My obsession with horchata began exactly where it should have done: on the coast of Valencia, surrounded by orange blossom and flamingos. On my return to Madrid, I vowed never to rest until I’d found the best horchata in town, and there it was – as it has been for 74 years – in a little roadside kiosk run by the fifth generation of the same family.
Much like a municipal bin, a no-frills bar is never more than 50 metres away in the centre of Madrid. Going for an impromptu knees-up was never easier, be it at a train station, on a train, in a hospital or even next to a funeral parlour.
In the thick of bustling Indian restaurants and foreign food stores, a jazzy facade with bold retro lettering stands out from the crowd. This neighbourhood veteran is Bar El Jamón, the Godfather of Lavapiés.
Casto Herrezuelo, co-owner of El Palentino in Malasaña, passed away this week at the age of 79. Having manned the bar there for 60 years, he’d become a national treasure without even knowing it.
One of the best things about this accidentally retro bar is how much fun it is to explore. There are secret, time-bending portals connecting the endless labyrinth of dining rooms… or so it seems. When the same short, middle-aged waiter in a waistcoat kept appearing every time we entered a new room, we wondered how else he could have got there so quickly.
Bar la Peña is a real gem, and one of the last truly no-frills bars on Calle Santa Isabel. The young-at-heart owners, Isabel and Francisco, are a couple from a small coastal town in Galicia, and, like all proud Galicians, they take their pulpo very seriously.
We’ve already declared our love for Bar Lozano but, after spending some time there recently, we noticed that its popularity seems to be waning once again. It might seem like we’re fighting a losing battle at times, but I for one refuse to give up.
Manuel Moreno de Valle, the owner of Cervecería La Carpa, has fallen asleep on shift again. It’s an unusually hot afternoon and the 69-year-old waiter is perched on a bar stool outside…
Why are so many iconic no-frills Spanish bars closing, and what does this mean for the future of Spain?
Cervecería Azul y Blanco takes its name from everyone’s favourite Mediterranean colour combination, but as its bold colours fade to dark grey and dusty pink, this little corner bar slips into a bygone era and has become totally kitsch.