Lavapiés is one of Madrid’s most interesting neighbourhoods, a multicultural warren of little streets that contain a tantalising array of tapas bars, from old neighbourhood classics to modern spots offering a creative spin on tapas. We take a look at some of the best tapas bars in and around Lavapiés.
The wooden walls and marble-topped tables have changed little since this tavern opened its doors in 1830. It was founded by the bullfighter Antonio Sánchez, and its walls bear the marks of the tradition: photos of old bullfighters sit side by side with stuffed bulls heads. Today, it is known for its array of traditional tapas dishes, from meatballs and oxtail to croquettes and torrijas, a Spanish version of French toast that is popular at Easter.
The wildly popular little tapas bar does a range of simple tapas to a high standard, and the staff are friendly and welcoming. While it is popular with locals, it is unmistakably a tourist favourite, but that shouldn’t put you off. Its walls are covered in film posters by Spanish great Pedro Almódovar and there’s a laid-back feel. Grab a seat at the bar or a table in the back and order a range of tasty tapas inspired by Spain and Latin America. The ropa vieja (Cuban shredded beef) is melt-in-the-mouth delicious, while the mushroom croquettes will leave you wanting more.
A Sunday tradition in Madrid is browsing the Rastro flea market and stopping off for a bite to eat and a drink at the little bars that line the market’s route. This bar is extremely popular and its speciality, Madrid-style snails, is a must-try for adventurous foodies wanting to get stuck into some authentic local dishes. For the slightly less adventurous, the bar also does tapas including cod with pepper, croquettes, black pudding and chorizo.
La Barca del Patio is a taste of Andalusia in the heart of Madrid. The white interiors feature Andalusian touches such as a huge photo of the Alhambra in Granada and an Andalusian-style fountain. The bar is particularly popular for its fish and seafood, which is cooked over an open fire in the shape of a little boat. Andalusian specialities include tortillitas de camarones (prawn fritters) from Cádiz, a range of fried fish and salmorejo, a cold tomato coup from Córdoba.
Another Rastro favourite, AlliOli is not strictly a tapas bar but it does offer one of Spain’s most emblematic dishes: paella. The modern café cooks up huge pans of the Valencian rice dish that diners can order by the portion (a good option if you want to avoid a formal, sit-down experience where you have to order a whole paella). It’s a bargain option, too, with portions of paella for around €5. It can get very busy as the afternoon wears on, so aim to get there early (around 12.30pm) to grab a table.
This little bar is a wonderful mix of Basque and Andalusian influences. It specialises in pintxos, Basque tapas that consist of delicious morsels of food, usually served perched on a piece of bread. It’s a local favourite with a buzzing atmosphere, tasty wines and a range of creative, award-winning pintxos including fried prawn skewers, steak with aubergine and fried aubergine covered in molasses.
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