Por la Cava Baja

Our bar La Osita sits right in the heart of the oldest part of Madrid on the Calle de la Cava Baja – a long, winding, slender little road that follows the path of the old moat that surrounded Madrid’s medieval city walls.

In our little bar, we’re following in the footsteps of centuries of Madrid – and culinary – history, from the old fortifications running beneath our feet, to the ancient Posadas (or coaching inns) that sit all around us, the Cava Baja has been the hub of Madrid hostelries, food and drink since the XV century.

This tradition of craftmanship and hospitality is something we try and use to inspire us a bit at La Osita, blending the traditional with the modern and in our own way contributing something new and fresh to a street which has given so much to Madrid’s gastronomy in the past.

Even until the start of the last century the Cava Baja remained a key arrival point for many travellers, with carriage stops depositing visitors into the crumbling posadas lining the street. One of the most famous being our neighbours Posada de la Villa – now a restaurant – which was converted from Madrid’s only flour mill into an inn for courtiers in 1642.

The area was also packed with artisans; coopers, weavers and others were dotted all around in small shops and street stalls. Not even to mention the former central market of Madrid - Mercado de la Cebada (still there but in a smaller, different guise) – that is just round the corner (and the even more ancient market that used to take place in the medieval Plaza de la Paja a few hundred more metres away).

Sadly, much of this vibrant, creative bustle disappeared in the rapid growth and change of the 20th Century, with the disappearance of the artisans and the closure and ruin of the ancient traditional posadas and taverns one-by-one.

The street didn’t die however but transformed itself. New blood took over some of the most famous buildings and brought new star power of their own. The sadly now recently defunct El Schotis stood just 20 metres from La Osita and was a doyen of the food scene in Madrid for decades following its opening in 1962… from JFK to Charlie Chaplin and Don King, all kinds of people passing through Madrid made their pilgrimage.

Schotis also helped produce another Cava Baja legend, fortunately still very much alive, Casa Lucio, whose founder – Lucio – was a manager there for 14 years before opening his eponymous restaurant, now a haunt of the rich and famous from King Juan Carlos II to Bill Clinton, and only a few hundred metres from our doors at the other end of the street.

There’s a lot to live up to, but La Osita is on a street that never stops reinventing itself, and we hope we can perhaps leave a fresh little mark of our own.

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