Never mind the Alcazar and the Giralda – when you take a break in the Andalusian city of Seville, one of the main attractions is good food. Like many wonderful places, however, this Spanish hotspot attracts lots of visitors and thus has its fair share of tourist traps. Here are some first-hand tips from a recent visit to the home of Seville oranges and Iberian ham.
1. La Bartola – Calle San José, 24
A small but characterful restaurant in one of the many back streets in the Santa Cruz district, La Bartola is the kind of place where guests intermingle and staff make jokes with, rather than at, tourists. Even here, right in the centre, the tapas (small plates, considered about a quarter of the size of a main) aren’t expensive; five or six plates feed two people like royalty and (depending on what you have of course) can be as cheap as €12 each for seriously high quality nosh. Octopus is kind of a thing in Seville, so we began with that, and it was lovely, albeit chewy, grilled with roasted vegetables and salad. Next up were devilish, deep-fried potato croquettes, a delicious tomato sauce-cum-soup along with a medio portion (double the size of a tapa) of tasty lamb with cous cous.
2. Helados Rayas – Calle Almirante Apodaca, 1
Plonked on the corner of one of Seville’s busiest central streets in Barrio Santa Cruz, Helados Rayas is hard to miss. It’s not just the location either; the glass front means you just have to look at the huge range of ice cream inside, most of which involve some kind of nut, chocolate and caramel combination. Taste before you buy and beware the sizes; we aren’t shy when it comes to dessert but both of us found a small portion enough to share after dinner. Then again, we did go back the following night for more…
3. El Hombre Pez – Calle Alfonso XII, 23
Surprising as it seems, the coffee revolution hasn’t reached Seville. Sure, you can get very mediocre coffee in almost every café you sit in, but the brew that most people here drink around the clock isn’t caffeinated, it’s alcoholic: beer. Thank goodness then for El Hombre Pez, a central safe haven for java fans and anybody who can’t stomach gritty old beans. It’s the only place we found in the entire city where you can buy an excellent cuppa (more espresso than latte though – milk isn’t on the menu) and also choose from a broad selection of ground coffee or beans that you can take home.
4. Mechela – Calle Bailén, 34
We stumbled upon this on our way back from Seville’s Museum of Fine Arts and somehow managed to get a table. Minutes later there was a queue, and as our food arrived we began to understand. Mechela is a true mélange of interesting dishes, old favourites and meaty delights. Our duck confit and cream cheese salad with fruit was unexpectedly memorable; vegetable lasagne with no pasta but which tasted sublime, largely due to thick layers of cheese; and pork cheeks that fell away from the fork, soaked up in sumptuous potato puree. Slightly more expensive than the average tapas bar, but still not pricey – our total bill came to around €30 for a hearty lunch for two. Result!
5. Taberna Los Coloniales – Calle Fernández y González, 36
Let’s save the best for last (or lunch). Taberna Los Coloniales is a true find, tucked away in a quiet central square, unassuming and unadvertised. Yet there is almost always a queue, and for good reason: the tapas aren’t just delicious but also great value. We scoffed down massive cheesy croquettas (my partner’s newest addiction), some kind of tomato sauce-smothered fries, jamon iberico (the revered local ham), tuna steak, roasted peppers and an exquisite kind of garlic-vinaigrette-carrot concoction that has changed my view of these orange vegetables for good. Total cost (without wine) = about €22. No wonder the place is stuffed full of very satisfied looking locals.