Café Barbieri first brought modernist charm to Madrid’s working class district, Lavapiés, in 1902, and although the barrio has evolved dramatically over the last 114 years, the interior of this elegant bar hasn’t changed one bit.
Some things have changed though – Café Barbieri is owned by a charismatic chap from New Delhi and staffed with bilingual youngthings. It also now has a small terrace, but this is not why you’d come here – its appeal is truly the interior.
The whole place is lined with mirrors which back then were a symbol of wealth. These mirrors are now aging well, stained a smoky bronze colour with dots of grey rust creeping in from the edges. The ceiling is framed with grids of ornate girders that are connected to decorative cast-iron beams, typical of older buildings in Lavapiés. Although never on, there are ceiling fans too – something increasingly rare in Madrid.
At the back of the bar is a grand piano on a small raised stage. Almost every evening there’s a live music session often featuring the piano, and this place does food too – typical Spanish stuff but with an edge.
The worn white marble table tops and red velvet seating lining the dining area mark this place out as opulent, but that’s really not the vibe – it’s chilled and cosy and attracts a spectrum of people, from the intrepid tourist who’s braved it down the hill, to the unassuming local who fancies a read of one of the papers on offer.
Café Barbieri is also on the same street as the Greek foodie place, Egeo, so there you have it, your night is planned!