings by 20th-century heavyweights such as Andy Warhol, Antonio Saura, Antoni Tápies, Geraldo Rueda and Thomas Ruff adorn the walls of the public areas as well as the rooms. It was always Chef Toño and José’s plan for the restaurant to be the destination, but now people have somewhere beautiful to stay while they are enjoying the exquisite food.

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One of the consequences of having accommodation was that chef had to formulate a breakfast menu. He decided to keep it very Spanish with strong local Extremeño elements. Guests are treated each morning to home-baked bread topped with tomato puree and paper-thin slices of Iberian ham. It is accompanied by a local dish, migas – tiny pieces of day-old bread fried with pork fat and plump sultanas.

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While Cáceres may seem off the beaten track, Toño Perez’s highly imaginative cuisine and the magnetic allure of the interiors of the hotel provide plenty of inspiration for gourmands to make the trip to this often overlooked region of Spain.

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Think of Spain and, particularly if you have travelled around the country, you will most probably think of delicious, cured jamón Ibérico – Spain’s best ham. Thinly sliced it’s greatly prized as a gourmet food across the country. While its merits are continually lauded, it’s extremely easy to find – most bars and restaurants will have it on the menu as a tapa, vacuum packs of ready-to-eat slices are sold in supermarkets, and all Spanish markets will have a good selection ready to be sliced on the spot.

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Jamón Ibérico is produced solely from the black Iberian pig, and the breeding of the animals is restricted to Extremadura – a ruggedly beautiful area in Southwestern Spain. Although fed some cereals, these pigs also roam the countryside and feed freely on the acorns they find on the ground. The curing process of the rear legs lasts from 14 to 36 months making for a much more refined product with a unique taste.

Jamón Ibérico is such a treasured food that that it has its own Denomination of Origin. As with all Denominations of Origin products, there is strict control of the quality. For example, in order to carry the name Jamón de Extremadura, the regulations control every stage of the process including the following. The pigs must be black Iberian pigs, be fed only cereals and grains from the local region before being released into the open countryside to graze on the local acorns, be of a certain weight when slaughtered, and finally the hams must spend at least14 months curing.

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Jamón Ibérico is best eaten unembellished and at room temperature. Ideally it is cut into paper-thin slices which are then picked up with the fingers and popped into the mouth. The only decision remaining is what beverage to serve with the delicacy. Many say that a glass of chilled fino sherry is the best. Others prefer a glass of young red wine – a tinto crianza. Both wines help bring out the richness of the ham.

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One of the best jamón Ibéricos comes from the pigs on the farms of Carrasco, Guijuelo in Extremadura. The first-class product is then cured in Salamanca and is available in gourmet food shops all over Spain and via the internet. More information at http://www.carrascoguijuelo.eu

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Spain’s beautiful island Gran Canaria can be hit or miss when it comes to dining out. Many of the restaurants in the tourist areas know full well that those that are here today will not be around tomorrow and lower their standards accordingly.

Not so at the two restaurants inside the luxurious  Seaside Palm Beach Hotel palm-beach.com  where you can expect continually excellent food, service and ambience.

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Trattoria provides diners with a seductive interior which is perfect for enjoying relaxed Italian meals. At night the soft lighting, coral-hued tablecloths and dark wood chairs create a mood which can easily inspire romance.

Diners are encouraged to begin with a selection of traditional Italian antipasti from the buffet. The tempting assortment looks beautiful, and Chef Daniel De Angelo gets full points for presentation as well as flavour.

Try ravioli filled with osso buco, gently fried zucchini slivers dressed with extra virgin olive oil or perhaps a selection of Parma ham and salami. The offerings change every two days so there is good reason to return.

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Mains chosen from the á la carte menu are equally delicious. Don’t miss the juicy rabbit legs cooked with honey and pine nuts and served with grilled polenta. Fresh, locally-caught fish is cooked simply and served with perfectly cooked greens.

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Just metres away is Seaside Palm Beach Hotel’s fine dining restaurant, an absolute ‘must try’ while on the island. Orangerie is a gourmand’s paradise and the perfect place to impress a guest. Candlelight illuminates the stylish interior dotted with potted palms and elegant furniture. Tables are well spaced to afford privacy, while the service is highly attentive but discrete.

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The inspired menu is infused with the best of French haute cuisine. Settle back and enjoy perfectly prepared lobster, foie gras or duck à l’orange accompanied by some of the world’s finest vintages from the extensive cellar.