Madrid’s no-frills vegan and vegetarian restaurants are built on radical foundations. None of the restaurants I’ve listed below shy away from expressing their opinions on feminism, anti-speciesism, communism or even all-out anarchism, and nor should they. What makes Madrid such an exciting place to live is the people’s unrelenting will to fight for what they believe in – a hangover from decades of oppression combined with real concern for the future we’re hurtling towards.
Allí está Maribel y los demás, sobre todo entre semana es raro el día que no ves a alguien con quien ya te habías topado en el mismo lugar. Mismo lugar, la bodega, y mismo lugar, el espacio que ese conocido ocupa en ella. Los habituales de los bares, tabernas y bodegas funcionan así, ya sabes.
The prices are low, the quality is fine, the service is quick, the menu is in Spanish and the soul and decor of the bar is utterly no-frills.
“I’m on the corner of Street of the Miraculous, and Bitterness Street”, laughs Mariano Casado Francisco. Rather than name his bar after the streets on which it resides, as so many no-frills bars do, he has named his bar after himself – the way his customers would inevitably have called it anyway.
Welcome to Bar La Muralla, a perfect, no-frills gem that does what it says on the window… and quite a bit more.
It’s 1979. Franco had died just four years earlier and the transition to democracy was well underway. Everything painted, moulded and built in this era would become a time capsule to Spain’s post-dictatorship optimism. Or, at least, what still remains of this era.
Vallecas might feel like the Madrid of long-ago, but for Constantino Carral Sánchez, it’s changed a lot.
The sun pours through the smokey windows of this upstairs diner and is intercepted by half a dozen coconut palms, casting exotic shadows on the terrazzo floor. Everything – and I mean everything – is a shade of brown, as it has been since its last refurb a few decades ago.
Emerge from Lavapiés’ metro into the Mediterranean Maghreb. Meander through its narrow, winding streets lined with candy-coloured facades and Juliette balconies, and catch a glimpse of the Middle East and Africa, but also Asia, Latin America and of course, Madrid.
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.
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.
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.
Ice cream academic Pedro begins the week at his micro ice cream factory in the working-class neighbourhood of Vallecas. His aim is to experiment with a new savoury ingredient, while also finding the perfect level of sweetness.
Despite the near extinction of an ancient civilisation, the pupusa survived and thrived for generation after generation until it was finally brought across the Atlantic Ocean to central Madrid, in a Salvadoran restaurant near Atocha station.
Edward Lawrence continues his offbeat adventures to the most surprisingly located no-frills bars in Madrid. This time, he explores two bus stations, a family-run service station and a shrine to Franco, and climbs a hill – passing a decaying bunker – to find serenity in the most peculiar place.