Watching the reports of pubs reopening in the UK and having seen reports of bars reopening in the U.S. and hastily needed to shut down again due to spikes – there is a narrative that anyone who wants to go out to enjoy a drink right now is an asshole.
I’ll again caveat this post with the fact that Spain is in a very different phase of the COVID19 journey than much of the world. The shut down here was long, strict and brutal. The reopening has been slow, considered and careful with various measures put in place to protect patrons and staff to allow Madrid to open up.
It’s been two weeks since the State of Emergency ended in Madrid. Madrid is open. Everywhere you go, you see official signs of encouragement to venture back out.
The sign at the gym opposite my office ¡Madrid Vuelve! – to be honest I’m not sure I want to be working out indoors for the moment, running in the park is good enough for me.
‘Ya es el momento de volver al cine’, Now is the time to return to the Cinema. Maybe, but think I’ll wait a bit longer…
Tonight, I’ll go to the theatre for the first socially distanced opera – many of the musicians involved in the production have not earned a single Euro in months – I’m keen to support musicians getting back to work – I’ll report back on how that goes.
But bars are open and I am there with bells on. Does that make me an asshole?
The first place I head after a long week at work is Dry Bar 1862, 5 minutes from my office, it’s a bar I have frequented often on previous visits to Madrid and a bar I count as one of the best in Spain.
The cocktails here are stunning, classics yes but also house specialities like Viejisimo Adonis – a divine combination of 30 year old Amontillado VORS, Sweet Vermouth and bitter orange – that tastes like a refined Palo Cortado and is elegant with layers of lingering flavour.
No one seems that happy about having to wear a mask for 10-12 hours a day but they do seem thankful to be back at work and counting their blessings they are healthy.
I’m told Del Diego will open its doors for the first time tonight. So we drop my bag back at the flat, and head there for a drink. It’s less than five minutes in the opposite direction from where we live. I love City Life and how we have such an array of bars on our doorstep.
Del Diego is an institution, an old school cocktail bar that operates with such a precision and attention to detail – it is a wonder to watch. The toothpicks on the bar say ‘Calidad en Cada Detalle’ Quality in every detail. Yes for sure, this is the case. This looks like a bar to enjoy the classics, so I select a Martini, a drink I’ve been craving for months. It is exquisite. Ice cold perfection.
Just as I start to think oops I’ve taken too long with this and my drink is now room temperature and therefore not quite as fabulous – almost without words, the bartender takes my drink and pours it into another frozen glass and therefore breathes new life into my Martini. With this simple gesture, I love this place already!
We wander a bit more, hoping to go to Baton Rouge for an aperitivo and maybe some food. It isn’t open and doesn’t look like it’s opened its door in months. Perhaps Diego the owner has taken the summer off, perhaps the doors are shut for good. I hope this spot does indeed reopen.
Hungry, we grab our first restaurant dinner in months, Rosa Negra, a Mexican spot in Barrio de las Letras – a neighbourhood that celebrates it’s history as the heartbeat of literary greats. We sanitise our hands on arrival, struggle with using the QR code – physical menus are now a thing of the past and the QR codes much lauded as the future in the 2000s but which never really took off are now a technological godsend for sanitary reasons. I don’t have enough data to download a QR reader and so we’re given menus and proceed to over order a table full of Mexican delights.
The next day we shop a little, we could order everything online but I want to spend money in Madrid not on Amazon, as convenient as that is. There are signs for Rebajas, sales -everywhere. How shops are able to give 50% discounts after being closed for so long is beyond me. But I guess it is about luring people back.
Each shop we venture into has a sanitising station on entry and a one way system to navigate the shop floor to ensure social distancing. Many of the changing rooms are shut, some are open though which is helpful as I’m still figuring out what size I am now after losing some weight during quarantine.
I don’t need much in the way of new stuff but could do with some more summer running gear and so pick up some short shorts and vests/crop tops to run in. I can’t find any running bras in big sizes. Weird as Spanish women seem to have plenty up top, I may need to go online to find these after all.
After a siestita, we’re back out again. First to the rock bar, Blackbird, my husband played at last November. There is no live music there for now but we want to show our face and support the reopening. We stay for a few drinks, the menu says ‘gracias por volver’, thank you for coming back. Places seem thankful to have custom again so perhaps we’re not the assholes for coming out?!?
We finish the night at Savas, a neighbourhood cocktail bar we were recommended by Alberto of Dry Bar.
After a long stroll through town, we find Savas – it’s a great craft beer and cocktail spot in Lavapies – probably the neighbourhood we’ll end up settling in after our initial tenancy is up.
At first we’re ushered into the back bar and later moved to a coveted spot at the bar. This place is run by a Lithuanian couple who have been in Madrid for 13 years. The bar is soon celebrating its first year in business, although the past three months, like everywhere, they’ve been shut.
I try to converse in Spanish – I feel like I’ve lost much of my Spanish since being out of the country for three months. They offer to switch to English, I insist on Spanish – I need to practice. This no doubt makes their job harder but they are kind and patient. I understand everything they say and in my frustratingly broken Spanish make myself just about understood, I hope.
The menu here is enticing. I want everything. But I know we’ll be back for more so I can slowly explore the full list over several visits. I start with the Tom Collins, it is zesty and refreshing, my husband takes an IPA.
Round two, I go for a Smoky Sour – a combination of Bourbon, a syrup of Lapsang Souchong tea, lime juice and egg white – shaken to perfection – the classic margarita makes my husband smile.
Madrid is back. The bars are open. A few months ago I worried that the freedom to sit at the bar and enjoy a drink was a distant memory I wouldn’t be able to do for another 6-12 months. Maybe in the U.S. or U.K. But, here, in Madrid, Spain, I safe again at the bar.
Whether I am or not, I guess only time will tell. It’s been two weeks since the state of emergency was lifted. The incubation period for COVID-19 is 14 days I watch the news the next morning and hear about the various spikes and shut downs, I hope Madrid doesn’t need to shut down again.
Regardless of the twitter narrative I don’t feel like an asshole for being out. I tip hard, I feel like I’m supporting those business that really need it.