Hidden away in a narrow side street just behind the Palacio Real in an unassuming modern building is Al Norte, one of the chicest places to eat in Madrid. Sedate businessmen and smart locals sink into the deep red velvet-covered banquettes to enjoy the Northern Spanish cuisine. Classic one-time peasant dishes are dressed up with sophisticated ingredients and a modern take. The menu, which changes monthly, makes the most of a traditional Spanish larder; however, it sometimes falls slightly short of the mark. The waiters glide around effortlessly, advising on the choice of fine wines and tempting dishes. Intended as a comfortable and fashionable retreat for the affluent locals, it won’t win any design awards but does enough to make you feel very grown-up. The food, the service and the stylish modern décor are the embodiment of simplicity and elegance.