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.”
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.