After having had great tapas everyday in Madrid, I wasn’t sure what to expect in Seville. We had another very long travel day, this time from Marrakesh to Madrid to Seville (taxi, plane delays, bus, train, taxi) so we went straight to bed (not to worry Mom, we had a quick snack in Madrid before getting on the train to Seville. We didn’t go hungry). To make up for the missed meal (ha!), we were determined to explore what Seville had to offer. Of course Paula had already done her homework and produced an Excel spreadsheet with names, locations, specialties of some of the best tapas places in town. But the first place we went to was just by chance. After a hearty breakfast of cafe con leche, toast with tomato and ham, we walked around the Arenal neighborhood of Seville and visited the fine arts museum (Museo de Bellas Artes). On the way back towards our hotel in Barrio Santa Cruz, we walked around the bull ring and stumbled upon a little tapas bar with a few Michelin guide stickers on the window and anchovies in the window case. We poked our heads in and saw that it was packed, spotted two empty stools right at the bar, and SOLD! We marched in and ordered two Cruzcampo beers to get started.
We had no idea what the place was called or whether it was well known. We just wanted to eat what everyone else was eating. The beer was cold and good, and after a few minutes of looking around and checking out the window case where they kept the tapas, we ordered a small plate of anchovies and “salpicon de mariscos.” Salpicon de mariscos is like a seafood salad made with vinegar and olive oil. We ended up having a dish of this at every tapas bar we went to in Seville and everyone did it ever so slightly differently. The one here, included mussels where no other place we went to did. But they all included cooked octopus, shrimp, green peppers, onions, and tomatoes, as well as vinegar and oil. I quite enjoyed eating this refreshing and light seafood dish. The anchovies here were smaller than the ones we loved in Madrid but they were lemony and delicious. We also had a plate of “pulpo de Gallega,” which is sliced octopus with warm potatoes in olive oil. It was so tender and good that even Paula who is often picky about squid/octopus, liked it. We chowed down and loved the fact that numerous other customers were turned away because there was no room (yes, I admit to having schadenfreude). We lingered there for a while to take it all in but not eat so much that we couldn’t go out for dinner later. Always thinking of my next meal, you know?
Not surprisingly, we were ready for more tapas that evening. Jerez being only about 100 km from Seville, we thought we’d try some jerez or sherry, a fortified wine. Sherry always reminds me of Niles and Frasier Crane, of the show “Frasier.” Didn’t the two brothers drink sherry out of little dainty glasses (more on that later in Granada)? In any case, I learned that most sherry wines are made with the Palomino grape but some are made with Moscatel and Pedro Ximenez. And that Tio Pepe is the best selling and the most famous sherry wine in the world. Tio Pepe is ubiquitous in Spain but at the bar at Restaurante Barbiana, we each had a glass of Manzanilla. They say the yeast (or flor) is what makes each type of sherry its character and taste. And because Manzanilla comes from an area near the sea, it has a bit of salty taste to it. Rather than in small glasses like the fictitious Crane brothers, we received ours in almost regular sized wine glasses with short stems. While I liked the unusual taste of this wine and could have had another glass (I also thought it had a lovely light golden color), Paula declared she was through with drinking sherry after downing her Manzanilla.
The highlight of our tapas stop at Barbiana was the giant langostinos (large shrimp not lobster). They were sold by the kilo so I was a bit scared about how expensive it was going to be but they looked so good that I had to just have them. They were served cold and with absolutely nothing, but they were divine. We sucked the heads first and then got to the meat which was firm and almost sweet. A good start to our night. We also tried their salpicon de mariscos (smaller shrimp, no mussels, very onion-y) and the albondigas de choco. We had intended to try the ortiguillas from Cadiz (they are sea anemone/ snakelocks) but thinking it might be too exotic (and no one else at the restaurant was eating them), we settled for the less scary cuttle fish meatballs. What were the cuttle fish meatballs like? Like chopped up squid shaped like meatballs.
