A journey through the best charcoal-grilled restaurants in Spain
Spain is a land of great chefs, many of whom are in love with gastronomic embers, offering menus that focus on meats, fish, seafood, vegetables and more, creatively prepared using wood or charcoal grills in an unparalleled resurgence of grilled cuisine. There are grill restaurants with long waiting lists, many of them recognised with major national and international awards. Here, we’ve compiled a selection representing those restaurants that are dedicated to grilled cuisine, with details on how they prepare their grilled creations.
Etxebarri: Bittor Arginzoniz, the world’s best barbecue restaurant
This is quite simply the best barbecue restaurant in the world. Bittor Arginzoniz, manager of Etxebarri in Atxondo (Biscay), which is the best charcoal-grilled restaurant in the world and the third-best restaurant in the world generally, has been lighting the fire every morning since his childhood to prepare daily meals in the absence of electricity and gas.
In his kitchen, he uses grills — the height of which he controls according to the cooking point temperature at which he wishes to prepare the food — with embers at 700 degrees, along with a series of grills and metal mesh frying pans, designed by him to prepare foods that cannot be placed on the grill due to their size or texture. Because in addition to his unrivalled grilled meat, Bittor grills a thousand and one other types of products, including sea bream, hake neck, tuna belly, red prawns, turtle-doves, vegetables, eggs, seafood and caviar. Bittor received the Spanish National Gastronomy Award in 2017. He is undoubtedly ‘the king of the coals’. Asador Etxebarri.
Estimar, grilled fresh fish and seafood and more
Both Estimar Barcelona and Estimar Madrid are synonymous with fresh fish and seafood. Sea bass, red prawns, oysters, scorpion fish, sea urchins, squid… In this restaurant run by Anna Bocanegra, which bears the DNA of the traditional fishmongers of Roses and the brilliant chef Rafa Zafra, all the products are prepared in full view of the diners and will at some point be subjected to the magic of their charcoal oven, which will provide the perfect smoky touch. This grilling method is perfect for large fish, such as the negrito de Roses or the delicious red prawns. Their Mediterranean and Atlantic fish and seafood are the freshest possible catch of the day; they declare that nothing is cold-stored. Estimar.
Yakitoro, Spanish-Japanese fusion food by Chicote
Yakitoro by Alberto Chicote started out as an adaptation of the Japanese yakitori tabernas, where various cuts of chicken are cooked on a charcoal grill in the form of skewers. Of course, a Spanish touch has been added — that’s why it’s called Yakitoro, ‘toro’ being Spanish for bull — with many other types of products with different flavours being cooked. To do this, he uses a series of robata grills that were specially created for him, with which he rediscovers the essence of traditional cooking methods, as grilling indeed is. Diners surround the charcoal grills, enjoying grilled fusion dishes such as charcoal-grilled mackerel with garlic-based chorizo sauce, grilled tuna ribs, crispy fried chicken breast with sweet and sour cannoli sauce or grilled pineapple. It’s undoubtedly one of the grill restaurants in Madrid that you have to visit. Yakitoro.
El Nacional, Barcelona, for meat lovers
This major gastronomic venue in the heart of Passeig de Gràcia, created in a former car park, has four large gastronomic areas and a number of specialised bars. Its grill restaurant, La Brasería, specialises in meats and notably features a showcase of long-aged pieces where products are displayed. A wood-fired oven and its embers take centre stage, and the meat is also prepared in full view of the diners. Many delightful dishes are offered, including beef steak tartare, old European cow steak and veal entrecôte. It’s indisputably an ideal venue for Barcelona’s grilled meat lovers. La Brasería at El Nacional.
Torre de Sande, Cáceres: charcoal for traditional dishes
This restaurant from the Atrio team opened at the end of 2020 inside the Sande Tower in the capital of Cáceres, and according to them is a more “casual and fun” affair offering simple but surprising cuisine, and is equipped with a charcoal oven to prepare tasty cuts of Iberian pork such as Pluma, Secreto or Presa, and other dishes such as quail stuffed with foie, duck breast, sweetbreads and veal entrails, vegetables and much more. Everything passes through the embers of the charcoal oven, with which the staff have been working from day one, adjusting the air draught to the desired dish and ensuring the ideal temperature of between 200 and 250 degrees. It’s a must for those visiting the old city of Cáceres. Torre de Sande.
UMO, a Spanish-Japanese grilled fusion restaurant
“Casa de Comidas de Japón” (“Japanese food house”) is displayed on the awnings of this establishment founded three years ago in one of the main arteries of the capital of Madrid. And following the culinary traditions of the East, and with the desire to merge them with the finest ones of Spain, the managers of Umo have installed an open grill — a mangal — to prepare products, which can be cooked slowly thanks to the variable heights offered by their open grill, as declared on their website. Matured beef picaña, XXL yakitori country chicken, torrezno à la Tokyo, Iberian pork tonkatsu and salmon roasted in kabayaki are just some of the dishes they make on their fusion grill. Umo Madrid.
Carbón Negro: fire, embers, flavour
Another grill restaurant where the open grill once again enjoys pride of place is Carbón Negro in Madrid, which boasts a pulley system with five Basque grills, thanks to which each product can be cooked for exactly the right length of time. Chef Gonzalo Armas is a true expert in the technique of grilled cuisine. The proof? Grilled aubergines with romesco sauce, grilled Lodosa peppers confit, grilled avocado stuffed with olive oiled tuna, charcoal-grilled spicy farmhouse chicken, matured picanha burger and grilled veal, matured beef sirloin… You can tell that at Carbón Negro they have a passion for the grill and for everything they do. Carbón Negro.