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, leaning into the waiters’ hatch with his hands clasped loosely together. His son passes him two cañas through the hatch and he wakes up, takes the glasses and serves them to the terrace table in front of him with virtuosity, showing no signs of having just had a grandad nap.
Manuel has been working at Cervecería La Carpa for exactly 50 years. He’s watched Madrid change around him and is excited by what he sees. There are more young people in the area – both Spanish and foreign – and many of them are his loyal customers.
The terrace is full, the bar is fairly lively for a lazy summer afternoon, and the interior dining room is bustling away upstairs, its clatter and hum echoing into the downstairs bar.
La Carpa’s terrace is a lovely place to sit for breakfast and watch the morning slowly getting into gear. As you reach for the bottle of olive oil to pour onto your toast, look up and glimpse the day’s optimism and infinite combination of possibilities, and then reflect for a moment on the thought that people have been doing the same thing as you every morning for the past 50 years, and Manuel has seen it all.
69 GOING ON 49
Manuel may be 69, but he doesn’t look a day over 50. He insists on showing me his ID after cracking up at the look of disbelief on my face. When I ask him his secret to looking so young, his answer is simple:
- Address: Plaza Tirso de Molina, 20
- Nearest metro: Tirso de Molina, line 1
- Opening hours: 7 am-1 am