In the Shadow of the Prado

If my trips to Madrid have been notable for one thing, it would be overindulgence. It’s not just the food, but the art. After all, Madrid has the Prado, which houses one of the world’s most exquisite collections of European paintings. As if that weren’t enough, the city also has the massive Reina Sofia museum of modern art (home to Picasso’s most famous painting, Guernica), and the Thyssen-Bornemisza, a once-private art collection that spans the history of Western art from the Middle Ages to the modern era.

Before my most recent trip to Madrid, I searched for some celiac-friendly restaurants. The Asociación de Celíacos de Madrid has an excellent website, with information available in Spanish and English; the association maintains a gluten-free restaurant list, and it offers some general guidelines about ordering in Spanish restaurants as well. The restaurants on its list include spots such as No Sólo Pasta, which may be the most famous gluten-free restaurant in Madrid, and Madrid 20. However, there was no mention of my favorite restaurant from my first trip to Madrid, before I was diagnosed with celiac disease.

Once in Madrid, I decided to give El Cenador del Prado a try anyway. Located close to the Prado, the restaurant recreates the elegant world depicted in some of the museum’s 18th- and 19th-century paintings. Located in a dramatic, antique-filled building, El Cenador is filled with gilded mirrors and trompe l’oeil paintings. Its most beautiful dining room has trellis lattices and flowers painted on all four walls, creating the impression of being seated in an opulent gazebo on a sunny day.

I remembered from my previous visit that the restaurant’s service was just as luxurious as the surroundings, and I wasn’t disappointed the second time around. Much to my surprise — and delight — my waiter knew exactly what celiac disease was. He then proceeded to call over the other servers and have them read my Spanish celiac translation card, so that there would be no confusion about what would be served to me. My waiter consulted with the chef and described to me, in a mix of Spanish and English, what my options were. I ended up having a creamy mushroom soup followed by grilled cod with potatoes and leeks. Dinner was accompanied by a selection from El Cenador’s excellent — and affordable — list of Spanish wines. For dessert, I had Spanish cheeses and fruit, which made me feel, as indulgent as I was that evening, almost virtuous.

El Cenador del Prado [address] Calle del Prado, 4, Madrid 28014, Spain [tel] 91 429-15-61 or 91 429-15-49 [web]

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