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Tapas in Seville or Sevilla

This is my final post on our trip to Spain and it feels a little strange writing it.  I am currently in an expat ghetto in Kennedy Town, Hong Kong and am looking out over the harbour as it is wracked by rains.  The humidity, the spices, the textures in the food couldn’t be different from Spain.  But there is one major similarity between Hong Kong and Spain.  Good food is ubiquitous.  Any bar, cafe, hole in the wall, plastic stool under tarp or other establishment offers you the potential for a good meal which England and London can’t match.

To show what a food dork I am let me tell you a story.  Before (re)visiting Seville this time I lay in bed after our meal at the El Bulli hotel (here) until 4am on my blackberry researching which places to go to.  I gained inspiration from the Ginger Gourmand’s tapas hunting trip to Jerez (here) and also the Gourmet Chick’s trip to Seville (here). Then, I remembered what I said above and thought stuff it, we can’t go wrong and left it to chance.

I was right, we couldn’t go wrong. We had breakfast at a place we stumbled across and had the simple joy of toasted bread, olive oil, tomato and ham (Las Claveles).  We then ran into Seville’s oldest confectionary shop (Confiteria de Compana) and had the guidebook recommended tocinos de cielo with some coffees.  Interestingly the texture of the tocinos de cielo was akin to many of the Asian puddings I have been eating in Hong Kong (like a set milk with flavouring).  Then logically came church so we visited a Convent to buy some tortas de aciete (olive oil biscuits).  They were from Convento de Santa Inés and you put your money in the food equivalent to a confessional box, it turns and out comes your holy snacks.

Then we wandered up to the area around the Iglesia Santa Catalina as this is an area renowned for its tapas and took the simple policy of just going in the busiest tapas bars. We began with El Rincon De Tito for a beer and some jamon serrano.  Just a dingy backstreet bar but one which leaked character and served perfect basic elemental jamon and cerveza.

Then we heard a lot of noise from the bar next door – Quitapesares – and entered to find the owner thoroughly drunk at 1:00pm serenading his customers.  Perfect I thought.  We ordered some caracoles (small snails) which came out a of a big vat by the bar. Absolutely fingersuckingly brilliant.  You ripped them out of their shells with your mouth whilst sipping beer and watching the craziness begin in the bar.

Then to El Rinconcillo, Spain (or Seville’s) oldest tapas bar.  This should be a themed tourist attraction by now.  The atmosphere drained off and bottled and sold with tea towels.  Instead it was fervently still local, heaving and buzzing.  You point, gesticulate, barge, back slap and eat.  The tapas was also quite unfathomly good.  This is a place which could (and in most places would) live on its name alone.  Instead the old masters behind the bar serve you simple tapas like cod in tomatoes, rice with charcuterie or chickpeas with spinach that are absolutely spot on (the rice and plate debris is pictured). Coupled with two beers in cost us 17euros and we over-ordered.

This entire experience of tapas, beer, abuse by local bar tenders, chatting with locals, watching, being involved, wandering and soaking in Seville’s beauty cost us about 35euros. Inspiring.

PS I have to disclaim that the rather sexy shot of the beer and snails is one of Jen’s. She is rather proud of it. For other posts on Spain see here.

9 Comments

  1. Karen

    Hiya, very nice food shots and great blog! I was born and raised in Hong Kong though currently in London. Couldn't help but comment when I know ppl r visiting my hometown. Hope you're enjoying your stay. If you need any restaurants guide, apart from the Michelin, this is a good, local one (akin to toptable in london):
    http://www.openrice.com/english/restaurant/index.htm
    Have fun!

  2. Mr Noodles

    Snails and beer – cant see these catching on in Londontown anytime soon! Hope you're enjoying HK!

  3. The Grubworm

    It's the one thing really missing in London – that everyday base-level excellence. Maybe we just don't have the climate or the raw ingredients (except maybe fish…), or just not enough people care. I dunno, but it's a real shame.

    "You point, gesticulate, barge, back slap and eat" is the phrase that perfectly sums up the joy of eating good tapas – it's not just about the – generally excellent – food, it's the whole social experience. Something else shared by countries with a great culinary tradition. I remember the best food i ate in Barcelona – top restaurants included – was a ramshakle tapas bar, standing room only, in La Boqueria markets. The food was fabulous.

  4. The Ginger Gourmand

    We had some amazing tapas in Sevilla! I'd love to go back (although not sure my waistline would agree…). Like you say, you can't go wrong anywhere really, provided you avoid complete tourist traps of course. I like how they chalk your bill up on the bar in El Rinconcillo and you're right about having to fight your way to the bar pas the hoards of locals.

    One of our favourits was Bar Eslava where we spent a lovely long boozy lunch on our penultimate day of a 4 day eat-a-thon… I really should blog my favourites some time!

  5. Tom

    Karen – good to meet you (via the blog). I am actually now in HK permanently and should hopefully be moving this weekend to a place I have found in Sheung Wan. Thanks for the tip on Openrice.hk. It is very useful as I can actually grab Chinese descriptions of the food off it and print them out (very sad – but it means I can order properly!) and also see the food.

    Grubworm/ Ginger Gourmand – I have to say I could live in Spain (and did for a little bit up North). The one thing they don't do to any effective way is a salad. As metrosexual as it is, I love salads. Spanish salads are mayo and potatoes. Tis a shame and does mean that everytime I go to Spain, despite the healthy unprocessed nature of hte food I stick on loads of weight (or that could be the beer).

    Mr Noodles – I actually prefer the Spanish snails to the over garliced traditional French style. Perfect things to suck on!

  6. Su-Lin

    Ooh, I've always wanted to order pastries from a convent through one of those revolving doors!

    I wouldn't be surprised if a lot of the desserts in HK are based on western ones – they say the egg tart, for example, is based on the Portuguese pastel de nata or possibly the English custard tart.

  7. Tom

    Su-Lin – it is deserts I am having the most difficulty with!!! They are just so different. The texture, the temperature, the ingredients. They are the biggest difference I have found in food. I am forcing myself to have every night a traditional Chinese desert but (atm) just miss the glory of French deserts.

  8. hk

    sorry to hear that the weather's been so bad! hopefully it will get better… (rain+heat vs. heat+humidity… which is 'better'?)! anyways, if your missing western styled desserts one of my favourite places for pastries is delifrance, or citysuper in ifc's mermaid bakeries make decent ones too! a more expensive option is the italian cafe/restaurant chain Cova, where the mini-tarts (depending on which one, i root for the tartufini and the cream/chocoate rose – u must preorder) are bits of heaven. i'm chinese, but i have to admit, i probably lean towards the west when it comes to desserts! i do hope you come to love hk as much as me… its such a great city!!!

  9. Tom

    HK – well this weekend we suddenly had a hot (or cloudless) snap and I almost regretting wishing for it!. From chatting with locals it seems as though Nov/ December will be most suited to my English ways.

    I would be missing Asian style deserts if they were sweet enough here. I am trying to learn though. I found Robuchon's Salon de The just under my office in the Landmark building and was very tempted by those. However, they are seriously expensive so many thanks for your tips which I wil likely visit this week.

    I am loving HK so far. However, I am glad I am living here and not just a tourist. As a tourist I think it could be a hard city to visit and you might not get a proper experience. That said you can say that about a lot of places!

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