Madrid, to many one of the liveliest cities in all of Europe, has managed to preserve much of that spirit at a time when the economy hasn't exactly been thriving. That's according to InTheSity, the blogger and mobile app designer who has called the Spanish capital home for years and has produced countless dispatches from the ground for many publications, including Gridskipper in its heyday.
In the following interview, he talks about the reinvention and reemergence of Lavapiés and Malasaña, two neighborhoods known for their marcha, or nightlife scenes. He also shares some key dining spots of the moment, from midrange Italian options (Mercato Ballaró) to Michelin-starred stunners (Diverxo and El Club Allard)
What's going on in Madrid?
As you know, the economy's in the shitter, so it feels like we're constantly being bludgeoned with burger bars.
Are any of them good?
Honestly, no. They all want to be 1950s diners and have a vintage vibe, and it gets nauseating.
Well, what's going on that's worthwhile?
In Lavapiés, we're seeing a lot of interesting places pop up. The area isn't as hippy as it used to be. Most of these places are what I'd call "recycled bars," in the sense that they're old, sometimes historic spaces where all the young and cool kids go. They're extremely fun.
What are the spots?
There's a place called La Antigua Taquería, which does simple and good Mexican food and has a lively bar. Another one is La Playa de Lavapiés, which is more focused on drinking and a great place to go if you want to put your finger on the pulse of the city, even if the economy is screwed.
In addition to Lavapiés experiencing a bit of a transformation, I'd say that Malasaña is coming back in full force as the place to go drinking and staying out until late at night. The area of Malasaña that's specifically interesting is TriBal, which used to be where you'd go for prostitutes.
Malasaña is maybe one of the most fun neighborhoods in the world.
Yeah. There's a place called Martínez, which is quite good. That place tends to be frequented by the tech crowd that works in the area — people that work at social media companies and blogs. The gin and tonic is popular there. These days, if you don't have thirty brands of gin at your bar, you're nothing in Spain.
That seems to be the case all over Spain.
Yeah, exactly. It also looks like rum is starting to get popular.
What are some other places in Malasaña?
There's an extremely cool place called Kike Keller, a furniture shop that has a bar at the back. It's quite beautiful and quite special. People will get a drink in the bar and then roam around the space, sit on the antiques and furniture, and just chill out.
Another spot which is quirky and fun is Microteatro Por Dinero. You'll go downstairs, grab a drink, and there are four little rooms — each of them fits about six people — and they do one act plays.
How about restaurants across the city?
There's a place called The Cheese Bar, which is a bit of a gimmick but is actually good. If you don't like cheese, don't go. The smell is insane and the food is great. You do about two or three little dishes that focus on cheese and that's it. By the end of it, though, you'll be sick of cheese.
Is Diverxo still one of the toughest reservations in the city?
Yes, especially after they got their second star. And also at the high end, there's El Club Allard, which received its second star at the same time as Diverxo.
A more gently priced option that's new is Mercato Ballaro, which is Italian. It's got two floors: on the second floor, there's the full-on restaurant, and on the ground floor, you've got tapas and small plates.
Finally, I don't want to forget to mention Alma 60, a place that does tapas with a twist.
Is it from a famous chef or restaurateur?
No, not that I know of. It's another gently priced option. For about 30 Euro, you can eat and drink plenty. It's a blast.