One of of my favourite things about Twitter (and really, the internet in general) is the wealth of experience you can glean from people you've never met, all around the globe. It changed the way I travel. While I still love guidebooks for the sheer information of them, when it comes to eating, there's no better information than what you can learn from a local, or one better travelled than you. When it comes to restaurants, guidebook information is often out of date or you're not exactly sure of what the motives are behind a recommendation. When you ask the interwebz and collate the information - I prefer the spreadsheet mode - popular places pop up multiple times. Places off the beaten track become accessible, and that shopfront you were sure looked a bit dodgy is revealed as a bit of a gem. If you're really lucky, a generous local will offer to take you on an tapas binge, as happened with us in Seville.
We dumped our bags in our apartment (which was a really great location, and cheap) and were whisked off to stop number 1 with Shawn Hennessey. Originally a Canadian, and perhaps now a Sevillian, she runs tapas tours and market tours for people into their food. We'd been chatting on Twitter for ages before my trip was even conceived; her twitter account (@SevillaTapas) is a wealth of mouthwatering pictures and tips.
Our first stop, Las Teresas, was hidden down a little alleyway. Dark and cool, away from the day's heat, the ceiling was almost undetectable for all the jamón legs hanging. We were sliced a beautiful plate of jamón Iberico, full of nutty flavour and thin enough to just melt on the tongue. We followed this with a few slices of spiced lomo (from the loin of the pig), and a few triangles of cheese - perfect with a cold glass of Manzanilla. Our original request for Fino was refused on the grounds that the bottle wasn't cold enough. We returned the next day for more and had rather leaner slices of ham, so do ask for the fattier side, if that's your thing (and why wouldn't it be your thing?).
Onwards to our next stop, which was Bodeguita Romero. A steel semi-circular bar in a strip-lit place, normally I'd have walked straight past it but for the privilege of local knowledge. There's also Bodeguita Antonio Romero, just round the corner and opened by the rival brother; it looks rather fancier but I'm told our place is superior. We had incredible pringá, which is a little toasted bun filled with morcilla, chorizo and pork belly. A speciality of the Andalusian region, the combination of the meats sound a little intense, but were spread sparingly enough to be discernable from one another, yet decadently enough to soak that little bun. We bought a little pringá pack in the supermarket later on in our trip and the amount of fat on the pork belly is obscene. More on that experiment later...
We also had the potato salad, which while it looks like a bog standard potato salad, tastes anything but. Fruity olive oil and sherry vinegar combined with comforting, silky potatoes made this one of my highlights of our tapas jaunt.
That's not to say that these stewed pork cheeks were anything short of wonderful. You could cut them apart with a downward motion of a fork. Deeply piggy, in a sweet-ish sauce, I had to stop myself wiping round the plate with those fried potatoes you may see nestled in there. The dangers of tapas were beginning to ring home with me - why are we moving on? I'm happy here. What if the next place isn't as good?
And, well, it wasn't. I can't remember what it was called; we'd had a few glasses by then, and upon recommendation from our waiter, had a rather tough slices of beef on potatoes. But no matter. We moved on. I saw, now, the upside to tapas touring.
When I casually mentioned to Shawn that it was 3:30pm, we near ran to our next stop, La Brunilda. Seville shuts down from 4pm to around 8ish for that famous Spanish siesta. We skidded in, got comfortable at the bar and ordered 3 of the 'crack burgers', a term from Shawn for the little mini burgers we had, so named for their addictive quality. Served pink, the beef was slightly spiced, topped with a miso dressing and a little onion chutney. Juice squirted out liberally when they were bit into, and the staff were on hand with stain remover on our tshirts. We were in a fancy tapas place. Shawn mourned the usual brioche-like roll they'd run out of, but I thought the ciabatta-style bun perfectly passable.
It was the next dish that impressed me most, though. Grilled squid was perched on top of migas, which traditionally is breadcrumbs soaked in olive oil, water, garlic, paprika and suchlike. These are not crisp breadcrumbs, but were cooked till soft and cake-like. There was something vaguely familiar about this dish - the migas had scrambled egg folded within and little lumps of flavoursome pork fat, garnished with spring onion. It struck me that it reminded me of egg-fried rice, and that's why I liked it so much. Classic Chineser.
Again, I'd have loved to have given La Brunilda a more thorough working through of the menu, but instead we went to look round the Setas of Seville - a big waffley mushroom-like sculpture that you can walk around the top of (opening photo). A refreshing beer or two later proved to be not so refreshing and our 5am airport taxi took its toll. I woke up face down, fully clothed in the apartment bedroom at 8pm, disorientated but proud that we'd adhered to Spain's siesta rules. We stopped off at Casa Morales (above) for a little fortification - okay, more cured pork - before we called it a day.
