We wandered Lavapiés on an overcast day, searching for our regular dosis of cafeína. As we crept to the door of our usual haunt, my friends and I found a CLOSED sign awaiting us. Spain’s siesta schedule had tricked us yet again – even baristas need a break. The time had come to try a new café.
Open since last May, Swinton & Grant sits just off the Glorieta de Embajadores, amid North African falafel joints, street art, and cherry blossom trees. As you walk down Calle Miguel Servet, you’ll first notice just how big the place is. Natural light streaks through black velvet curtains, revealing two main areas: on the first floor, Ciudadano Grant, a café-bookstore. In the basement, the Swinton Gallery, a large space for local artist exhibitions.
Hip folks feel at home here. Bare bulbs and LEDs light customers’ way to the pressboard bookshelves lined with English and Spanish biographies, comics, and children’s picture books. Jars of LEGOs and framed pictures of Leonard Nemoy draw your eye to bottles of Arizona Tea, Jones Soda, and fresh cakes and cookies. Bon Iver, Jorge Gonzalez, and Fleet Foxes tickle the ears while you waltz through the space.
The menu, with its own abstract artwork, impresses. Coffees come cheap (around €1.40). For a small charge, you can enjoy the flavor palates of special bean blends from Costa Rica, Kenya, Colombia, and other countries. Teas come in all sizes, colors, and temperatures.
The café offers a desayuno special before 1PM every day. While you appreciate the art that is half-Banksy, half-neoclassical, you can try the classic pan con tomate, a ham and cheese sandwich, or a slice of cake with your choice of beverage – all for €2-4. If you’re still hungry, go for a full-size bocadillo or a giant cookie.
After your sobremesa, take a look downstairs, where artists hang their work in rotating exhibits. Next on the program are characteristic contemporary pieces from Luis Pérez Calvo, Victor Solana, and Antonyo Marest. If you’re feeling fancy, feel free to buy the art, with prices ranging from a few euros to a few hundred.
Since my first fateful detoured day into Swinton & Grant’s doors, it’s quickly become one of my favorite Madrid spaces. These days, when I’m in the mood for comfort, cake, and caffeine, I invariably make my way to Embajadores.