To eat or not to eat, that is the question that I usually ask myself in every corner when I´m at a new destination. Getting to know a new country or city has indeed a lot to do with visiting museums, learning about the place´s history, admiring the landscape and the architecture…but it also has a lot to do with the local food. What people eat and how they eat says a lot about them.
Out of all the places I have visited in my life, I can easily say that Sevilla was the city I enjoyed eating the most in. Besides the food being outstanding at every restaurant we went to, I also really enjoyed the food culture of sharing small bites with friends (tapas) and the possibility of grabbing a bite until late in the evening. We usually made really good use of the latter by trying various dishes at different restaurants in one night!
Today I´m sharing with you the tapas bars in Sevilla that still make my mouth water when I think of their food…! (This will be a difficult post to work on!)
LA AZOTEA (Jesús del Gran Poder branch)
We arrived in Sevilla a little later than lunch time and starving. We literally entered the first restaurant we saw that wasn´t having a siesta. To our luck, this place was La Azotea. From the outside, it seemed like a laidback place with straightforward tapas. We were actually surprised when we saw the menu and spotted some fancy dishes like braised pork cheek in red wine sauce with goat cheese gratin.
Still, I wouldn´t say that La Azotea has a pretentious menu at all, quite the opposite. What sets them apart is how they actually elevate very simple Spanish tapas, like boiled potatoes, to another level with presentation, flavor and high quality components.
Another advantage is that they work with super fresh ingredients, therefore the specials change on a daily basis. The waiter will most definitely explain what´s not on the menu and recommend everything you shouldn´t miss on the day of your visit.
Suggested dishes: The braised Pork Cheek, the Papas arrugadas, the stuffed Rice Paper Triangles and the Croquettes.
Eslava is on the top 5 spots for eating tapas in Sevilla according to Trip Advisor, with more than 6500 ratings – thousands more than the other restaurants on top 5. Thus, we knew we couldn´t miss it. We all know how online commentaries can be misleading and disappointing sometimes, but this rating was spot on. We loved their food so much we actually went there twice during our little vacation in Sevilla. With so many good quality places in the city to choose from, going back to a restaurant is a big statement.
Eslava offers a mix of classic and innovative menu, where you will find the traditional stews and homemade croquettes, to completely original creations like the slow-cooked egg served on a mushroom cake with caramelized wine reduction. Like this little egg dish, Eslava has other prized inventions as for the mixed cheese emulsion with tomato bread, anchovies and green olives. From the first bite you will wish they had these not only in tapas but as full-sized dishes.
If you are planning on going food hopping at night like we did, this is where you should start at. The later it gets, the more unlikely it will be to grab a seat at Eslava.
Suggested dishes: the Pork and Beef homemade Croquettes, the Mushroom Cake (mentioned above), the roasted Pork Ribs glazed in Rosemary Honey, and the grilled razor Clams with Lemon.
Like La Azotea, our visit to this restaurant wasn´t planned. Yet again, seems like we hit the jackpot. Boy, was luck on our side… Isn´t it the best feeling when you are starving, enter the first restaurant you see out of desperation, and you end up eating some of the best dishes you ever had?!
El Sanedrín is a small place with an inviting decoration and friendly atmosphere. Their tapas menu is a lot simpler than the one you get at La Azotea or Eslava. In this sense, here you will find more straightforward tapas, without so many twists: it´s tradition on a plate made with the best ingredients. If you spent a few days trying some fusion restaurants that bring a lot of innovation to the table, you might appreciate going back to the uncomplicated yet tasteful basics even more.
In their menu you will find ham croquettes, deep fried shrimp, fried prawn fritters and octopus salad. I think the fun thing here is to trust their quality ingredients and fill your table up with tapas that you usually like, mixing in some new ones that the waiter can recommend you. They usually know what they are talking about, so don´t take their suggestions for granted! For example, our waiter told us we should order a codfish tapa that I reaaally did not want to. Out of maybe the only 3 things I don´t enjoy eating in this world, codfish has always been one of them. Still, my friend insisted we should try….and guess what??? This restaurant converted me into a believer that codfish can actually taste good!
Suggested dishes: Camarones al ajillo (garlic shrimp) and Bacalao a la viuda.
We found Bar Augustín in the late morning on our way to the Real Alcázar. It looked so inviting in its laidback rustic-industrial style that we decided we would go back there later for lunch. This tapas bar has a very central location, making it fast and uncomplicated to make your way there if you are anywhere in the historical center.
I would say their menu is comparable with the La Azotea one, offering a nice balance between traditional tapas with a fancy twist and simple classic options that still taste good. On the higher end, you will find duck magret with caramelized apple, tuna tartar and cod filet with pumpkin foam sprinkled with caramelized peppers. On a more traditional note, you can order broken fried egg with Iberian cured ham, garlic prawns, Spanish omelet and assorted local sausages.
Another thing that set this place apart from the others, for me, was the sangria, which tasted a lot fresher and fruitier than in the other places we tried. We ordered a pitcher, which was perfect to share among three people. We ended up having about 2 glasses each, so it was totally worth it!
Suggested dishes: broken fried egg with Iberian cured ham, baked goat cheese with mango jam and the fried sea bass loin with pistachio mayonnaise.
BAR EL COMERCIO – since 1904
Stepping into this bar means you signed up for a true Sevilla experience. It is loud, tight, messy during rush hours and definitely a must-go. Do you know why? Because you will live through all of this in the company of the best and most traditional churros con chocolate you will ever have.
Actually, you don´t have to squeeze in the narrow bar area in order to eat. You also have the option of sitting far in the back, where there´s more room and tables to sit at. Somehow, I didn´t find this area appealing. We chose to sit indeed at the busy bar with the locals, at the sound of the waiters´ chanting orders nonstop…it felt more like an authentic experience!
Though you can get different savory tapas at El Comercio throughout the day, this place made a lot more sense to us as the best option for an early breakfast. The bar opens at 7:30am, and this is when the locals come to get their first meal before work, while the tourists are still asleep. After we found out about this place, we had breakfast there every day.
The tapas here are quite simple, no twists, no inventions: the good old traditional stuff. You can order Iberian ham, croquettes, old cheese and sirloin cooked in whisky. They also offer hot sandwiches with the cold cuts of your choice. But what you cannot miss is, of course, the dish that makes El Comercio famous – the churros with hot chocolate.
If you are asking what´s so special about this dish…..well, there´s nothing really special about it apart from the fact that it is uncomplicated food made it to perfection. The churros are crispy and far from being oily on the outside, deliciously soft on the inside, and made to be dipped into a cup of super duper creamy hot chocolate. Though the churros´ portions are generous, it will be hard to have enough of it!
Suggested dishes: You don´t even need to see the menu. Churros, churros, churros!