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Unveiling Seville’s Tapas Treasures: A Must-Experience Tapas Tour

When I travel, I always love to look for food tours. Especially when I’m going to be in a place that I know has a unique food culture. I think one of the best way to get to know people is to get to know their food. So, of course, when I was planning a few days in Seville I knew I had to look for a tapas tour.  Tapas culture is alive and thriving in Andalucia but for a solo traveller, it can be a bit of a challenge.

I wanted to try a larger variety of small bites but many of the tapas restaurants I found only offered larger plates meant to share. So I figured a tapas tour would be the best option to get me started. There are a number of tapas tours available in Seville and after a bit of comparison, I booked a tour with Food Lover Tour, which happened to land on my birthday, so that was a bonus. I liked the combination of number of tapas stops and drinks included.

A Few Things to Know About Tapas in Andalusia

Every town has their own unique approach to tapas. In Granada, many bars will serve up a free tapa with every alcoholic drink you purchase. These tend to be simpler plates like some cheese, pork, or rice. Seville, being known for great restaurants, get a bit fancier with their tapas.

At more traditional restaurants, you’ll eat standing up, often at the bar or around a barrel. No seats available? No problem! For this reason, I don’t recommend wearing heels for a night out of tapas.

If you want the real Andalusia tapas experience, just order one or two things at each bar and go bar hopping to sample a wider variety (like a tapas tour!). Many restaurants specialize in just a few tapas, while having a larger menu to order from.

Pair your tapa with a local drink. Whether it’s mantazilla, vermouth, cava, a local red wine, or a simple cold Cruzcampo beer, tapas tastes better with a glass of something Spanish.

First Stop

We gathered up our crew for the evening and kicked things off in the neighbourhood of Santa Catalina with an introduction to mantazilla, a sherry like, fortified, dry white wine. Rosie, our guide, warned us that we may not like the drink since it was so dry and perhaps an acquired taste. It took a few sips but I enjoyed it, especially paired with the savoury dishes.

Bodeguita el Acerao served up some tortilla and albondigas to pair with our mantazilla. Now, forget what you might know about tortillas. In Spain, it’s not a flat flour or corn disc, it’s more like an omelette or frittata made with potatoes.  Albondigas is Spanish for meatballs. We had a serving of dense meatballs in a savoury gravy.

I knew we were in for a special tour when a third tapa was put on the table – spinach & chickpeas. This dish is great for Lent when Catholics aren’t supposed to eat meat, but it is now eaten any time of the year. It’s a dish adopted from the Muslim population who brought spinach to Spain. It reminded me of an Indian dish without the same kind of spice.

With that satisfying stop completed, it was on to the next.

Second Stop

I knew from a food tour in Barcelona a decade ago that it was quite likely I would enjoy the vermouth so I was looking forward to stop two at Casa Tarin. Served in a glass with a single large ice cube, the drink was deep red. It had a taste somewhat similar to a spiced rum and coke. I easily could’ve drank two or three. Perfect on a spring night.

Our tapas at this stop were Spanish pork, tuna, and cheese. The slices of pork belly were soft and melt in your mouth. Served sliced thin with a drizzle of olive oil they needed no other adornment.

Next up was mojama: tuna that has been salted and then dried in the sun. The guide mentioned that we might think it weird to dry in the sun but it sounded perfectly normal to this Newfoundlander. It’s how we dried our cod back in the day, after all. It was a little chewy without being tough.

The trio of tapas was rounded by triangular wedges of manchego cheese. It’s a semi-hard cheese made from milk of the Manchego breed of sheep. What feta is to Greece, manchego is to Spain.

Casa Tarin is mainly a wine store but they also have a few tables where you can sample the wares, enjoy some simple tapas, and chat with your friends. It’s not quite a bar, not quite a grocery store, but all local hangout.

Stop 3

Time to move again. This time to a standing table outside of Casa Vizcaino. The bar was packed with crowds spilling out to the tables on the sidewalks. We were here to sample some local beer and typical bar snacks: Russian salad, mixed meat sandwiches, and a seasonal specialty.

The “Russian salad” does not, in fact, come from Russia. No one really knows why it’s called that. It reminded me of a traditional Newfoundland potato salad but with added tuna and decorative mayo topping. A platter with 8 scoops of salad were presented and we were given forks and told to dig in. I love a communal meal sometimes. 

To go with our “salad” was a montadito de pringá – a small sandwich  with mixed meats made from chicken, pork, chorizo, morcilla (blood sausage) and a bit of bacon, served warm. Good, simple pub grub.

Cruzcampo is the mass-produced beer staple around Seville. You can get it almost anywhere you go, similar to Molson Canadian back home. It was a light and easy drinking lager. On this tour I learned that Spaniards get their beer in small glasses (caña) of about 200ml because of the heat. It’s possible to order a pint but by getting multiple small glasses, you’ll always have a cold drink. Pretty smart, if you ask me. Given that summer temperatures can get up to 45C (and every guide I had pointed this out) cold beer sounds pretty great.

Finally our seasonal speciality… caracoles… snails. I don’t think this is part of the regular tapas tour but it was snail season when I was in Seville and it just so happened that my guide loves snail season. She really wanted us to try the local delicacy so she ordered one dish for the tour and one for herself to take home. She said that sometimes she just sits on the couch watching tv, eating snails like popcorn. They’re just little guys compared to the escargot I had in Paris. Apparently cleaning and cooking Spanish snails is a labour intensive process.

You have to clean them many times while they’re still alive to get any gunk out. Then you have to slowly, slowly turn up the heat in your pot of water so that the snails don’t realize they’re being cooked and hide in their shells. You want them to be out. Some cooks even dim the lights when they’re cooking them to further relax the snails. 

They’re served in a spicy sauce with pepper, coriander, cumin, cayenne and fennel. No fancy eating here, just pick one up, grab the snail’s head with your teeth and pull it out of the shell. Kind of reminds me of eating mushrooms in a way. Yum.

Stop 4

When we were told that our next stop at Salmuera Freiduría would be shark I was skeptical. I’ve heard about shark fin soup atrocities and didn’t want to eat that. This wasn’t that same kind of shark. Our guide brought over two piping hot paper cones filled with deep-fried dogfish. The meat was white, mild tasting, and slightly sweet. When I learned that dogfish can be a cod substitute in British fish & chips, it made a lot of sense. There really was a lot of similarity in taste and texture between the two. The batter had a vinegar taste and went well with the shark and our previous beer. 8/10 Would eat again.

Stop 5

Our last stop was in the hip neighbourhood of Feria for dessert at Al Solito Posto. We toasted the tour with glasses of cava, a sparkling Spanish wine as decadent slices of cake were served. The cake was tarta de galletas, sometimes known as grandmother’s cake. Layers of cookie like cake sandwiched between chocolate and topped with more chocolate. When the group learned that it was my birthday I got a whole piece of cake to myself topped with a candle and a round of the birthday song.

It was the perfect way to end off my birthday tapas tour in Seville and to welcome in a new year.

Find Your Own Tapas Tour in Seville

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