This restaurant has been running since 1839. It was founded by a Frenchman, Emilio Huguenin, and was named after the Hardy Café in Boulevard des Italianos in Paris. The owner even changed his name to Emilio Lhardy. His son Agustin Lhardy became a noted impressionist painter, and many of his works hang in the restaurant. The restaurant was the haunt of Spanish royalty, and the famous female spy Mata Hari was arrested at her hotel just after eating lunch here in 1916.
Lhardy is on a pedestrianised street in central Madrid with a coffee and pastry shop at ground level and the main restaurant upstairs. It is a cavernous place with multiple dining areas and private rooms. A Chinese lamp in one of the dining rooms was a gift from Victor Hugo to the restaurant founder. This is a place that is steeped in history with decor to match. The 25th payphone ever installed in Spain is preserved in one of the alcoves. The current President of Spain dined here yesterday in one of the private dining rooms, continuing a tradition of royalty and celebrities eating here. The menu is somewhat eclectic, with dishes such as Iberico ham and “Madrid stew” but also Wellington sirloin and roast duck from Landes with orange.
The wine list was joyfully uncommercial. Marques de Riscal Reserva Rioja 2019 was €34 compared to its retail price of €24, an admittedly young Vega Sicilia Alion 2019 was €95 for a bottle that will set you back the same €95 in a shop, and Vega Sicilia Valbuena 5 Ano 2018 was €155 for a wine whose current market price is €167. Chateau Lafleur Pomerol 2007 was €820 compared to its shop price of €625, and Vega Sicilia Unico 2013 at €390 was slightly below its current retail price of €413.
As we arrived, we were greeted by a cup of simple but pleasant meat consommé that used a stock of ham, chicken and assorted root vegetables (12/20). Another canapé was a bowl of raw carrots and a cumin mousse dip, which was harmless. A speciality of the kitchen is a dish called cocido or Madrid stew. I didn’t order this but it is a little meal in Itself and my dining companions seemed to enjoy it. Classic croquettes made from elements of the Madrid stew had pleasant mixed meat filling but were almost cold when they arrived at the table, rather than being piping hot as they really should be (12/20).
Pate en croute (€23) had quite crude pastry but a pleasant pork interior with a central core of foie gras. I have certainly had more sophisticated versions of this but it was perfectly enjoyable (13/10). Beef Wellington (€34) was better, with nicely cooked beef fillet and slightly undercooked pastry but a genuinely good reduction of the meat juices that had quite deep flavour (15/20). Dessert was a millefeuille (€10), locally called Milhojas. This had good layers of thin pastry and enjoyable vanilla-flavoured cream filling (14/20).
Service was patient and friendly and the bill came to just €75 (£64) per person even including a bottle of Alion 2019, shared between four people. Lhardy is a restaurant with a considerable history and has a menu appropriate to that background. It is not ambitious or ground-breaking cooking but then it is not trying to be. Instead, it offers an appealing menu of classic dishes that are generally well enough made, along with good service and a very fairly priced wine list.