I like my images of Madrid to be to ones which people rarely imagine.
I try to see the little things that form a part of my daily life. That’s what Warhol supposedly tried to do when starting to work on his Campbell’s Soup can sessions. Talk about the aesthetics of everyday objects, places and people in our lives, and an artistic virtue in them.
This is El Tulipán, a dinky little restaurant you would probably never think twice about entering, not because it is horrendous inside, but rather because it is a carbon copy of hundreds of other dinky little restaurants in this city which make up the fleet of local cafeterías. They are an inseparable feature of the landscape here; everyone has their own spot. I have mine nearby where I live, usually good for a quick coffee. But you rarely bother to visit others, and pay even less attention to them as you walk around town. Some of you may have actually passed by this and not given it any notice, like the people you see practically every day and generally ignore.
El Tulipán is one of those. Sort of. In reality, it is what they cal here, a patito feo, or ugly duckling, because they food they serve inside is several steps above what you would expect. The tiny local bar also specializes in a fabada de marisco, which is why people go there at all. Fabada comes from fabes, which is the Asturian word for “bean”.
I made a point of it to visit El Tulipán on one of my days off. This was one of my chances to break away from the routine of my other life and go for lunch somewhere on a weekday, which is something I can never do. I went with a friend who hadn’t ever been there either and we loved it. The fabada was outstanding and the portion generous. There was practically more seafood than beans, which is unusual. It was served in a nice casserole dish which we could dip into again and again.
Here is what it looked like from above.
We each had seconds and thirds, a bottle of wine, two desserts and coffee for just 25 euros each. But it was more than just the food. It was the wall covered with pictures of well-known diners wishing the owners well, the congenial service, the simplicity.
There is a terrific book by a father-and-son team called Hidden Madrid. I recommend it to anyone looking for a little more depth into this city. You realize the visible delights aren’t all this city has to offer. While the book focuses onMadrid history and curiosities, I assure you that ordinary places like El Tulipán easily form another part of this Madrid’s hidden charm. The difference is, these places are as visible as they are unperceivable.