Tapas are a way of life all over Spain. They can be everything from a plate of cheese, to stacked pinchos in the North to the fancy, fusion tapas Fiona describes below. Many times, especially in the hottest summer months, tapas are preferred to a large meal.
By Fiona Flores Watson
Tapas is (are) a way of life in Seville, and even in these challenging economic times, more tapas bars are opening up all the time. I’ve lived either in or near Seville for more than eight years, and during that time I’ve tasted my fair share of these delightful little dishes; in fact, I rarely eat a standard three-course meal. Here are five of my favourite places to tapear (eat tapas) in the city, often accented towards pescado y mariscos (fish and shellfish), since I don’t eat meat. I prefer the more modern tapas bars, but that’s just me – there are loads of tiled, spit-and-sawdust places with dingy lighting stacked with metal barrels which serve excellent tapas. (Interesting fact: a couple of my chosen tapas bars’ names start with “Al”, which means “The” in Arabic – the Moors ruled Seville for over 500 years, and this is part of their rich linguistic legacy).
La Azotea – centre/Alameda
One of the best things about this small-scale, stylish restaurant, which has two branches, in Jesus del Gran Poder (between Plaza del Duque and the Alameda) and Zaragoza (near Plaza Nueva), is how frequently it changes its menu – you can’t get bored, however often you go there. Its owners are a Californian, Jeannine, and a Sevillano, Juan, so the service is as good as the food, which is innovative and beautifully presented. You might find grilled foie with mango and coffee, salmón con vinagreta de mostaza (salmon with mustard vinaigrette), or the seasonal special of almadraba tuna, caught off the Cadiz coast, tarantelo de atún rojo con yakisoba (tarantelo of red tuna with yakisoba).
As you’d expect of someone with her provenance, Jeannine has a wide selection of wines and cavas by the glass, a rarity in Seville, with a daily special (often fishy) paired with a suggested white or red. Both restaurants get very busy, so you should arrive when they open or you won’t get a seat at the bar (for tapas), or a table (reservations are now available for lunch Tuesday-Friday). Prices are between €3-5 – at the top end for Seville, but then it’s in a class of its own. La Azotea Zaragoza also serves breakfast, with speciality breads and – again, unusually for this thoroughly Andalucian city – fresh fruit, granola, yoghurt and, for the homesick gringo, an American cooked breakfast.
Jesus del Gran Poder 31, Tel: 955 116 748; Zaragoza 5, Tel: 954 564316 – http://www.laazoteasevilla.es/
Brunilda – Arenal
A fellow Seville blogger tipped me off about this new bar, run by someone who used to work at Zelai, a chic tapas bar I frequent near Plaza Nueva. It’s down a side street in the Arenal, and a little hard to find, but worth it. They’ve converted an 18th-century house into an airy, minimalist space, with neo-industrial bare brick walls, simple furniture and metal lights; no outside terrace, but the high ceiling means it doesn’t get stuffy, and tables aren’t too close together. Food is imaginative, without being gimmicky, although the choice is more limited than some other tapas bars. Try the rocket, aubergine, sundried tomato and parmesan salad, which has a generous portion of good-sized, peppery leaves; most Seville restaurants are hopeless with salads, but this one is top-class. An unusual tapa is the porra Brunilda con melva, naranja y uvas (thick soup of mackerel, orange and grapes), a smooth yet tangy dish which tastes much better than it both looks and sounds. I’m assured the Iberian pork loin is also superb. Prices are very reasonable: €2.90-4.
Galera 5, Tel: 954 220 481
Al Aljibe – Alameda
I love the Alameda, the broad, tree-lined avenue to the north of Seville, with its mix of students, boho-trendy families, and tourists, and this is one of my favourite haunts, mainly because of its heavenly garden with flowers, climbing plants and trees. The restaurant takes up a whole two-storey house: patio on the ground floor for tapas (shady, pretty, perfect for summer), a dining room on the first floor for restaurant dishes (dull), and a roof terrace lined with herb beds, offering great views over the Alameda (ideal for romantic dinners). The Peruvian chef mixes Asian, Spanish and Latin-American ingredients. Service is hit and miss, but it’s hard to get cross in such lovely surroundings. I love the beetroot salmorejo, which is sharp, smooth and cool, and the mussels with garlic, cucumber and mint vinaigrette are deliciously refreshing on a hot day. It’s not cheap, but it’s not crazy prices either. The restaurant menu includes pluma iberica (Iberian pork shoulder), cochinillo (suckling pig) and the latest culinary in-thing, ceviche. Prices are higher than some places, though not exorbitant: €3 – €4.25 for tapas, €13 – €23 for main courses.
Alameda de Hercules 75, Tel: 954 900 591 – http://www.alaljibe.com/
At the top of the end of the Alameda, with the city centre behind you, walk left up Calle Calatrava (named after the architect who designed the Barqueta bridge), and when the bridge is within sight, Antojo (the name means craving) is on your right. Also opened by people from another Seville restaurant, this time would-be Michelin-starred Gastromium, it’s one of their three restaurants in the same street – this was the first (the other two are an abacería, the grocery stores serving cold meat, cheese and conserves which are all the rage currently, and a Peruvian/Japanese fusion restaurant). This place is urban-cool, with bookshelves, exposed brick, mismatched chairs, wooden tables, huge windows, and an open bar area, giving it a spacious feel. My tapas of choice here is carbon de bacalao (coal of cod), little black cubes of cod with an ingenious super-fine, crispy coating, which look nothing like food but are delicious. Their cheeses are excellent – try the payoyo from Cadiz. Antojo has a more cosmopolitan vibe than other tapas bars in Seville; it has some outside tables on a pavement terrace. Prices are good: €2.90-€3.50 euros.
Calatrava 44, Tel: 955 425 337 – http://www.barantojo.com/
Al Andalus – Triana
I went here with some friends for the first time recently, and was most impressed. Tucked in a residential area in Triana, across the river from the centre, it’s a hidden gem. I’m a sucker for unusual dishes, especially seafood, so when I saw they had erizo relleno con pudding de cabracho (sea urchin stuffed with scorpion fish pate), I was duly excited. And it didn’t disappoint, the beautiful spiny shell being presented with a topping of moist, salty caviar. Chips are always a popular choice, and the soft, sweet patatas dulce con tztatziki griego (sweet potatoes with Greek tzatziki – is there any other type?) came in a cute cone. They serve Belgian beers here. No terrace. Prices are very reasonable – €2.50 to €3.50.
Vicente Flores Navarro 18, Tel: 954 001 202
Fiona Flores Watson is a blogger and journalist whose life is filled with children, pets and trying to keep apace with life. Read more about her adventures at www.scribblerinseville.com