La Alhambra

Despite being a people who are instinctual anarchists, the spanish are ultra-conservative when it comes to food. Not just what you eat…it has to be Spanish cuisine, preferably cooked by your mother or grandmother; contain no herbs other than parsley; certainly no spices….but also when you eat, there is a definite window of opportunity when it comes to mealtimes, miss that window and you’ll have to forage for yourself. Luckily there is an oasis in this parochial gastronomic desert…and that oasis is….The People’s Republic of Lavapiès.

On Calle Tribulete, for example, there is La Alhambra. The kitchen is open all day and friendly waiters serve Moroccan cuisine at more than reasonable prices.

I tend to come here if the window of opportunity for lunch has snapped shut before i’ve managed to fill my belly…or on the odd evening i’m not working till an unearthly hour and I fancy an affordable meal that I haven’t cooked myself.

Today I had stewed lamb with chips and rice. You can’t ever overdo the carbs.

(Unless you’re on the Atkins’ diet)

I should point out that for cultural or religious reasons…this restaurant is dry…so you wash your food down with a jug of water.

Finish it off with a glass of hot, sweet mint tea. (Very good at combatting wind, is mint tea..should you suffer from it)

Casa Zoilo

Somehow Casa Zoilo has managed to elude me for the last 9 years…not many bars in my barrio can say that. Possibly this is because you’d have no reason to walk along Calle de la Huerta del Bayo…unless you lived there..or, like me, you were on a Yelp-inspired wild goose chase and looking for a non-existent portuguese restaurant called Casa Janes on that street.

It certainly puts the old in old-skool. A friendly old couple run it. There’s a massive old fridge…from the 1930s or so i’d say in behind the second part of the bar…and you can buy various things to take away…litres or cans of beer, soda water, litre bottles of wine or sherry.

Very little to say about it. It has no pretensions…there’s a telly in the corner of the back bar, there’s the ubiquitous slot machine in the corner, music doesn’t come from a computer or a disc jockey (who could tell the difference anyway) but a radio sitting behind the bar.

I got a caña for 1,20€ and it came with a small bowl of patatas revolconas…mashed potatoes mixed with paprika and topped with fresh pork scratchings. A work of genius that combines two of humankind’s greatest achievements: a) mashed potato b) pork scratchings.

There’s no comedor so if your wee tapa isn’t going to satisfy you, you’ll have to make do with raciones of cold meats or cheese….or bocadillos filled with..cold meats and/or cheese. The bocadillos ranged from 2,50 to 3,50€.

All in all, a taberna muy castiza

Bodegas lo maximo, lavapiès

Shining example of an old man’s bar taken over by people without enough money to fuck it up. Zinc bar. Half decent music. Armchairs. Disco-ball. As well as your usual beer, wine and (bottled) vermouth…they also do Negroni…which is gin, vermouth and campari served in an old-fashioned glass…and is strong…to say the least. On a campari tip, they also do Spritz…white wine, campari, soda, ice n’a slice…try asking for that in a north nottinghamshire pit village. Having escaped such a mileiu…i was happy to order one

Too much campari in this one…end of bottle…i had to have it topped up with white wine

You can’t see glitterball here..but it’s above these chairs which are on a raised platform. Ideal if you want to be the centre of attention.

Sundays they do paella. Normally there’s tostas and salmorejo.