With bars serving tapas open late into the night, Seville is a city for those who love to party, writes ANNA SELBY
Seville is the archetypal city of the south. It is steaming hot in summer, the air crackles with voices and music, and life is lived out of doors into the small hours. Because of the heat, everything happens late – especially eating and drinking. Lunch is around two, dinner at nine or 10, usually preceded by a trawl through the bars. This often takes up the whole evening as Seville’s strong suit is not really the grand restaurant, and dinner is either very late or replaced altogether by a tapas crawl. Sevillanos claim tapas as their city’s own invention (like flamenco) – and they take these endlessly varied small plates with a glass of fino drunk ice cold. Many of the bars also have lengthy wine lists, with excellent wines from all over Spain – though usually nothing from further afield – and both bars and restaurants mark their wines up very little. To really sample Seville, you have to stay up late, when the languor of the day is replaced by the firecracker music and dance of the night. Thank god for siestas!
Sevillanos start the day – though this may not happen until around 11am – with churros and chocolate. This is not a breakfast for the fainthearted. Churros are spirals of hot, crisp, freshly fried dough served in greaseproof paper and dunked in your glass of hot chocolate. Alternatively, it’s a double espresso and a glass of water with a bocadillo (a bread roll with ham or cheese) later to stave off the hunger pangs till lunch. Lunch is usually substantial. Specialities include sopa de almendras (a creamy soup of chopped almonds, mint and cumin), atún plancha con refritos de ajos al vinagre de jerez (grilled tuna with bulbs of garlic and sherry) and tocino de cielo (a tooth-achingly sweet caramel custard). Sevillanos love fried fish and one of the best places is Kiosko de las Flores – the sardines and clams are highly recommended. For a romantic setting, try any of the outdoor restaurants in the Barrio Santa Cruz, the old Jewish quarter in the centre of town. It is an area of narrow alleys overhung with sweet-scented jasmine and piazzas filled with orange trees. The best way to sample tapas in Seville is to have just one plate and then move on. Tapas themselves range from grilled sardines and tortilla to albondigas (meatballs) and pulpo (octopus). The air-dried ham (jamon serrano) is not to be missed – try it at El Rinconcillo where the hams hang from the ceiling and the bill is chalked on the counter in front of you. Two other great tapas bars, both with fantastic ranges of wines, are La Tienda de Moratin and Casa Robles.
Kiosko de las Flores, Plaza del Altozano, Triana. Tel: +34 954 333 898
El Rinconcillo, C/Gerona 40, Alhondiga 2. Tel: +34 954 223 183
La Tienda de Moratin, C/Moratin, 15. Tel: +34 954 563 665
Casa Robles, C/Alvarez Quintero, 58. Tel: +34 954 563 272
Places to stay
The best place to be is the centre of town. You can rent anything from a one-bedroom apartment to an entire house (including the one from which Figaro ran his barber shop) in the Barrio Santa Cruz from Spain at Heart. Prices start at £250 for three nights, or from £460 for a week, based on two people sharing. Spain at Heart, The Barns, Woodlands End, Mells, Frome, Somerset BA11 3QD. Tel: +44 1373 814 222
It’s no good asking for sherry in Seville, as no one will know what you are talking about. Here, they drink fino or manzanilla. ‘Fino goes particularly well with strong-flavoured tapas like the local ham,’ says Roger Davies of Seville’s premier outlet for fine Spanish wines, Tierra Nuestra. ‘It cuts through the taste in a way that wine would not. Oloroso, on the other hand, is usually drunk as a dessert wine. There are some southern white wines being produced now using the Palomino grape but there are no really great wines yet.’ Other than the sherries, most of Tierra Nuestra’s wines come from further north. However, there is a lot more to Spanish wine than Rioja. ‘Though thought of as part of the Spanish tradition, Rioja’s classification of reserva and gran reserva reflecting the age of a wine is quite a new phenomenon,’ says Davies. ‘Barrel ageing has only been around in Spain for 40 years or so. Before that, all Spanish wine was drunk young and the trend among the new wineries has, in fact, been to go back to younger wines. The new winemakers started setting up in the 1980s and have already produced some excellent wines.’Good buys include: La Vicalanda 1996, a new-style, medium-bodied, classy Rioja from Bodega Bilbainas at £10; Quinta de Tarsus 1998 from Ribera del Duero, spicy and fruity at £7.50; Martinet Bru 1999 from Priorat with a distinctive minerally taste at £7.
Tierra Nuestra, Pza de Moviedro, 5. Tel: +34 954 225 737 and C/Constancia, 41. Tel: +34 954 452 119
Written by ANNA SELBY