It’s mid-morning by the time sunlight illuminates the grey facade of this no-frills gem in Estrecho, but the neighbours have been visiting Los Pepes since sunrise, just as they’ve done for years for their desayuno of churros and bracing café con leche, writes Juan Carlo.
We’re greeted by Lavinia (novia to the friendly manager of Los Pepes, Juan, but who goes by the name Pepito). Between the two of them, the young couple run this 1950s community bar which never seems to be still even in this quiet part of the barrio next to the sleepy Mercado San Enrique.
Step inside and the newly painted grey walls frame a classic Spanish still-life oil painting, with worn wooden window frames, bookshelves and a whitewashed waiter station.
While most of the clientele have already nabbed a place on the terrace, the cosy dining room complemented by a long zinc bar is beautifully no-frills, with only a single poker and cigarette machine bringing sparkle to one corner.
No matter what time of day you stop in for a drink, a coffee or other restorative, your tapa is homemade and could include the famed matrimonio of an anchovy snuggling between two vinegar soaked boquerones on bread, or perhaps a slice of chewy chicharrones fritos, or even, on weekends, a small plate of paella.
Rubia, the cook, is busiest on weekdays with her menú del día, which usually includes up to 10 options for both starters and mains, plus dessert and coffee for €11.
Dusty, uniformed construction workers, public servants from the local Hacienda, and elderly couples sitting at their same table each week can be found here, with a homely and welcoming atmosphere – Pepito will make sure of it.
Top tip: their calamares, freshly dusted in flour and flash fried are among the best I’ve had and a steal at €7.
- Address: Calle San Enrique, 11
- Opening hours: Monday to Saturday, 6 am – 12 am
- Nearest metro: Estrecho (L1)
This article was written by Juan-Carlo Tomas, who explains, “Since moving to Madrid in July last year, only now do I feel like I have a voice to say something about life here. The past year has been one of seeking new places, letting my mind be blown and just absorbing a way of life which is so wildly different to the one in my hometown of Sydney, Australia”.