Earlier this year, I discovered that I had a long-lost twin in Buenos Aires: Bar de Viejes. This is an Instagram account that was born out of a desire of one person to document the beautiful old Buenos Aires bars, especially those that are under-appreciated and disappearing.
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.
There’s a bunker, a hidden chess club, a haunting forest and a forgotten city-centre zoo, among a few other secrets held by the gatekeeper of Retiro Park. But dive in with the darkest, most disturbing secret of all: the ‘human zoo’…
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.
On the deathly quiet streets of Cabanyal, you may feel like you’ve rediscovered a deserted Spanish outpost.
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.
The sun is setting and I’ve spotted some wild rabbits – their white flickering tails really give them away. They’re in an old trench digging diagonally into the pebbly soil, but possess no knowledge or concern over the possibility that they might be nesting alongside dismembered skeletons.
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.
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.