Olivia Te Cuida

Nestled on a tiny street where tangerine flowers spill over balconies, Olivia Te Cuida seats diners around communal tables in a modest 280-square-foot space. With killer natural light, antique furniture finds and naked eggshell walls, the café speaks to an urban simplicity. Candles are lit at breakfast; the air is perfumed by freshly cut hyacinth. There is a wooden bakers’ table along one wall and a large zinc table in the center, where strangers swap design magazines over café con leche and chocolate saffron tart. Twin toasters are anchored to old-fashioned spiral phone cords hanging from the ceiling, enabling diners to linger over the newspaper and toast pan rustica at their leisure (served with homemade jam or fresh tomato and a selection of Spanish olive oil).

Aesthetically and gastronomically, Olivia Te Cuida is the creation of artists, born from the collective dreams of owners Fernando Fuentes and sisters Marian and Esther Campoy, a photographer and fashion designer. Olivia Te Cuida means “Olivia cares for you,” and is not named after a person, but inspired by a concept—to care for working Madrilenos who otherwise wouldn’t have time to eat well by serving fresh, creative and organic food.

The predominently vegetarian lunch pairing menu encourages a selection of salad, vegetables and a grain. Tender roasted figs and blue cheese from the north of Spain are nestled over arugula; roasted squash with fennel and cilantro seeds are doused in a creamy eggplant-yogurt sauce. For dessert, there are whimsical combinations like tomato and strawberry mousse. Lunch is also delivered on foot to nearby offices at no charge—they’ll even bring the newspaper—pure altruism considering there is no tipping in Spain.

Campoy reflects that when Olivia Te Cuida opened just over a year ago, a well-known restaurateur told her that the place would not survive, as Spanish gourmets were using the same quality of ingredients at triple the price. Here, in a city where nonsmoking isn’t a concept and soy milk is still a novelty, Olivia Te Cuida remains a sublime anomaly.

Calle de Santa Teresa, 8 28004 Madrid, Spain +34 91 702 00 66 www.oliviatecuida.blogspot.com

– Laurie Smolenski