La Mallorquina is a Madrid Tradition for pastries, breakfast and afternoon treats
La Mallorquina is a bit intimidating to the uninitiated. As you walk in the front door the glass counters are crowded with people ordering different pastries and delicacies to take home with them. But, if you are in the know, you will make a bee line for the stairs in the back on the right hand side. Up this narrow staircase is the dining room where you will be able to sample any of the yummy treats that the Mallorquina Pastry Shop has to offer while sipping a perfect cup of café con leche or a glass of fresh squeezed orange juice. Welcome, my friends, to a place right out of past.
Ever since the year 1894 La Mallorquina has been in operation in the famous Puertadel Sol, Madrid´s answer to Times Square. This pastry shop gets its name because the founder, Juan Ripoll was from the Baleares islands. In the beginning, they were famous mainly for the Spanish sweet roll called “ensaimadas.” It was typical to order the ensaimadas at the Mallorquina with thick hot chocolate. The waiters, who to this day dress in white coats, brought out your order and spoke in French.
La Mallorquina became famous when well to do families began frequenting the local in the early 1900s, and the talks and debates that went on in the “salon” or dining room area of the Malllorquina were some of the most important in Madrid. It was thanks to these “tertulias” (or talks/debates) that la Mallorquina became a cultural center in the years leading up to the Spanish Civil War.
Nowadays the lower level of the Mallorquina is filled with locals and tourists alike who flock into the shop at the corner of the Calle Mayor and the Puertadel Sol to buy the specialties (including cakes and pastries, as well as savory choices like the tuna or beef empanadas.) In fact, I had passed by the Mallorquina lots of times as a tourist and when I finally worked up the nerve to enter the craziness of the shop, I was with a Spanish friend. It was around Christmas time and we got a gigantic chocolate truffle. It was a ball of delicious chocolate covered in chocolate jimmies (sprinkles for those of you not familiar with Pittsburghese).
Also on the street level is a little cafeteria and bar area, which is always packed, as well. In general, if you are looking to experience the best of Spanish bar culture crossed with delicious goodies like napolitanas de crema (crème filled croissant like pastries) this is your place!
Despite all this atmosphere, I usually wind up on the second floor in the dining room. This is a place that is sparcely decorated and the tables have cornflower blue tablecloths. You seat yourself and the waiter, always running from one table to the next, will appear in a few minutes to take your order. I will note here that the locals already know what they want. You will not be provided with a menu, and you are well advised to look in the glass cases downstairs if you are not sure which pastry to pick. I almost always opt for either a croissant grilled and served with peach jelly, or a napolitana. The tough choice for the napolitana is if it should be cream or chocolate filled. Both are delicious; there is no wrong choice! You can also order hot chocolate, churros, fresh OJ, coffee, etc. And don´t worry, there is in fact a menu, you just have to ask for it.
As if the waiters themselves were not enough to watch (they run around the place like someone had lit a match behind them), there are also huge windows that look out on the Puertadel Sol and all the people passing through this huge plaza in the Spanish capital. I always feel transported back in time when I go to the Mallorquina, and something about it harkens back to the feeling I would have when I went to get dessert with my grandmother when I was a girl. The possibility of ordering anything sinful from the menu and no one telling you it would spoil your dinner. Its that special quality of something that is both tradition, and a special treat all mixed in with the history of the Mallorquina itself.
The waiter brings you the check along with your order and you will be expected to pay right then, because turnover is so fast (although you won´t be rushed at any moment). The waiter marks an “x” in blue pen on your receipt so that its clear that you have paid, and you are then free to enjoy your sweet treats and the company. This is, perhaps, not the café you would go to in order to get some work done, but it is by far my pick for a place that is both rich in history and an institution in Madrid. We ruskommend La Mallorquina with 5 boquerones.