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.
Any time between 1 and 6 pm, even when it’s raining, cheery owner Tomás (almost always donning his signature waistcoat and flat cap) will be stood outside asking anyone who walks within a metre of him if they’d like to pop in for some lunch.
Tomás has been working here for the best part of 50 years, during which time very little about the place has changed, including its clientele. He does say, however, that the Lavapiés around him has evolved a lot, especially in the last couple of decades. But he loves it, right down to the multicultural atmosphere, the smell of curry drifting down the street and the relatively recent nightlife culture.
I may be 67, but I’m not retiring yet, I’m still young! I wish one of my six kids would take over the bar, but none of them want to. I even offered to buy them their own bar, but they said no!
Running a bar isn’t light work but Tomás clearly loves what he does. If you get chatting to him, you’ll notice his unique spark and energy – a thriving symbiosis between passionate owner and successful bar.
STOP IN FOR A MADRILEÑO LUNCH
Bar El Jamón is always busy at lunchtime with both regulars and passersby, who stop in for a traditional €7.50 menú del día or €10 cocido completo.
Table crowdedness varies with anything from groups of young people to solo gentlemen. I got chatting to one fellow, who happens to own the locksmith’s around the corner.
I’ve been here all my life. You should pop along some time, I’ll show you the workshop. Here’s my business card – I made it myself.
WELCOME TO BAR EL JAMÓN…
If you live in Lavapiés, you’ll probably know the characters of this barrio – it’s kind of impossible not to. You may also have noticed that Bar El Jamón is a hub for these local greats, and chances are if you swing by for lunch one afternoon, you could easily be in the company of a few living Lavapiés legends such as the street flamenco duo, but that’s a story for another day.
- Address: Calle de Lavapiés, 47
- Nearest metro: Lavapiés, L3
- Opening hours: ~9 am to ~12 am Sun-Thu / ~9 am to ~1 am Fri-Sat