Vinícola Mentridana Wine Bar
How many of us have moved to a new city, or even just a new neighborhood, bursting with excitement to explore and discover our soon-to-be favorite spots? Before getting down to the boring business of work and daily routine, there’s hopefully just enough free time to get to know the new streets and set up a bit of a social life.
Having that social life in Europe, particularly in Spain, means finding the right cafe/bar/restaurant where you’ll spend much of your free time, since inviting people over to your tiny, freezing apartment with your knee-high fridge and poorly-stocked cupboards, just isn’t as appealing.
The places I’ve come to love during those first excursions may not be the hippest, the best, or the brightest of the bunch – those places are quickly replaced anyway – but there is something about them that makes you feel at home. It could be the design and the furnishings of the bar, a drink they serve, the people who work there, or the crowd they take care of.
Unfortunately, that was not the case for me when I first moved to Madrid… That exciting period quickly turned sour, and was filled with places that made me feel anywhere but home. The problem was, I arrived without having read anything in advance that might have clued me in, on the make-up of the city’s neighborhoods.
And this guy offers tours, you ask? Yes indeed! We all learn from our mistakes!
As we didn’t know any better, my friend Greg Henkel and I hired a rental agency, which quickly convinced us to share a bedroom in a seven-room flat in one of the
“best” most expensive neighborhoods in the city, paying 400 Euros, each.
Three months later, our dear friend Jose, who we’d only just met at the time, took pity and found us a flat in the more central neighborhood of Huertas, where the streets were smaller and more intimate, with crowds that were younger and less affluent. He even vouched for us by declaring that despite our raggedy appearance and lack of passable Spanish, we would take good care of the flat… His generosity amazes me to this day, although I’m glad he drew the line at putting down a deposit for us (since we never recovered it.)
A New Start
With renewed enthusiasm, I set off to explore Huertas and neighboring Lavapiés. One late afternoon, walking down the calle San Eugenio, I saw the soft lights and dusty wine bottles of Vinícola Mentridana. I immediately knew I’d found that warm, welcoming place.
The completion of my Friday afternoon English classes – always something to celebrate – was soon followed by a stop at Vinícola Mentridana to meet friends for a glass of wine or a draught Cañí vermouth, along with a few snacks to tide us over til dinner (snacks that usually ended up being dinner). As for vermouth, if you’ve tried some syrupy vulgar version at home and “know” you don’t like it, try it on tap in Madrid at least once, it may very well surprise you – just like those grilled sardines at the Rastro.
Still not convinced? Then you’ll surely find something on the chalkboard list of wines by the glass, with a number of good standbys that are 2.50€ or less.
When you’re in the mood to snack, the menu offers a simple but reliably tasty selection of quiches, salads, cured meats, empanadas, and especially canapés, with my absolute favorite being the canapé de sobrasada, a deep red cured sausage from Mallorca that is slightly warmed and spread over toast, giving it a creamy texture.
A 1920’s bodega
Vinícola Mentridana first opened back in the 1920’s as a bodega selling wines exclusively from the area of Méntrida, whose wine makers had purchased the property to have more control over direct sales in the capital. Long before the high-tech days of wine making, they often stored their product in large tinajas, or earthenware pots, one of which can still be found in the basement.
Then in 1999, Vinícola Mentridana was purchased by a Swedish woman named Unn, who enlarged the bar area while keeping the original cast iron pillars, as well as adding to the collection of wine bottles elegantly gathering dust. Decorative touches of hers include the bar’s wood paneling and trinkets like the old Swedish scale. The place quickly became a neighborhood favorite.
Last year however, Unn decided to retire and was bought out by Andrea, one of the bar’s regular patrons. As a well-traveled Italian asentado here in Madrid, the international element continues, and recognizing the bar’s hard to replicate appeal, he’s smartly maintained the place with only minor changes.
If you visit on a weekday before 7pm, you’re likely to have much of the bar to yourself, with Fernando waiting for you calmly behind the counter.
You can then grab the only table by the window and chat away the afternoon while envious passersby stop and gaze.
The calm daytime environment is one of Vinícola Mentridana’s appeals, but should you need an atmosphere that’s más animado, come back at night, especially on the weekend, when it fills with agreeable personalities who are always willing to make room for you.
And what about you? Have a favorite-spot discovery you’d be willing to share? Tell me about it in the comments section below, I’d be curious to hear.
Vinícola Mentridana – calle San Eugenio 9. Open 7 days a week, from 1pm til 1am Sunday – Thursday, and from 1pm til 2am Friday-Saturday. Order at the bar. Metro Antón Martín (Line #1)
Last update: March 7, 2014