If you want amazing Spanish food, you need look no further than your neighborhood bar or restaurant: while there’s a chance of a dud here or there, you can usually count on a sparsely furnished bar with plenty of tortilla, croquetas, fish, sausage, and beer to wash it all down. You’ll probably even be treated to the ambiance of pig haunches hung up on the walls and maybe a mural depicting a famous piece of art or scene in Spanish history. However, if you are looking for something entirely different in Madrid, you might want to try Ojalá Awareness Club in Malasaña.
You’ll notice the difference immediately when you arrive; the upstairs is entirely lit with neon green lights and full of vintage, funky decor. In a neighborhood already somewhat set apart for bars and cafes, this one still stands out. People will often be getting drinks or something light to eat upstairs, but if you have the option, definitely opt to take your meal downstairs.
After you are led down the windy staircase, you will arrive in a cave-like basement full of… sand. It is the closest thing to a beach that Malasaña has to offer. What’s more, you should leave the high heels at home because you will be seated on the floor on the wide array of fluffy cushions that surround the low tables. The room is lit with undulating red and yellow neon and old cartoons are silently projected on the wall while music of many varieties plays.
The menu contained both Spanish and more American style food, with many items in the 6-10 euros range. I went with a friend and we were both not too hungry so we split two dishes: the first was a salad with aged cheese and thinly sliced apples and a hazelnut vinaigrette on top, which was delicious and, while not large, hearty. The second was their tasting tray of appetizers: it had both pita and tortilla chips along with surprisingly good hummus and guacamole, as well as a fish/shrimp wrap. Together, they were delicious, light, and a nice departure from the basic Spanish tapas and raciones; I’ve missed thick guacamole in a country where it is often served more like a sauce than in the chunky style I’m accustomed to.
We arrived early (around 8:30 in the evening) so we got a great spot, but the place was packed by the time we left, so consider getting there early if you want a spot in the downstairs beach. Later evening drinks and breakfast are also served; check it out any time of day.
Ojalá Awareness Club
San Andrés 1