When a Spaniard pauses to have a cold caña, glass of sweet vermouth or seasonal tinto de verano, time becomes an almost surreal experience and a wonderful sense of mindfulness takes over. Food is always best accompanied by friends, good humor and conversations about politics, art, family, football and sometimes bull fighting.
The concept of the British pub hollering “drink up, bar is closing” is unheard of in Spain, and locals can’t believe anyone in their right mind could be told to go home before midnight. We all know for whom the bell tolls.
Madrid is home to some of the world’s great landmarks – old and new – galleries, design ateliers, taverns and of course, Michelin-star restaurants. Whether spending a morning exploring three of the capital’s most famous museums, El Prado, Reina Sofía and Thyssen-Bornemisza, or walking sacred turf at Bernabeu stadium, Madrid is a European metropolis with a quintessentially Spanish soul, and where hospitality, spontaneity, and tradition, is always celebrated.
While Madrileños have always taken to the streets to enjoy views of the Río Manzanares or celebrate FC Real Madrid’s Champions League victories, this summer there was a special vibrancy in the air, with terrazas, plazas, restaurants, cafés, clubs and rooftop bars, packed until the early hours. The spirited congregation of the gregarious and genteel, reminded me of the 1980’s counter-culture movement La Movida Madrileña.
Spaniards are at their happiest when sharing a good wine, sherry or beer, accompanied by a selection of tapas. Good tapas can be found anywhere in the city, between Plaza de Castilla to Atocha; Puerta de Alcalá to Sol; Chueca to Salamanca. They can be found in the new trendy bars and restaurants; in the renovated Mercado de San Miguel beside the Plaza Mayor and in traditional old neighborhood bars where throwing your serviette and olive bones to the floor is a sign of customer satisfaction.
After living as a local during part of my summer in the vibrant neighborhood of Plaza Santa Ana and sampling the best Spanish food and wine, it was time to return to Bogotá, bringing back with me recipe books, olive oils, saffron, wine, machego cheeses and jamón serrano.
A few days upon my return and accompanied by a touch of the holiday blues, I went in search of La Tapería de la Plaza, an Iberian newcomer to the Colombian capital, and recently opened by André Tarditi of Trattoria de la Plaza fame. Like its Italian precursor, La Tapería is also located in midst of the hustle and bustle of the Siete de Agosto district.
I admire Tarditi for his bold proposal of opening two gourmet oases in the heart of “El Siete” as it is known to locals, characterized by the fruit and vegetable market, street vendors and recyclers. A trip to “El Siete” is no more demanding than heading elsewhere in Bogotá, and if planning on having drinks, then you still need to leave the car at home. So, don’t let this neighbourhood intimidate, as it adds a splash of color to the notion of dining “out on the town.”
When you step into La Tapería you are transported to a classic Spanish Tasca with its long bar, cava from floor to ceiling, wooden furniture, red upholstery and bull fight almanaques.
It’s a Friday afternoon when we settle at the bar listening to a flamenco guitarist. We are ready to sample the menu, starting with a glass of Inocente, one of most prestigious fino sherries, accompanied with fresh scallops with parmesan and butter.
You can choose from a selection of cold tapas, warm tapas, rices, montaditos or meats. Cold tapas include the classic Ensaladilla Rusa, Tortilla de Patatas, Tartare de Salmon. Warm tapas include calamari, squid, marinera mussles, fried artichokes, Burgos blood sausage, meatballs al Jerez, and other cast iron classics such as huevos estrellados, patatas con chorizo, champiñones al ajillo. The house’s montaditos come served with tomatoes, roasted red peppers, garlic, goat cheese, serrano ham, grilled eggplant, manchego and anchovies. The options are bountiful, olé!
There is also a wonderful selection of rice dishes that can be shared, such as arroz caldoso con mariscos, a rabbit stew, roast suckling pig (cochinillo), lamb and veal chops.
But the tapas are this venue’s new star attraction. “When ordering tapas you have to think like a Spaniard,” I am told by a well-versed follower of tapas. “Open your appetite with sherry, try everything that is placed in front, mix the flavors and take your time over the experience.”
La Taperia’s menu has a good selection of wines from all over Spain, ranging from Jerez, La Rioja, Navarra, Galicia, Castilla y León, Ribera del Duero and Somontano. Bottles of wine vary from a Muga Reserva $111,000 pesos, Albariño $96.000, Enate Cabernet Sauvignon $86,000.
It is evident that André knows his Spanish cuisine and La Tapería de la Plaza a very pleasant place to enjoy drinks over a bite-size feast. With its varied menu, based on high quality ingredients and friendly service, La Tapería is reasonable dining in a cozy and inviting setting. So, Bravo André Tarditi and Qué Viva España!
La Tapería de la Plaza
Calle 66 No. 22 – 45