If you were offered to experience a private pre-opening presentation of a premiere vegan restaurant that’s also the sister restaurant to your favorite vegan restaurant in Madrid, would you say yes?
We sure as hell did.
We were incredibly honored and humbled to receive such an invitation, and assumed that this family-run restaurant was giving us a chance to see the new space, with maybe some drinks and samples.
18 courses later (and not eating again for another 18 hours after), we would still be relishing quite possibly one of the best food experiences (let alone vegan) that we’ve ever had.
Does this sound like an overstatement, or swooning too much? Well, you’re wrong, and we will proceed to tell you why.
The Story of La Tía Carlota; and How Veren Became the “Hero” of the Night by Stuffing Himself Silly
You may have heard us rave about one of our favorite restaurants, Distrito Vegano, prominently featured in all of our online vegan guides to Madrid (Ultimate Vegan Guide to Madrid, Best Vegan Tapas in Madrid, and Best Menu Del Dias in Madrid) . Their restaurant is always stuffed to the gills, sadly rejecting more patrons due to lack of space. The food is so good, and they’ve experienced such a surge of support and love that they decided to give even more back.
Imagine our joy when we learned that they were opening another restaurant around the corner from Distrito Vegano, whose overflow could easily fill another two restaurants every night. This detail was not lost on them, as the first impression one gets upon entering La Tía Carlota is just how much bigger it is. Almost three times larger, at a glance.
Not to overshadow their original project, the new space continues the same lack of pretension and cozy comfort of the former, but with its own unique look. Bamboo wallpaper, pastel colors, with wood trims, floors, and furniture give the place a more international feel with Wes Anderson flair – something you can’t quite pin down to one place yet feels so worldly.
This international quality is at the forefront of La Tía Carlota. The family behind the project hails from Chile, but has an international heritage of Italy, Germany, and even Spain. Their much-beloved Tía (aunt) Carlota, fed them all home cooked meals inspired by cuisines across over the world. In la carta (the menu), one can expect to find dishes ranging from within Europe, like Italy and Spain, then a stop in South Africa, including all the way to Asia, like Indonesia and Japan, and back to the Americas, with typical foods from Chile and ingredients originally from the Andes. Not to be left out, North America is represented in the form of a dessert (and a great one at that).
When we first entered, we had no idea what to expect. After the first five entrantes (starters), we heard Pablo (who represents the family restaurants via social media, bakes all the desserts, and is the general face of the place) confirm that we would be tasting the entire menu. Our jaws dropped to the floor. Saying they were generous is an understatement. We ate so much, even despite sharing one plate amongst each group of four sitting around the large table. The amount of food could have easily fed twice as many guests. As Americans we are shameless gluttons, especially Veren who didn’t hesitate to eat everyone’s leftovers, earning him “Hero of the Night” audience award.
But What About The Food?
We can definitively say we’ve tried the entire menu and can tell you that every single dish is impressive in execution, presentation, and deliciousness. Whether it’s veggies or plant-based faux meats, the family behind La Tia Carlota knows how to earn the gastrobar title.
On to the food! Which, by the way, is 100% vegan and nearly any dish can be made gluten-free by request, though many already are. Also, we will introduce each section of the menu with our favorites, but everything is exceedingly excellently worth your while if it catches your attention. There wasn’t a bad dish among them.
If you want to impress some upturned nose omnivores, try the Tartar with Heura® foods, served chilled and layered with avocado, tomato, and pebre – a Chilean sauce with cilantro and aji peppers (looks like chimichurri but tastes better) – perfect for a hot Madrid summer day. Or even El Tablao, a tasting platter of aged cheese, sobrasada (a Spanish meat pate made vegan here), and cream cheese and olive spread, served with thick cut artisan bread. These two, along with the arancini (fried breaded Italian rice balls), were standouts for us among the starters, but they were all delicious.
Ensaladas y Los Panes de Carlota / Salads and Sandwiches
Almost everyday Sam and I eat salad and pack leafy greens in our smoothies. Generally, we do not order salads out – with few exceptions. That being said, if you’re looking for fresh springy salads that will leave you feeling lithe and sprightly, La Tía Carlota will not disappoint. Both salads we tried had the sort of tender leafy greens that would make many non-salad fans willingly eat their greens. They also have a third option of a salad of the week, which, based on the two salad we tried, will likely feature some of the best local produce Spain has to offer. They don’t over ingredient their salads either, nor drown them in dressing, allowing what’s there to shine through. One salad would make a perfect second sharing plate before the main dishes.
