I’ve forever found no-frills bars inspiring spaces. They’re gateways to Madrid’s working-class soul, and are unpretentiously beautiful, just like the city. They’re also where Madrid No Frills was born, propping up the bar with a caña and a tapa and listening to the owner’s story.
In this volume of no-frills finds, we reveal the location of two classic bodegas, one no-frills microbrewery, and a bustling seafoodie gem. We also document two separate sightings of Madrid’s past, which had been lying dormant beneath our feet this whole time. It paid to go little off-grid too, leading us to a burnt-out train driver’s cabin and the quirkiest museum we’ve found yet.
Although street art is deeply connected with gentrification, its message is often precisely the opposite. The spray-painted murals adorning the walls of Madrid speak truths – truths that the passionate graffiti hunter Gerardo taught me how to read. In the secret messages left behind by graffiti writers, I saw not only themes of suffering and discrimination but also a growing backlash against them.
Under the first beam of sunlight on 3 October, diggers began tearing through people’s bedroom walls. By mid afternoon, around 50 makeshift homes had been razed to the ground, and around 80 people had been moved on.
Recent exhibition La Tienda de la Esquina (The Corner Shop) celebrates Madrid’s beautiful antique facades. But, given these old shops are an increasingly endangered species in the Madrid streetscape, you may find yourself cynically wondering if these sculptures are actually miniature death masks.
Today, all cars and buses will be diverted from the city centre, and shepherds will herd their flocks through Madrid. In a spectacle witnessed by lots of confused onlookers, hundreds of sheep will stroll through our grandest boulevards.
Look closely and you’ll see that every single tile inside this restaurant is zellige: an ancient Moorish design whose pattern has been trending throughout the Arab world since around the seventh century.
Those hermetic voile curtains are partly to preserve Café El Despertar’s clandestine atmosphere, they’re but mostly there to deter the naive walk-in customer. The steely elderly owner, with his enviable beard, is interested only in clientele who are specifically here for his jazz music, and most certainly not the police, who, for good reason, he constantly fears.
Conciencia Afro may be a festival that celebrates African identity, but its core purpose is to confront the harsh reality of racism that Madrid’s African community faces on a daily basis.
When I took these photographs, I thought it would take a little longer than a couple of years for them to become an archive of the lost.