The next day we put in some serious sightseeing i.e we visited the Cathedral. Top tip: avoid the long queues by buying your ticket at the Alcazar, and see two cathedrals for the price of one. You also get to laugh and wave your ticket in the face of a disgruntled German when he thinks you're queue jumping.
For lunch, we visited Freidura La Isla, who deal solely in fried seafood. For 6 Euros we shared a cone of mixed fish, dredged in flour and deep fried. Cuttlefish, prawns, some sort of roe, squid and a white fish, drizzled with a little lemon. There were many people taking away, lots eating in. The tomato salad, made all the more delicious with a healthy drenching of olive oil and sherry vinegar, was essential in palate refreshment. I watched agog as an elderly gentleman ploughed through two portions of the stuff, and as I slowly looked round, realised that damn, these Spaniards love their fried fish. My hollow legs are perhaps not so hollow.
After a walk around the bull ring our appetites returned, and a visit to Albarama couldn't have been more different to the functional severity of Las Islas. Here, there were (p)leather topped tables, cushioned chairs, and beer served in wine glasses. The food had a hint of the 90s - they love a balsamic smear - but the few plates we shared were really quite delicious. Salmorejo, more common in Seville than Gazpacho, was cold and creamy, sweet with tomato, garnished with hard-boiled egg and studs of jamón, needlessly faffed with alfalfa sprouts. A tuna mini-burger was juicy and pink, slicked with garlic. I could, just about, forgive them their smears.
That evening, we got our tapas touring back on track. We'd briefly stopped off at Casa Moreno with Shawn but hadn't eaten there, so we knew that the shop front, filled with products with gorgeous packaging, actually hid a tiny little bar round the back. The man ensconced behind the bar often jotted on pieces of paper, and looking around at the walls covered in framed pictures of bullfighters, we saw those pieces of paper with quotes or poetry written on them in his pretty script. With our limited Spanish and a little of his guidance, we ordered from a small menu; the place was a lesson in efficient storage. Everywhere you looked was actually a door to a fridge, a cupboard, a shelf hiding various meaty things.
It was by no means health food. We thought we ordered morcilla, which we did and came out on squares of paper, sandwiched in toasted slices of bread. But we were also given spicy, oozing sobresada smeared with a pungent blue cheese. Sounds horrendous, but it was only horrendously moreish.
By now the bar was heaving - there was at least 7 people including us there so we ordered one more tapa before we left. What was listed as 'anchoas' and we had thought anchovy must have been a smoked sardine fillet due to the sheer size of it. It was silky smooth, delicately flavoured, not in the least bit salty. I now wish I'd thrown all my clothes away and bought everything in the shop to bring home in my suitcase. I loved Casa Moreno very much.
We headed over to La Azotea, the third restaurant of its group, and the newest opening in Santa Cruz. We'd walked past the day before and it was a total building site - tonight, sleek and polished on opening night, it was unrecognisable. Pulpo, traditionally served on boiled potatoes and dusted with paprika were given a revamp. The potato puree it was in was Robouchon-esque - I can't imagine that there was much potato to fat (olive oil?) and my god it was delicious. Completely smooth, almost soup-like in consistency, I mopped up remnants with my finger. The octopus was nice too. But that potato.
We bumped into our now-old friend Shawn and under her gratefully received instruction, we ordered the clams, swimming in white wine and their own juices. Tiny little baby artichokes were fried till crisp, and this was everything you'd want from a clam dish. We languidly sucked the meat from the shells, a little pile of them gathering.
Just to make sure of the place, we ordered the croquetas which - joy! - come with more potato puree. If I'm honest, none of the croquetas we had on this trip matched up to those of Jose's or Barrafina's, but were nice enough. Morcilla, this time studded with rice, topped with a fried quails egg was spicy and rich, not as rugged as our black pudding, but milder and sweeter.
Things get a little hazy at this point. We stopped for a few more beers. We had caricatures drawn of ourselves at extortionate prices. We weave our way to Triana, over the river, to Casa Anselma. I'm told this bar has no sign, and the door is often guarded by the grumpy landlady, but fun is to be had. We experience no such trouble and we squeeze in to the most crowded bar I've ever seen. People sing loudly and beautifully to captive audiences, like a Spanish rap-but-not-rap battle (music isn't my strong point...). Some dance, flamenco-like. They free-pour the gin. I woke up with only this picture to show me that it looks like we befriended the landlady.
The journey to Cádiz that day was a painfully hungover one.
My spreadsheet with addresses is HERE, the places mentioned are in bold. I've marked places on a Google map HERE.