Not to be outdone are the sandwiches. We love a well-executed sandwich, and neither of the two disappointed. When it comes to faux meat, the family behind La Tía Carlota know what they’re doing (as you’ll see in the Mains sections). All comes with a side of roasted potatoes or salad.
La Tía Carlota puts the theme of international dishes at the forefront here, as each dish is named after its origin, followed by a description. Here the dishes are bigger but still very shareable, as a tapa night out should be. The biggest star is Heura mock chicken, featured in two dishes – a dish version of Distrito Vegano’s award-winning tapa, and a skewer over rice. Below we describe how the same ingredient is showcased and which to choose if you had to choose one, and the other excellent dishes as well. What’s wholly impressive is the execution of flavors and presentation, leagues above the usually not-so-strong international scene here in Madrid. Let’s hope La Tía Carlota is ushering in a new era of non-colonial exploration for Spain.
Postre/Dessert at La Tía Carlota
Of course, we expected the desserts to be amazing, as Distrito Vegano has always had great desserts. There were some wonderful surprises, and clearly this new bigger kitchen and restaurant space allows for more experimentation and possibilities. Some favorites were the carrot cake, pure American nostalgia for us, and Suspira Limeña, pure Chilean surprise for us, and also the Sacher Torte, Austrian nostalgia for Sam. Basically everything. They even have custom made plates just for the desserts with the places names on them.
From left to right.
America Latina: Suspiro limeño: Literally a lime breath, but chances are you’ll have to be reminded to inhale air instead of just this incredibly rich and sweet and delicate custard. The sweetness, the creaminess, the smoothness – when something this good it’s just hard to explain. Again, it could stand on its own, but is topped with a cloud of fluffy whipped cream.
North America: What’s more American than carrot cake? The frosting had a taste and texture like butter and cream cheese were mixed in, yet somehow vegan. Carrot cake is a favorite of Veren’s and he figured those days were over once he became vegan, but not anymore. The cake is super soft and spongy, but perfectly textured with shredded carrot, with a light whipped frosting.
Europa Central: a Sacher torte literally like a block of chocolate, and we mean this as a good thing. It has an apricot confit center, with the citrus cutting right through the rich dark chocolate in the most welcome of interruptions, layering so nicely in our mouths.
Oceania: Po’e is a bread pudding of papaya and squash, served with a papaya sorbet – a perfect summer choice. The pudding was smooth and thick, but still a slab, and the papaya sorbet was refreshing and not too sweet.
Hopefully, this is ushering in a new era of strengthening the international vegan scene here in Madrid. But moreover, an era of the usually pretentious culinary critic scene taking notice of the amazing vegan food coming out of Madrid. Maybe La Tía Carlota will catch the attention of The Guardian’s almost vegan food critic, and to be fair, it wouldn’t surprise us if she made her first Madrid vegan stop here.
We sincerely love what the family behind La Tía Carlota and Distrito Vegano are doing. Everything in made in the neighborhood, from ceramic plates to the bread from the local bakery. They even renovated the space themselves. While it may be called a gastrobar (with incredible food), it’s still a very family and local place with a lot of heart. We wish them all the success, as they truly deserve it. Thank you Pablo and family for having us.
Did you know this is the newest of 28 all-vegan establishments in Madrid? Yep, Madrid is one of the most vegan-friendly cities in Europe!
Gasp! Where does a one start?
Don’t worry a second longer because we’ve got you covered.
Introducing the Alternative Traveler’s Vegan Guide to Madrid! Easy to find resources for everything, including:
- The best places to get vegan food with omnivores
- All the vegan, vegetarian, and vegan option places, grouped by neighborhood
- Where to get the best plant-based versions of every traditional Spanish dish
- The best gluten-free vegan food, including for celiacs
- Where to shop for vegan groceries and other vegan items
- Resources to get involved in the vegan scene
- What bars allow dogs AND humans
- Plus much more!