The tension was palpable even though the streets were deserted. This was a very important night for Madrid with nearly everyone having a vested interest. The occasional taxi slid passed us on the wide boulevards, empty except for the driver with the radio blaring. This and the roar from the bars as we hurried to our destination were the giveaway. Real Madrid vs Atletico Madrid in the Champions League Final 2016, there wasn’t for Madrileños a more important match. Mr Glam and I aren’t big football fans but a local derby like this was not to be missed. We headed to Calle Ponzano, in Chamberi, a bar drenched area of very local narrow streets and settled in with an eye on the game as we bar hopped, enjoying tapas in Madrid.
The football hadn’t started but the T.V.s were either playing the run up in loud, excited Spanish or the last of whatever sport was on prior to the game. Crowds gathered and the small glasses of Cuñas were passed from hand to hand through the throng. These small glasses of beer have several advantages, you can hop from bar to bar without having to down the last of a pint before you move on. They don’t get warm, remember it’s 40c in Madrid in the summer, and they don’t go flat before you’ve enjoyed them. At €1.30 they’re inexpensive, especially when they can often come with a free plate of tapas. It’s a great way to try Spanish bar food, order a beer and get a tapas, order another and choose again.
We began with what is now my favourite tapas dish, an ordinary looking little croquet that is light and full of jamon flavour, soft with the thick bechamel interior, salty from the ham and a crisp deep fried outer shell with just enough crunch – Croquetas De Jamon. We ordered another beer and chose Morcilla De Burgos. This is a simple dish for the black pudding lovers. Thick round slices of crispy grilled black pudding studded with soft fat grains of rice, perfect with the second beer.
With difficulty I turned against the throng in the tiny bar. Brightly lit but with dark wood decor, these bars are more 1970s than the height of Spanish modernism. But don’t let the size or the decor put you off and as for the crowds, if it gets too much you can spill into the street and prop up the wall with the rest of the very friendly locals. In fact the busier the bar the better the tapas.
The football was getting under way and crowds were watching both inside and out, peering through the windows. The score was frustratingly slow to materialise and with plenty of ooohs and aaahs the match meandered on. As did we, moving on to a bar specialising in seafood, fabulous looking plump blush prawns, scarlet crabs freshly cooked served on toasted bread.
I chose the Boquerones en vinagre – fresh marinaded anchovies ( being allergic to shellfish) which were sweet fleshed and tart from the vinegar and fruity from the extra virgin olive oil. Sprinkled with parsley and just a touch of garlic, I could eat these all day. We downed these with another beer and moved again.
Three or four steps was all it took to our next stop, cuñas all round, by now with a gin and tonic chaser for some with Pinchos De Carne – delicious chunks of sirloin on a skewer, tender and fragrant with herbs. There was a hush amongst the bar goers as the game moved to penalty shoot outs, the tension mounting, tapas halted half way to the mouth. Then, a roar, hands thrown above the head, head sunk into hands. Real Madrid had won. Almost instantly the sides of the bar seemed to bulge with the sudden influx of those who’d watched at home and were now out enjoying the win with friend or commiserating. Excited smiles and rueful faces together enjoying Cuñas and tapas in Madrid.
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