Hearty, home-cooked Senegalese food rolls out of the kitchen fast at Mandela 100, which is owned by Mamadou from Senegal. His Africa-themed diner has hit the ground running, much to the delight – and relief – of Lavapiés locals, because it’s not just quality that can be found here; it’s also equality.
Those who live in this multicultural, working-class barrio know all too well that their neighbourhood is undergoing damaging change: rent prices are soaring, residents are being evicted, and pandemic chain stores are pecking away at the eclectic Lavapiés streetscape.
I’d been watching the works on this former shoe shop for a month, convinced that a large American chain was about to mushroom out of the ground. I’d pictured it: a Five Guys beaming its intrusive fluorescent light over the square, with tyre-flattened paper cups littering the streets for miles.
But last week I spied a mural of Nelson Mandela adorning the back wall of the room. It was painted by Palestinian designer Rami Arda, a man who’s from a place that Mandela himself had a lot to say about:
We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians.
The symbolism within this restaurant does not go unnoticed in Lavapiés, not least because it means we have another multicultural institution to eat in – and I’m excited to say that we were one of their first customers.
From day one, Mandela 100 has been operating like a time-honoured Lavapiés institution, which in many ways it is. This no-frills diner is riding the Senegalese foodie wave with skill, and I hope the tide continues to swell, because it’s providing us with so much more than good food: it means representation, integration, community and, ultimately, equality.
By choosing to eat here, you’re supporting an oppressed community. It may sound extreme, but it’s the society we live in. Life is not easy in Madrid if you’re an immigrant, but inside Mandela 100, overlooking the plaza that witnessed violent clashes between the police and the local Senegalese community earlier this year, we can dream of a future Madrid – one where the fight for equality has been won.
It always seems impossible until it’s done.
– Nelson Mandela
- Address: Calle Mesón de Paredes, 50, facing Plaza Nelson Mandela
- Nearest metro: Lavapiés (L3) or Tirso de Molina (L1)
- Opening hours: Mon-Sun 8 am-12 am