Spanish version

Flamenco in Madrid: Cafe de Chinitas


The Verdasco family has a long tradition in Madrilian gastronomy. The current owners of 'Cafe de Chinitas' are also related to the famous restaurant 'La Bola'. It was their great-grandmother who came from Asturias and founded this restaurant over hundred years ago. It is one of the most emblematic places in the city, specially when you think about the main Madrilian dish, the 'cocido'.

The Verdasco´s had several restaurants in Madrid. Where 'El Cafe de Chinitas ' is now, used to be a restaurant called ' El Senado ' (The Senate). It is very close to the senate and many polititians and business people used to lunch there. Unfortunately, in the late 60´s the economic situation changed and a new direction had to be taken.

In Malaga was a very famous 'tablao', a place where flamenco dance is performed. It was called 'El Café de Chinitas '. The floor of the place was covered by pebbles. These pebbles are called 'chinitas' in Spanish, which also means chinese women.

The Verdasco brothers decided to open a similar place in Madrid. So, in 1970 the 'Cafe de Chinitas ' opened in Madrid. In 2010 it celebrates its 40th anniversary.

A piece of Andalusia in Madrid

'El Café de Chinitas ' is located in a palace of the XVIIth century at calle Torija, 7 .

It is decorated like an Andalusian place, with pictures related to bullfighting and tables and chairs like those we find in the typical patios.

It can hold up to 150 people and there are two daily shows form Mondays to Saturdays. 'Cafe de Chinitas' has a four-star restaurant. The first show is at 20:30 and is usually attended by people who also want to have dinner. The speciality of the restaurant is paella and rice dishes in general, although also meat and fish dishes can be taken. They also have a tapas menu.

The second show is at 22:30. One can also have dinner during this show, but most of the people prefer to have some drinks.

16 flamenco artists dance and sing every night. The program is changed monthly. They try to offer a show for flamenco enthusiasts as well as for neophytes.


A place with tradition

Mara Verdasco tells us, that originally most of the clients were Americans. In those days there was an American military base located at Torrejon de Ardoz, a village close to Madrid. Also many Spanish and foreign artists used to visit the place.

Nowadays most of the clients are still foreigners. Most of the from Italy, Latin America and Japan.

During many years Spanish people were not very fond of flamenco music. It was labelled as something specially made up for tourists. Still today this is the idea most Spanish people have about 'tablaos' in Madrid. Mara says that many Spanish people that visit 'El Cafe de Chinitas' tell her afterwards that they have really enjoyed the show. It is not what they thought it would be. They are surprised by the quality of the artists.

'El Cafe de Chinitas ' has been visited by many important politians. Of course, the Spanish Royal Family has taken some of their guests to the 'tablao', like Lady Di or Bill Clinton . Juan Quintana Aguilar, who has been a waiter in the restaurant or over 30 years, tells us that he has a album with photographies of all relevant people of these years.


Some of the most famous flamenco stars have had their first opportunity in a 'tablao'. Among those who began their careers at 'Cafe de Chinitas' are María Vargas, Carmen Linares,Rafael Amargo . But probably the most famous dancer was La Chunga. She became very famous because she danced barefoot.

Among the flamenco singers who used to perform here is José Mercé , who still visits the tablao whenever he has time.

Although flamenco is not something typical from Madrid, today we cannot say that the purest flamenco style can only be found in Andalusia. We are in a global world, where people go from one place to another, and also flamenco stars travel through all over the world. So it is clear that they also come to Madrid to bring us a little bit of their flamenco art.


@Copyright 2008, 2009 Mª Dolores Diehl Busch. All rights reserved.
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