”We love people” is the motto in Seville. And since the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach, the Andalusian metropolis is a true land of plenty where tapas bars abound.
Toast and tomatoes for breakfast? A tradition in Seville. Every baker’s shop in the city will serve “tostadas“ for breakfast, preferably in combination with a “café con leche” (coffee with milk). Some say that the best tomato bread is to be found in the “Calles San Eloy” or “Albareda”. Others prefer to purchase their snack in the university district. But basically not much can go wrong, given that no restaurant can afford to serve a bad “tostada”. So if starting the day with something hearty is your thing, make sure you book your hotel without breakfast. And do, at all cost, avoid booking half- or full-board! There are far too many wonderful delicacies on offer for you to be confined to eating in the same restaurant every day.
Food has played an important role for centuries in this seafaring city. “Seville was the first place where tomatoes and potatoes were brought from the New World“ Lauren Aloise explains. The US American fell in love with Spanish cuisine first, and subsequently in a Spaniard. Her company “Devour Spain” offers food tours in Madrid, Barcelona and Seville. “Andalusia is home to many wonderful food products“ she raves. “Olive oil, fruit, vegetables, fish, meat, game, sherry-wine, everything the heart desires is produced on one’s doorstep, so to speak.” “Flores Gourmet” features an excellent choice of regional products. “Furthermore, I love ‘Salsamento’, a recently opened shop and bar specialising in high-quality canned preserves from Spain and Portugal,” Lauren adds. “Pimiento Rojo Asado” (grilled, pickled peperoni) is a great little gift to take home, as are olives, of course, which come in all shapes and colours. ”Heladería Rayas” in the city centre is the place to go for gourmet ice cream. From unusual combinations, such as cheese with strawberries, to classic flavours like hazelnut and lemons: the ice cream is all homemade, creamy and rich in taste – an ice-cold cornucopia of flavours!
A stroll through the historical halls of the “Mercado de la Feria“ reveals the rich diversity of regional specialities: fresh oysters, aromatic fresh goat cheese, juicy watermelons, avocados as big as toddler’s heads and traditional Seville orange marmalade offer a feast for the eyes and the palate. A land of plenty for local and visiting foodies! There is so much to enjoy here, including the delicious fresh snacks prepared by and served on the lovely little terrace of the adjacent “Lonja de Feria” restaurant. From the city centre, the Macarena neighbourhood can be reached by passing the large “Metropol Parasol“ wooden structure. Lined with second-hand shops, curious bookstores, cosy cafés and cool boutiques, the streets of Macarena are a great place to browse and work up a pre-dinner appetite. “Thanks to the tapas culture, the fun factor is high and also kind to the wallet,” says food expert Lauren. “The best advice is to not order more than two dishes at a time. This allows you to see the portion sizes and decide if the restaurant suits“ she adds. Her favourites: “Tortillatas de Camarones” available at ”Barbiana”, “Coquinas” from ”Bar Esleva”, the rice dish of the day served at ”La Taberna” and fried fish from ”La Isla”. Let’s be ready to take on the food battle!
Established in 1670, “El Riconcillo“ is not just Spain’s oldest bar but also a culinary institution in Seville. Here, tapas are eaten either at the bar like the locals do (a tally is kept of the orders using chalk and a blackboard), or at one of the tables upstairs. The menu is a dream-come-true and, as so often, my eyes prove to be bigger than my stomach. From deep-fried “Pavías de Bacalao” (stockfish fingers) and gazpacho soup, through “Ibérico” ham and braised pork cheeks, to “Tarta de Queso” (cheesecake): food is served here until your stomach says “no more, please” – and the waiter bursts into a gleefully content grin. I’m a beginner. In other words, despite being warned, I fall into the delicious tapas trap! What else but to drag myself and my full stomach into Seville’s nightlife – another of the city’s specialities.
Even if local restaurant owners have attempted to breathe new life into traditional sherry-wine, the top beverage in Seville’s numerous bars is gin and tonic. Boring? Not in Andalusia! This classic British beverage is experiencing a revival here and served in many different variations. Spanish gins, such as “Nordés” from Galicia, meet the world’s best tonics. Indeed, Schweppes is not the only tonic. And there’s definitely more to garnishing than a lemon slice. The Andalusian G&T universe encompasses combinations with pepper corns and gherkins, basil and strawberries or rosemary and blueberries. As odd as it sounds, it is fantastic! And dangerous... Moving on from the magnificent “Bar Americano“ of the “Alfonso XIII” luxury hotel, we enter one of the typical bodegas in the Santa Cruz neighbourhood, the ”Bar XIX”. Our next stop are the alternative scene bars around “Alameda de Hércules”. Since the night is young and temperatures still mild, we decide to pop into the “London Gin Tonic Club“ on our way home, where we get to choose from 150 sorts of gin. Considering that cocktails are served in bulbous wine glasses, next morning’s “Resaca” (hangover) is as sure as death and taxes. But things aren’t quite so bleak, given that Seville happens to have the best remedy against a hangover: a tostada.
Recipe: Espinacas con Garbanzos (Spinach and Chickpea Stew) by Lauren Aloise
Main dish. Serves four. Ingredients:
500 g of chickpeas
300 g of fresh spinach, washed
2 thick slices of hard bread, cut into small cubes
15 blanched unsalted Marcona almonds (if available)
2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Heat oil in saucepan, add the spinach, briefly sauté over medium heat and remove from heat. Re-coat the pan with oil. Add in bread cubes and almonds and fry until crispy. Add garlic and cumin and sauté for two minutes. Transfer ingredients to blender and add the sherry vinegar. Blend the mixture until you have a thick paste. Return paste to saucepan, add chickpeas and tomato sauce. Add some water as needed. Add the spinach and let the stew simmer over medium heat for 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with olive oil and garnish with paprika before serving.