The Literary Quarter, which was home to some of the most famous writers of the Golden Age, is one of my favourite parts of Madrid. I like to stroll through its streets, popping into the vintage shops and those antique stores where you’re always sure to find some unexpected gem from times gone by: a book, a poster, some furniture… Sometimes, though, all you need to do to find something that really takes your fancy is keep your eyes open as you walk around. If you’ve ever wandered down the lively Calle Huertas, you’re sure to have noticed a lovely red façade bearing the name Casa Alberto. I encourage you to drop in; this place is more than a tavern, it’s a historical treasure.
As you can see at the front door, Casa Alberto was established in 1827, a time when theatres had become all the rage in Madrid. After attending a play audiences would head down to this area for food and drink, and to talk about the production. Although it achieved renown almost as soon as it opened its doors, it wasn’t until 1915 that Alberto de Dios, who gave this traditional tavern its name, joined the team. In 1924 he took up the reigns of the business and oversaw the remodelling that gave it its current look. He also made vermouth fashionable at a time when Valdepeñas wine, which came in cow leather wineskins, was the great favourite.
Ever since those early days, Casa Alberto has been acclaimed for its excellent home-style cooking, which is still a faithful example of the purest Madrid flavours. There’s a lot to choose from! From classic dishes (tripe, oxtail and cod) to more recent creations such as veal marinated in an apple alioli (garlic mayonnaise) sauce. All dishes may be eaten either inside the restaurant – the former storeroom – or at the bar. If you choose the latter option, make sure to take a good look around!
The bar at Casa Alberto is made of onyx stone. It is the only one of its kind in Madrid, and probably in all of Spain. You should also check out the soda fountain, which was used to make carbonated water, as well as the nineteenth-century cash register and the five-pipe tap, from which beer and vermouth flow. The rest of the tavern’s décor will not disappoint, either. With its wrought-iron pilasters, its bronze lamps, its paintings and its bullfighting motifs, Casa Alberto is undoubtedly a piece of our history.