No Frills

The last horchata kiosk in Madrid

My obsession with horchata began exactly where it should: on the coast of Valencia, surrounded by orange blossom and flamingos. On my return to Madrid, I vowed never to rest until I'd found the best horchata in town, and there it was – as it has been for 74 years – in a little roadside kiosk run by the fifth generation of the same family.

No-frills bars in peculiar places (Vol. I)

Much like a municipal bin, a no-frills bar is never more than 50 metres away from you in the centre of Madrid. Going for an impromptu caña was never easier, be it at a train station, on a train, in a hospital or even next to a funeral parlour.

Bar El Jamón: the Godfather of Lavapiés

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.

RIP Casto, and long live El Palentino

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.

Sabores del Mundo: Peruvian soul food with a conscience

In the darkest days of Spain's financial crisis, Catalina Lescano Álvarez and a team of unemployed women from Peru and Colombia set up a little restaurant in Madrid's Oporto neighbourhood. Going by the name of Sabores del Mundo, it was a brave and passionate project with two key objectives: to create employment for migrant women and to provide a filling meal every day to vulnerable members of the local community.

La Figal: the charming 1940s bar opposite the Brutalist church

One of the best things about this accidentally retro bar is how much fun it is to explore. There are secret, time-bending portals connecting the endless labyrinth of dining rooms… or so it seems. When the same short, middle-aged waiter in a waistcoat kept appearing every time we entered a new room, we wondered how else he could have got there so quickly.

Chocolate con churros at Los Pinchitos

Suddenly the pace picks up. Stacks of hot churros and porras rush out of the kitchen while the waiters frantically steam chocolate and place together dozens of cups and saucers. In this churrería, the staff know their customers' routines well: suddenly hordes of classy old ladies walk in, order vast amounts of chocolate and churros and kick off their Friday evening with a bit of scandalous family gossip. 

Bar Lozano: One of Malasaña’s last no-frills bars

We've already declared our love for Bar Lozano but, after spending some time there recently, we noticed that its popularity seems to be waning once again. It might seem like we're fighting a losing battle at times, but I for one refuse to give up.

Cafetería Rocablanca: classic Spanish bar food done perfectly

Have you ever been walking along the street in Madrid and thought to yourself: 'Quick caña and tortilla?' Me too. If you happen to have that thought whilst on Calle de Fuencarral, you're seconds away from making it a reality. But if you're half way across the city, jump on a metro - it's worth the ride.