New guard

What's old is new in Spain and this tapas bar typifies the trend for classic fare.

According to Carlos Zamora, the owner of newly revitalised bar Celso y Manolo in Madrid’s Chueca district, “going out, eating and drinking is the sport of the Madrileno”. Granted, it is in Carlos’s interest to say so, but there is truth to this observation, and by reinterpreting a traditional tasca (a neighbourhood bar that serves tapas) he has created the city’s new favourite training ground. Carlos is less concerned with innovation than updating classics for the long haul. His family runs five other establishments, including Restaurante Deluz in their northern Spanish hometown of Santander, and Taberna La Carmencita, one of Madrid’s oldest venues. So when the owners of a restaurant close to the latter retired — namesake brothers Celso and Manolo Arguelles — it was Carlos they trusted to take over and polish up its marble bar.

Dining in the Spanish capital is an unforgettable experience. In the tascas and bars of Madrid, the national pastime of taking a drink and a small bite, then rolling through the night from locale to locale, is taken to its extreme. The city’s round-the-clock hedonism makes eating there far from the average night out. It’s a parade of endless drinks and gutsy, salty snacks. A can of anchovies ripped open in one spot leads to a plate of thinly sliced jamon iberico de bellota seasoned by years of cigarette smoke in another, followed then perhaps by a plate of alien-looking percebes (goose barnacles) in the next.

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Photos: Pablo Zamora © Vogue Living, Nov/Dec 2014

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