Restaurant Spotlight: Saddle

Central Madrid wine destination gives fine dining a personal touch

Restaurant Spotlight: Saddle
Wine director Israel Ramírez oversees a cellar of 9,000 bottles, full of Spanish wines as well as rare, mature and large-format selections. (Courtesy of Saddle)
Jun 16, 2022

Madrid is a city of seemingly infinite delights: picnicking in El Retiro, taking in masterpieces at the Museo del Prado, strolling along the Gran Vía. Add to that list dining at Saddle, a Best of Award of Excellence winner since 2020 that matches personalized service with seasonal cuisine and a top-notch wine program. Located just northeast of Chueca, the city’s historically LGBTQ+ neighborhood that is still a thriving center of gay life, Saddle is a perfect destination for wine lovers visiting Madrid this summer for the city’s legendary Pride festival—or at any time of year, whatever the occasion.

The restaurant’s name pays tribute to Jockey, the illustrious Madrid fine-dining establishment of yesteryear whose former space Saddle now occupies. (The tripe soup is also a homage to Jockey, which closed in 2012.) Wine director Israel Ramírez says that Saddle’s “personalization program” forms the heart of the restaurant’s identity. If a customer loves Barolo or mentions being curious about Godello, the sommelier takes note and adjusts future pairings accordingly. Likewise, if a diner is left-handed, their preferred place setting will be remembered. At Saddle, even the smallest details are handled with care.

 Dinner setting in Saddle's dining room
Though Saddle is proud of its wine list and gastronomic sophistication, the restaurant seeks to embody an ethos of more than mere luxury. (Courtesy of Saddle)

Saddle is also serious about reducing its carbon footprint. It underwent a four-year renovation to install a geothermal heating/cooling system—no small feat, given the restaurant’s location just across from the Ministry of the Interior. Saddle also employs several Georgian refugees and has participated in food-relief efforts for Ukraine.

Ramírez oversees a wine list featuring over 50 wines by the glass, 1,400 selections and an inventory of 9,000 bottles. He says the list is “alive” and “based in producers that represent the culture of a place and the landscape,” and the restaurant earmarks 10 percent of its bottles for aging in-house. There’s encyclopedic depth in classic regions, especially Spain; connoisseurs will be impressed by the selection of Sherry, Rioja, Priorat and Ribera del Duero (including several Vega Sicilia verticals), as well as gems from Spain’s lesser-known regions. Rare and mature offerings from France, Italy, Germany, the U.S. and beyond, as well as many large-format options, are sure to please any vinous desire.

 Portrait of Saddle chef Adolfo Santos
Chef Adolfo Santos, whose style is rooted in classical Spanish and French traditions, searches Spain for the best seasonal produce, meat and fish. (Courtesy of Saddle)

Saddle offers a €135 tasting menu along with two wine-pairing options, Estaciones (Seasons) for €120 and Non Plus Ultra, featuring the best wines from older vintages, for €300. From the à la carte menu, diners can choose full or half portions, which provide the flexibility to try more dishes. Starters include morel mushrooms in Port wine sauce with lamb sweetbreads and white asparagus with Iberian pork. Local seafood selections include wild sea bass and grouper, while roe deer with mushrooms duxelles and Mont Royal pigeon with potato gnocchi steal the show in the carnes category. The menu also features an “Art of the Table” section of dishes—including grilled sole meunière and beef shank with potato purée—that are prepared tableside on a carving trolley.

 A server presents a selection of cheeses in a cart
Reviving fine-dining traditions that have been falling by the wayside, Saddle offers tableside presentation and service for items such as butter, bread and cheese. (Courtesy of Saddle)

Trolley service also extends to cheese; coffee and tea; and bread, butter and olive oil—all of which Saddle sources seasonally from exclusive producers (such as Xavier in Toulouse, which provides the restaurant’s butter, beloved by regulars). The drinks program, overseen by Gabriel Dávila, offers Saddle’s twist on classic cocktails (often using spirits re-distilled at the restaurant with fruit, herbs and botanicals), and the list of over 500 spirits spotlights vintage Spanish brandies from as early as the 1950s, along with special finds in Scotch and well beyond.

Saddle is open Monday to Saturday for lunch and dinner—late Spanish hours, so plan accordingly—and the bar is open the same days from noon to 11 p.m. Six private dining rooms are available, by advance reservation.

Restaurants Dining Out Restaurant Awards Spain

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