When I asked Jose Luis Jiménez who the people in the photographs were, he spent the next half hour telling me stories from his childhood and showing me pictures taken by his friends from all over the world.
The photo of the Eiffel Tower taken during the last solar eclipse in Europe; a beautiful photo of his bar taken by friends from Dublin; photos and letters from his father; his parents’ old radio; notes of one peseta from when he was a child.
Bodegas Jiménez in Chamberí is like stepping into your grandparents’ house, where you’re welcomed with a smile and your favourite food.
The bodega was bought by his father in 1945, and they opened it in 1947. Located near the corner of what used to be a hospital, the small rectangular bar is full of knick-knacks from the past.
Other than the expected napkins thrown onto the floor by locals, the bar is spotless. Jose Luís spends two hours every day cleaning, and works from 8.00 am until 1.30 am with just a break at 4.00 pm to eat his dinner.
People confuse old fashioned with dust, but when you care about something, you clean it.
Jiménez loves working at his bar “because when I am at work, I am with my friends,” he says. Indeed, he claims to know four generations of people who stop by his bodega every week, and it’s no surprise – he’s been working here for nearly 50 years.
The 64-year-old is planning to retire next year, and he’s unsure if the three other owners of the bar will keep it open, but he hopes they do.
The tapas at Bodegas Jiménez are rather generous, from a tortilla and chorizo pincho served with a side of crisps, to homemade tuna spread with cucumber, peppers and spring onion, all served on bread.
He still makes boquerones en vinagre (anchovies in vinegar) with a recipe that his grandmother taught him: add paprika or parsley and freeze it for 48 hours. The result is a fish so fresh and melt-in-your-mouth, you feel as though you’ve been transported back in time and are enjoying it with his grandmother. And the vermouth he serves is from the producer his family has been buying from for the last 100 years.
This little Chamberí haunt is an enchanting place to enjoy a tapa worthy of a Spanish grandmother’s approval. Order yourself a vermouth, tuck into your boquerones and let the walls of Bodegas Jiménez tell you its 71-year story.
- Address: Calle Donoso Cortés, 66
- Nearest metro: Moncloa (L3/6), Quevedo (L2), Islas Filipinas (L7)
- Opening hours: Mon–Sat 8 am – 1.30 am (closed Sundays)
This article was written by Moriah Costa, a business journalist and artist. Visit her Instagram, where she shares her world through drawings and collage, inspiring others to express themselves through art too.