Whether squeezed in at the bar totting up tapas, as your bill is scrawled down the tabletop in chalk or crowding outside clutching a caña, poised ready to move on at any point, Seville isn’t somewhere to get too settled. Eating and drinking at the same time seems instinctive enough, but the Spanish turn it into an art form, and generosity seems to know no bounds, order something to imbibe and you can expect a nibble to follow sooner rather than later.
Many believe Andalucia is where it all started – the little dishes proved ideal to sit on glasses of sweet sherry and keep flies out – one thing’s for sure though, they certainly do it like nowhere else in these parts.
Before the bar crawl commences though, coffee needs to get drunk, preferably with something on the side, and Bar El Comercio will do you some of the best chocolate and churros in town. Tourists and Sevillianos mingle together at the cramped bar for a plate of freshly fried sausage-shaped doughnuts or a cured ham montadito – the ubiquitous Spanish butty.
Tradition and modern ideas clash together in an ever-evolving food scene where classic dishes owe much influence to both oppressive summer temperatures and Moorish immigrants who brought with them new spices and cooking methods.
Must-try flavours include salmorejo, an ice-cold soup similar to gazpacho and ideal to satiate scorched appetites (try Los Coloniales for some of the best), or spinach with chickpeas, an almost curry like dish with undeniable eastern design.
One of the planet’s oldest surviving eateries, El Rinconcillo (founded in 1670), is unashamedly well-trodden but a great place to try almost everything. Don’t miss out on crispily addictive croquettas or stewed pork neck with homemade chunky chips – if you make it out of there without making a serious dent on the menu you’ve not played your hand right. Should all else fail and you find yourself spoilt for choice, stand at the bar next to someone who looks like they’ve been there for decades and follow their lead.
Old meets new
Obvious spots covered, it’s time to get off the gringo trail. But with only a weekend to spare a little helping hand is required and so we join a tour by Mimo Sevilla for an insight into some of the more modern places on the map.
Local expert Penelope Lao takes the lead, and first, we join the throng outside Espacio Eslava, which has punters queuing for a table before a high noon opening. An early lunch hour by any standards, but for Spaniards something like a quarter past breakfast.
The popularity of this seemingly unfussy canteen stems from some stand out gastronomy, a cigar-shaped spring roll of sorts stuffed with seaweed and served on a spoon of aioli, or savoury sponge cake topped with a gently cooked egg yolk, are award-winning dishes that warrant the prompt outset.
Next we head to La Tienda De La Azotea, where stand out fusion seafood platters are created with the region’s bountiful fishermen’s fare. The freshest raw tuna sits on guacamole packed tacos topped with pickled radish. Sliver thin whitebait crowd together, battered into bhajis, to make the perfect beer accompaniment. As our guide tells us it must be nothing but Cruzcampo here, it’s served in almost every bar, “If they didn’t have it on tap the place would be closed within a month” Penelope chuckles.
After invention and fusion, our third stop ticks that other modern trend of health and plant-based cooking. Beetroot salmojero stands out on a menu where croquettas can be found with vegan-friendly fillings alongside the ubiquitous jamon or queso.
Wine, sherry & vermouth
A sloppy siesta was the only sensible interlude to gather bearings again before an evening with Devour Sevilla, with the focus on wine, sherry and vermouth. Food writer Megan Lloyd is our guide and shares the sort of passion and excitement for wine most people don’t get even after draining a couple of bottles, not to mention an encyclopedic knowledge of Spanish food and drink which belies her North American roots.
To begin we congregate with the masses spilling out of Los Claveles, an atmospheric little bar that’s all tile and exposed brick, to sample silky, vinegar-marinated anchovies soaking in olive oil alongside sweet red vermouth. Rarely seen outside of a cocktail shaker in the UK, the botanical-infused fortified wine commonly used in a Negroni is a delicious and widely enjoyed aperitif across Spain and much of Europe, and I reckon it deserves bit more attention back in Blighty.
After that piece of traditional tapeo our next stop is Salsamento, a bright and modern bar and grocer where walls are lined with tins, jars and bottles of all those things that make Spanish food so irresistible – and our hosts are excited to share it all.
We greedily tuck into the plumpest mussels I’ve ever seen, doused in escabeche sauce and paired beautifully with dry and crisp Jerez Manzanilla sherry by Lustau. If your experience of sherry is mainly centred around sipping your gran’s Bristol Cream on a Sunday afternoon you need to get your lips around a glass or two of this stuff.
A quick stop at the excellent wine merchants Lama La Uva for pairings with payoyo cheese precedes our final venue Sal Gorda where we get stuck into another of the city’s must-try dishes. Braised bull tail is a slow-cooked stew with its roots in bullfighting culture.
The less said about that particular pastime the better, but I can get on board with gelatinous chunks of meat, gravy and mash all day long- especially washed down with a glass of the outstanding Pies Negro Rioja.
Triana y mas
Tackling Triana Market could easily take a full afternoon. Over the Isabel II Bridge you’ll find a pretty little neighbourhood with plenty more cervecerias to explore and a flea market full of food stalls. Pick up your sausage souvenirs here and a bit of seafood rice to stave off any remaining hunger.
You couldn’t visit this most devout of cities without exploring the Cathedral, it’s quite an incredible monument and offers unrivalled views of the crystalline white expanse of architecture, well save for the sight from the top of La Cenas, the mushroom-inspired construction near the centre of town. In fact though a visit is something of a foodie pilgrimage too, the courtyard is filled with trees bearing the city’s famously bitter oranges used to make marmalade.
Come spend a weekend sampling all Seville has to offer, a city that lives on the streets all year round was surely built for a food-fuelled bar crawl, and don’t they just know it.
Ryanair fly direct from Manchester to Seville four times a week, find out more and book here.