Bars

RIP Casto, and long live El Palentino

23 February 2018
Buen viaje, compañero

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 incredibly successful, functioned perfectly as a local for locals 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.

Buen viaje, compañero

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.

Casto behind the bar

A FAMILY BUSINESS

Don Casto and his daughter in law and 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.

Loli on the left

Bar El Palentino on the corner of Calle Pez

The sloping square in front of El Palentino

Inside El Palentino one summer afternoon

A mirror reflection of the interior signage

Through the window of 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 liked to think that El Palentino was immune to gentrification and might even have been the undercover antidote to Malasaña’s epidemic, which has already claimed several no-frills bars. But Bar El Palentino, Casto and their combined legacy are gone.

From me, and from those who knew him,

Buen viaje, compañero.

Buen viaje, compañero

INFO

  • Address: Calle del Pez, 8
  • Nearest metro: Noviciado, Gran Vía, Tribunal
  • Opening hours: 7 am-12 am every day

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