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In Madrid On The Tapas Trail
Time Out/Spain Gourmetour London-Madrid, 1995/2001, 1,000 words; adapted extract
A tavern can also occasionally be passed off as a cultural visit: Casa Labra, just off the Puerta del Sol, is not just a place to go and eat deep-fried salt-cod, but also the place where the socialist party was founded in 1898. A bar can also be a bodega, or cellar, where wine would once have been served up from barrels lined up against splashproof tiled walls, or it can be a cervecería - a beer bar where the tapas are usually laid out under glass on a long stainless-steel bar - or it may be a vinoteca, one of the city's new breed of wine bars that take their stock seriously.
In this streetwise foodie bracket one should also include the market bar, which is run by early-risers who work wonders with a two-foot square plancha.
Other bars take their name from their food specialities. These are of special interest for tapas-lovers. There is, for example, the freiduría, dedicated to frying, the marisquería, or shellfish-bar, and the pulpería, or octopus bar. The best shellfish and octopus bars are usually owned by Galicians who serve seafood caught in their home region and hang soccer pennants on the wall. In this streetwise foodie bracket one should also include the market bar, which is run by early-risers who work wonders with a two-foot square plancha (a griddle).
Last but not least, of course, there is the multi-purpose corner bar, a dignified institution and bastion of barrio life. Here neighbours talk, argue, play cards, grab a coffee, watch big soccer games and satisfy thirst or hunger.
Very often it's in these unassuming bars that you can track down the best old-fashioned Spanish tortillas or potato omelettes, now elsewhere often massacred in microwave ovens. Golden-brown on the top, maybe with a little crunchy onion, they should still be juicy, even sticky, with runny egg yolk on the inside.
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