Spain wakes up to ‘hipster’ craze with its first cereal café

As the craze for dining out on breakfast cereal goes global, The Local visits Spain's first cereal bar.

Spain wakes up to 'hipster' craze with its first cereal café
Photo: Sara Houlison

Nestled inside a bustling neighbourhood market, in between a butchers and a bakery, is Madrid’s first cereal bar, opened in May by a trio of cereal lovers.

The multicoloured, towering wall of cereal boxes behind the bar sits incongruously next to the hanging legs of jamón and fresh fish peppering the other stalls of Antón Martín Market. 

Photo: Sara Houlison

A world away from what is considered to be Madrid’s ‘hipster’ neighbourhood – Malasaña – Cereal Lovers Bar is nestled on a busy street where Lavapiés, one of Madrid’s most multicultural and, as it happens, up and coming areas meets Las Letras, traditionally the city's literary centre; a decision that was very much deliberate.

“We chose to locate the bar in a traditional market like Antón Martín so that our customer base would be very varied,” one of the bar’s founders, Oscar Vela López, told The Local.

“From young people to older people who come with their grandchildren, nostalgic parents with their kids… and of course the other market stall holders (fishmongers, butchers, greengrocers), we’ve had every kind of person come here.”

Vela López is right; on entering Antón Martín market you are immediately struck by the mixture of people and the fact it is a real working market; old ladies pull their shopping trollies around as they joke with the butcher and tourists are few and far between. 

Cereal Lovers is based on the traditional Spanish concept, where patrons prop up the bar, enjoying a coffee or beer… except here what’s on offer is over 175 varieties of cereal.

“We have European, American, Japanese, Australian, Canadian… the list goes on,” says Vela López.

“We also have specialist cereals for vegans and celiacs and over 25 kinds of milk; everything from fresh milk (not the UHT milk more typically used in Spain) to soya, rice and quinoa milk.”



Dispuesto a empezar la semana con unos buenos cereales? #haveacerealday #madrid #felizlunes ##kelloggs #frootloops #kinder

Un vídeo publicado por Cereal Lovers (@cerealloversbar) el 20 de Jun de 2016 a la(s) 2:21 PDT


And the combinations of cereals, milks and toppings can become quite baffling; the menu is huge and customers can choose anything from a simple bowl of one type of cereal to a “cereal cocktail” that combines different varieties with a range of toppings and syrups.

This place is serious about cereal.

Inspired by the success of cereal cafés in other countries, Vela López, along with three other cereal aficionados, decided that Spain was ready to embrace the phenomenon.

“We are cereal fanatics and one afternoon we realized that Spain did not have a restaurant where people could enjoy eating cereal. So we pooled our experiences as diners and set off on this adventure,” he said. 

Bowls of cereal start at €3 with supplements depending on if the cereal comes from outside of Europe, what toppings you have and the kind of milk you choose.

You can eat at the bar or take away your cereal, which comes in a biodegradable bowl. Photo: Sara Houlison

It a city where a coffee and tostada can cost as little as €2 it can end up being an expensive breakfast choice. 

But the aim is to attract those who fancy a sweet taste of nostalgia or the opportunity to sample unusual varieties of cereal that you would never be able to buy in the local supermarket… and not people looking for a quick bowl of cornflakes.

In fact, it is limited to breakfast as with opening hours between 9am and 9pm, you could even pop in for a snack after work.

The very idea of a cereal café, to many, immediately screams “hipster”, but Vela López resists using the term.

“It’s old-fashioned now,” he tells The Local.

“Besides, a hipster place would be in Malasaña and would not admit children. We’re the opposite. We’re in a very multicultural area with lots of different ages and nationalities.” 

But will the locals embrace such an unusual concept?

According to Véla López there have already been a lot of repeat visits since the bar opened and on our visit the cereal barman joked and chatted with neighbouring stallholders. 

It looks like in this traditional market at least, Madrileños are waking up to an entirely different concept of dining.

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Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

The Local's Esme Fox, a long-term Barcelona resident, shares some of her favourite city bars that serve free tapas when you buy a drink.

Six Barcelona bars serving delicious free tapas

Spain is of course celebrated for its tapas, small plates of food, designed for sharing and consisting of favourites such as patatas bravas (fried potatoes topped with spicy sauce), pimientos de padrón (fried green peppers) and croquetas (croquettes of different varieties such as ham or mushrooms). 

One theory is that tapas were invented in order to cover your wine or beer glass, so that flies and other bugs wouldn’t fly in. The barman would give customers a piece of bread topped with jamón (ham) or queso (cheese) in order to act as a lid or in Spanish ‘tapa’, hence the name tapas.

Although most cities in Spain no longer serve free tapas when you buy a drink, there are still some cities where you are guaranteed a free snack. This is still true in the southern cities of Granada, Almería and Jaén, in León and Segovia, as well as a few others dotted around the country.

Despite this, you can still find the odd bar serving the old-fashioned free tapa in some of Spain’s largest and most expensive cities, including Madrid and Barcelona.

So, next time you’re in the Catalan capital, save some money by visiting one of these bars, where you’ll still get served a free tapa along with your drink.  

READ ALSO: Top ten Madrid bars serving free tapas, one for each barrio

Keep in mind, you won’t be served a free drink if you just order a coffee and sometimes not with a soft drink either, it’s usually when you buy a glass of beer or wine.

Ca’l Chusco

This small traditional bar in the old fisherman’s neighbourhood of Barceloneta offers one free tapa every time you order a drink. It’s usually something small and simple, but if you’re still hungry then you can always order one of their delicious paellas or plates or seafood too. 

This cute and contemporary little tapas joint, situated on the edge of Gracia, is so popular that it often gets very crowded, so get here early if you want a spot at the bar. It costs around €2-4 for a drink and a small tapas dish, which you can choose from a large selection. There’s everything from croquetas and hummus to small sausages.

Pappa e Citti

It’s not just authentic Spanish bars offering free tapas in Barcleona, at traditional Sardinian restaurant Pappa e Citti in the barrio of Gracia, they offer it too. Be aware that free tapas with your drink is only served between 6-9pm. Small tapas offerings may have an Italian twist or maybe something simple like a piece of bread topped with cream cheese and caramelised onions.

La Xula Taperia

In the heart of the Gracia neighbourhood, this modern and stylish bar offers the closest thing to a Granadino-style free plate of tapas. Rather than just a small piece of bread topped with an ingredient, their free offerings include meatballs, anchovies or even ensaladilla rusa (Russian potato salad).

Casa Arana

Located in the heart of the Sant Andreu neighbourhood, not far from the metro stop of the same name, Casa Arana is a small local barrio bar. As well as the regular drinks on offer, they make their own beer in either tostada (toasted) or rubia (pale) varieties, which is served in a tall glass and looks like an ice cream sundae. The free tapa served with your drink is typically a piece of baguette topped with a simple ingredient such as jamón, chistorra (cured sausage) or cheese.

Cassette Bar

This tapas and cocktail bar located in the heart of Raval has a decidedly 80s themed vibe and name to match. They have been serving free tapas for the past 14 years – something typical like piece of bread and tomato topped with a slice of tortilla (Spanish omelette).