The good thing about going for an early evening aperitif in Madrid is the variety; one afternoon you might fancy cañas (tiny measures of ice-cold lager) at a bohemian terraza in the dishevelled yet increasingly on-the-up neighbourhood of Lavapies, another day it could be Mojitos in one of the over-crowded hippy-chic bars in La latina and sometimes (ok, very occasionally) you might just want to hang out in your local ‘old man bar’ – this Madrileño institution fascinated me for my first few months here; granite work tops, unflattering strip lighting, ensaladilla rusa (‘russian’ potato salad) cemented with dollops of mayonnaise, sculpted into domes and ornamented with olives and anchovies, slot machines, and of course, the ubiquitous old men, who line up at the bar downing black coffee laced with whisky, animatedly exchanging anecdotes or staring trance-like at the sports news on the flat screen TV. So '70s. Anyway, that was my poetic little bit about old men bars :-)
Sometimes however, you want something a bit different, you want to get out your best handbag and rub shoulders with groomed señoras with perfect helmet-hair and huge pearl earrings. You want to be a lady that lunches. Or at least a lady that drinks Martinis or enjoys her tea in fine bone china. Here are some suggestions for when a more pija ambience takes your fancy:
Living in London
I think I’ve blogged about this before. It’s a little ‘English’ tea place in the heart of Alonso Martínez (C/Santa Engracia 4). Decked out like Fortnum and Mason's and serving real Earl Grey from dainty silverware, it’s one of the few places in Madrid you can get a cream tea. I also recommend the bresaola and rocket finger sandwich. Has a little shop annexed to it selling such sundries as Walker’s crisps at extortionate prices, and a partner store a couple of doors down selling traditional English homewares – bearing in mind whoever owns this place must think Brits frolic about the house in chintz pinnies pruning our miniature rose bushes with William Morris stamped secateurs (Sp?). I love the sentiment however.
In the heart of museum-land on Paseo de Recoletos is the art deco pavillion El Espejo. I admit that I’ve only been for a Vermut on the terazza but I plan to go back and see what it’s like to eat inside. Even if you don’t want to eat here, its worth ordering something in the pavement cafe if only for the people watching and live piano music.
Maybe even a little posher than the above 2, after all we are ladies (and boys) that lunch :-) I ended up here completely by accident when meeting the friend of a friend. Established getting on for 100 years ago by an Irish emigree who complained that there was nowhere in Madrid where a lady could go unaccompanied for a cup of tea. Thanks to her, us ladies can do tea here (in company or otherwise). Great tea list, pastries, restaurant and delicatessen. Get to the tea room early to ensure you get a table.