We started to walk back to our hotel, taking the glow of La Giralda when I saw a group of women sitting outside at a bar eating fried boquerones. The night was young and we couldn’t pass the chance to eat some fried fish! We walked into the spacious front room of Bar Giralda and realized that this was one of the places we had wanted to check out. This bar is located in a former Moorish bath house and you can still see the gorgeous arches and some of the tile work on the walls. The service was quick and courteous, and our waiter even brought over for us an English menu. Since we knew what we were after, we ordered the friend boquerones and also a plate of patatas a la importancia. I didn’t really see the appeal of the potatoes with a thin slice of ham and cheese in the middle; it was too salty for my taste but as it’s one of the specialties of the place we had to try it. The fried boquerones on the other hand, were great. They are not exactly anchovies (too big) but not exactly sardines either (a bit too small). All I know is that they are delicious from their little heads to tails. They came out piping hot- all we had to do was squeeze a little lemon juice over them and start popping them into our mouths. A great and yummy treat (and a good source of calcium as I kept saying) that made Paula infinitely happy but very very full. We rolled ourselves back to the hotel, whether we could eat again the day after.
It rained like it was the monsoon season in India the next day. We thought it might rain so we reserved the day for visiting the main cathedral and La Giralda. We got a bit wet while we were waiting to get in but the real soaking came for us after we left the cathedral and was heading over to Bar Modesto for a late lunch. Under normal circumstances I would have given up on the idea to retreat home and sleep the afternoon away. But the bar was just a block away from our hotel and we were hungry for more tapas. So my squeaky converse and I trudged our way in to take the only open spot by the side of the bar. Definitely not the optimal location but after about 20 minutes or so, the lunch crowd slowly moved out and we swooped in to take our places at the bar in front of the kitchen. The real fun began for us when Manuel, our waiter, came over to help the two helpless and rain-soaked women. Standing in my own puddle and feeling terrible, I didn’t know what I wanted so we just started with our go-to dish in Seville, salpicon de mariscos. The version at Bar Modesto had the largest and the most plump shrimp and generous chunks of octopus. With a couple of cruzcampos (the coldest and the best in town, Paula claims), I was feeling a little better. Seeing a variety of anchovies, we asked Manuel how best to eat them. All he asked was how many and within seconds we had a plate of anchovies on toast with tomato puree and olive oil. I think a photo here would help explain it better the simplicity and the beauty of this dish. Salty, sweet, oily, and good.
Not wanting to stop our afternoon feast here, we ask Manuel for another suggestion. He asked “carne? pescado? mariscos?” To that, we said “surprise us!” What we got was a big plate of sauteed squid with wild mushrooms. We happily ate the exotic mushrooms and tender squid, washing it all down with some more beer. Manuel checked in with us every now and then, calling us by our first names and even singing Paula’s name as he worked. “pa-o-la, pa-o-la” he went. He wanted us to stick around and drink some more but we really couldn’t stand up for much longer. Whew! If you go to Bar Modesto, look for the short guy behind the bar. He speaks faster than anyone I’ve met in Spain and I really only understood every third word he said, but he is a kind and energetic man who treated us incredibly well. Two thumbs up from me for Bar Modesto.
Last but not least on our tapas tour of Seville was a cozy wine bar and restaurant called Vineria San Telmo. Located just across the street from Jardines de Murillo, this little place was a gem. While I took a much needed afternoon nap, Paula did her internet research magic and found this modern/eclectic tapas bar to try. What I liked the most about Vineria San Telmo was the fact that they offered three different sizes for most of their dishes. If you just want a few bites, you get a tapa. If you want a bit more, you get half a plate. If you want it to be your main course you can do that, too. We wanted to continue on with our tapas theme so we ended up with three small plates- jamon Iberico de Bellota, foie with lychee and fried parsley, and squid ink spaghetti with seared scallops. All three dishes were delicious but the foie with lychee was outstanding. The perfect bite had a bit of the sweet and jelly like lychee, a hint of the balsamic glaze, a slice of the buttery foie, a crunchy fried parsley leaf, and one snowflake like sea salt crystal. Amazing! To drink, we asked for wine recommendations from the waitress and she brought for us two different reds from the region. Our first glass was a local, organic, and eco-friendly wine from Seville and the second one was from Cadiz. They have a big wine cellar and really seemed to know their wines. I don’t think you could go wrong taking their suggestions. We finished our meal with a slice of their lemon meringue cake and some dessert wine.
We truly wished we had another day or two to spend in Seville. I didn’t get to try many of the places on my list or from my friend Senor Jorge’s. I would need a few months to really get the feel of the place… How do I make this happen?
Well, I did see a Spanish language school there… Talvez?!
Restaurante Horacio: Calle Antonia Diaz, 9, Seville
Restaurante Barbiana: Calle Albareda, 11, Seville
Bar Giralda: Calle Mateos Gago, 1, Seville
Bar Modesto: Calle Cano y Cueto, 15, Seville
Vineria San Telmo: Paseo Catalina de Ribera, 4, Seville