A Tapas Festival Hits the Streets of Madrid

8th October 2015

Words and Photographs: Ben Roberts

If you wander south down one of the steep terraced streets that tumbles towards the river from the centre of Madrid, you’ll notice that the atmosphere changes slightly. Things are less formal, the ethnic mix thickens and there is a real bohemian energy. Lavapiés (which translates as “wash feet”) is a district that has long been neglected by the city council. It was a centre for squatting in the 1980s and 90s, and is still a hub of socialism when compared to other parts of the capital. More recently, it has become a focal point for immigrant communities – Chinese, African, Indian and Arabic.

Due to this mix of cultural influences, Lavapiés has become an under-the-radar highlight of Madrid’s social scene. Quirky bars jostle for space with intimate restaurants showcasing world cuisine, while the Mercado de San Fernando, on Calle de Embajadores, is a model of urban renewal and community participation.

The annual climax for the neighbourhood is the Tapapiés festival. Over 10 days in October, more than 70 local bars and restaurants join forces and serve beer and a speciality tapas for just €2. Live music spills out on the street, making the most of Madrid’s comfortable late-autumn climate. The event, now in its fifth year, has mirrored the rise of Lavapiés in the consciousness of Madrileños.

The photographer Ben Roberts, who is based in Madrid, documented last year’s festival. Here’s a selection of his favourite images, exclusive to The Gannet, to give us a flavour of what’s in store this time round. Tapapiés 2015 kicks off on Thursday.


Diners on Calle Lavapiés tuck in to their lunch on a busy October Sunday afternoon, keen to make the most of Madrid’s extended Indian summer




Tucked away on a side street behind Mercado de San Fernando, Tribuetxe (Calle Tribulete, 23) is a great little restaurant that serves a fusion of Andalusian and Basque cuisine. Their offering for the Tapapíes 2014 was a delicious skewer of squid and potato noodles, garnished with a fresh salsa and dipped in pesto and chilli sauce




Sunday afternoons are a blast at Mercado de San Fernando (Calle de Embajadores, 41). Crowds gather for dancing in the central atrium, and the stalls do a brisk trade in beer, wine and tapas



The tapas on offer from Como Vaca Sin Cencerro (Calle Olivar, 54) during Tapapíes 2014 was a bocadito with Russian crabmeat (txaka) and smoked salmon



Juanma is the proprietor of La Buena Pinta, a beer stall in Mercado de San Fernando. Stocking a vast range of local and international brews, the stall/bar has become a go-to joint for the city’s beer aficionados



Drinks are ready to be served during a busy lunchtime at El Económico (Calle de Argumosa, 9)



El Económico served a Panuelo De Lavapíes for Tapapíes 2014. The fine pastry (panuelo is Spanish for handkerchief) conceals a filling of blood sausage and caramelised sweet red cabbage



The bar top at Taquería la Jalapeña (Calle Sombrerería, 3) is decorated with the faces of Mexican “lotería” cards, a form of bingo. For the Tapapíes 2014, they served an open-faced taco with shredded slow-roasted pork, a recipe from the Yucatán region of Mexico



Customers at the very traditional Restaurante Madroño (Calle de Valencia, 5) catch up on the latest episode of Family Guy



Yan Ken Pon Washoku Sushi (located in Mercado de San Fernando) prepped us a tartar salmon flambé with jellyfish served on sushi rice as their Tapapíes special



Visitors to Mercado de San Fernando enjoy the late afternoon warmth on the entrance steps. Throughout the summer and autumn, the steps are a popular hangout – it’s easy to bring beers and tapas from inside the market and take in the atmosphere of the street



A savoury take on the traditional churros dish with molé sauce at Lacaña (Calle de Santa Isabel, 50)

Tapapiés runs from 15 to 25 October 2015. More info at

Posted 8th October 2015

In Journal


Words and Photographs: Ben Roberts

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