Lavapies is a charmingly grubby neighbourhood at the southern slice of Madrid’s central stomach. Lavapies (translates to: wash feet) is bloated with cafes, restaurants and cheap ethnic grocery stores. Like many other neighbourhoods in big cities that fit this description, it’s going through a (very slight) process of gentrification. But while the trendies of Malasaña aren’t about to take over any time soon, many left-wing activists and international students have developed affection for the area.
With young people coming in, there are more international, modern cafes and bars popping up.
I found Café El Mar on Calle Embajadores by its ornate blue and yellow tile façade, which reads ‘Salon de Peluqería’ (hairsalon), which marks a bit of the building block’s history. But now an eco café/grocery store stands modestly behind this façade. It’s a quaint, colourful and inviting place. There are exposed-brick walls, mismatched furniture, organic fruit n’ veg displayed in baskets and inspiring mantras chalked on the board on how to keep happy. The music is isn’t from the Amelie soundtrack, but it just as well could be. There’s no Wi-Fi…but a book seems more appropriate here.
The English/Spanish menu contains some healthy eatable options as well as a number of fresh fruit juices to choose from. I’m just here for a coffee, so I don’t peek for too long. I felt comfortable here on my own with my book, and the service is friendly but the coffee average. If you need to stretch your legs, take a look at the health food options for sale on the shelves. There are a number of herbal teas, lentils, quinoa, pastas and munchies on offer.
Café El Mar (also reviewed in English by Madrid y yo)
Calle Embajadores 31, Madrid (Metro: Lavapies o Tirso de Molina)