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This is a blog of liberal stance and independent mind

Monday 30 March 2009

A Unique Serving

The pub or bar, it is sometimes suggested, needs to continually re-invent itself to stay in business. Move with the times. Stay in the past and wither away.

It ain’t necessarily so.

Revisiting places gives two kinds of opportunities: finding new haunts, and seeking out old ones. So it was last week in Madrid.

The old area of the city north of Calle de las Huertas, home to many bars, restaurants and clubs, is not looking good nowadays. Many establishments have closed, and others seem quiet compared to the first time I visited back in 2001. But one bar, specialising in one tipple, and only one tipple, is standing room only.

At the north end of Calle de Echegaray, and with a frontage so narrow that to walk past too quickly might mean missing it altogether, is La Venencia. And here the drink is solely sherry. And that’s sherry as in Jerez, not some feeble fortified wine produced in the UK from imported concentrate.

Most punters stand at or near the bar: the measures are served along with a simple tapa – most recently of very green and very good olives – with the cost chalked up on the bar top. The clientele is a genuine mix of locals and tourists, young and old, male and female, singles and groups.

I can find only one word of warning: that La Venencia is more than moderately smoky. There has, I believe, been a smoking ban in Spain, but with the proviso of an opt-out. Allow smoking in Spain? Now there’s a surprise – not. So your shirt might have a tobacco aura the next day.

But the idea that cities are becoming uniform and bland, and that nothing stays the same, do not stand serious examination in this corner of old Madrid.

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