Monday, 15 June 2015

Fritanga-free zone: 6 Madrid restaurants for light summer dining

The Mediterranean diet is renowned for being one of the healthiest in the world. I beg to differ. Show me a Spanish restaurant menu that doesn't feature deep-fried croquetas, patatas bravas smothered in sauce, plates of fatty jamón and a vegetable that isn't an oily pimiento de padrón, and I'm there.

I wish the Mediterranean diet in Spain looked like this

Don't get me wrong, I like Spanish food. But I also like variety. And even more than that, I like eating healthily rather than consuming daily doses of fritanga (deep-fried food) when I dine out. This is particularly the case during the heat of the summer months, when greasy grub doesn't exactly sit well in the stomach. Of course, restaurants here do offer grilled fish, gazpacho and salad; but while choosing lighter options on a lunchtime menu del dia might be reasonably easy, finding a restaurant with healthy raciones for dinner is more of a challenge. Even the latest wave of identikit rustic chic eateries' menus are peppered with traditional Spanish dishes with a 'modern twist': read, croquetas with unusual ingredients.

So, if like me you're looking for some lighter dining options this summer, read on to find a few fritanga-free restaurants in Madrid.


Xanacuk – This Australian-owned lunch spot in Chueca is the place to go if you're craving quinoa salads, tabbouleh, juices and healthy snacks. The Augusto Figueroa branch has a few tables (including a terraza), but you can also take away and even order online for home delivery. Great value and bound to leave you feeling virtuous. Note that they haven't yet updated their website, but the Calle Orense branch closed last year. Xanacuk, Calle Augusto Figueroa 13. Open for lunch Monday-Friday.

Vegetarian moussaka at Health & Go

Health & Go – Since the closure of Xanacuk Orense, this little place in Moda Shopping Centre is my lunchtime saviour. With a daily choice of 6 or more primeros and segundos, with ingredients and health benefits clearly explained, you can get your fill for €7.95 for 2 courses or order just one course. There are always vegan and vegetarian options, plus freshly-made juices. My favourites are the aduki bean salad, the tofu red curry and the pez mantequilla served with wholegrain rice. You can order online & collect in-store. The only downside is that even if you eat in (a few tables are available), you're given disposable packaging and cutlery. Health & Go, Moda Shopping (Calle General Peron). Open Monday-Friday until 6.30pm, weekends until 2pm.

Viva Burger – The long-standing vegetarian buffet restaurant Viva la Vida is now Viva Burger, a vegetarian burger place. I know, burgers aren't exactly light, but they still offer a range of meat-free dishes in addition to a huge selection of burgers. The location in pretty Plaza de la Paja in the heart of La Latina is also part of the charm – get there early to grab a spot on the terraza. Viva Burger, Costanilla de San Andres 16. Open daily from 11am until midnight (2am weekends).


El Huerto de Lucas – This airy interior patio in Chueca is ringed by 'stalls' selling juices, drinks, bread and more, but take a seat in the centre for table service from La Cantina. The menu at El Huerto de Lucas is based around market-fresh produce, and is full of light options suitable for both vegetarians and meat eaters. Try the quinoa and amaranth tabbouleh with citrus dressing, the Sicilian caponata with free-range eggs or one of the organic steaks. Vegan, dairy free and gluten free options are clearly indicated on the menu. El Huerto de Lucas, Calle San Lucas 13. Open Monday to Saturday until 10pm.

Inside El Huerto de Lucas

myVeg – Don't be fooled by the name; there's plenty of meat and fish on the menu at myVeg in Triball. Vegetables are given far more of a starring role than the usual green salad – there's a selection of entirely meat-free dishes such as vegetable quiche or pisto which can be mains or accompaniments, plus a variety of meat and fish dishes, from roast beef with rocket and parmesan to squid with avocado tartare. The minimalist interior is chic and simple, and the service is friendly. This year, they opened a terraza  and now offer breakfast too, During the week, myVeg offers a €15 menu del dia at lunchtime. myVeg, Calle Valverde 28. Open Monday-Saturday. Monday until 6pm, other days until 2am.

Rayén – Even though I don't eat meat, the idea of a vegan restaurant puts me in mind of austerity, a hippy atmosphere and flavourless food. Not so at Rayén: this place in Barrio de las Letras is kind to the planet but also trendy enough to keep diners who like a bit of style happy. With world flavours such as chipotle-grilled tempeh, cardamom-spiced squash with seitan and shitake mushrooms plus salads of the leaf, grain and pulse variety, you won't be short of tasty options. They also serve craft beers and organic wines. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Rayén, Calle Lope de Vega 7. See website for opening hours. Dinner on Friday & Saturday only.

What are your feelings on fritanga? Do you have any favourite restaurants in Madrid with light options?

Photos from jeanetteshealthyliving,com, Health & Go and El Huerto de Lucas.


  1. This is a great post Kate! I have a vegan friend coming to visit this week so have been on the look out for vegan-friendly places in Seville. I came across a tiny organic shop/cafe that does juices and smoothies and yummy sandwiches with good bread. Post to come soon ;)

    1. Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it. That sounds lovely - will have to go next time I'm in Seville!


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