Closed March 2018
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.
I’d like to begin with an admission: I went to El Palentino last summer with my camera and notebook. I chatted to Casto and took some photos, but in the end I never got round to writing an article. It’s because his bar was (and still is) incredibly successful and, despite being the archetypal no-frills bar and entirely deserving of a place on Madrid No Frills, it didn’t need our help and hopefully never will.
My picture of him did end up being the star of our exhibition, though, and yesterday also appeared on the websites of El País, El Mundo, El Español, El Confidencial, and Secretos de Madrid, as well as being shared hundreds of times by those wanting to pay tribute to a person they knew and loved.
So here’s my tribute to Casto, the legend of the no-frills bar, and the unassuming hero of the Madrid that I love.
THE UNSUNG HERO
Some of the most overlooked members of a local community are its bar staff – the custodians of our free time. Casto took this role very seriously, showing respect to the people that entered his bar simply by making his job look easy. He was professional, genuine and sharp as a tack. In his 60 years as a barman, he provided a venue for thousands of important conversations, listened to thousands of people’s troubles, and was instrumental in thousands of unforgettable nights out.
He once saved a friend of mine from “a sex pest”, as she describes the man, so Casto is a real hero in her eyes – and for many others.
A FAMILY BUSINESS
Don Casto and his business partner, Loli, created one of Madrid’s most iconic no-frills bars, which has barely changed since the day it opened. Perhaps it was Casto’s unrelenting energy and determination that kept El Palentino so authentic and unpretentious, but Loli, his widowed daughter-in-law, is just as passionate and will no doubt continue his legacy.
[Update March 2018: Loli closed Bar El Palentino]
THE CURE TO GENTRIFICATION
The old, the young, Madrid’s locals and its foreigners are equally drawn to this legendary corner bar without knowing anything of its past or what once stood around it. I’d like to think that El Palentino is immune to gentrification and might even be the undercover antidote to Malasaña’s epidemic, which has already claimed several no-frills bars.
I, for one, will continue to prop up this bar with a caña and a tapa, and I have a feeling I’ll see you there too. From me, and from those who knew him,
Buen viaje, compañero.
- Address: Calle del Pez, 8
- Nearest metro: Noviciado, Gran Vía, Tribunal
- Opening hours: 7 am-12 am every day