Approximately 2,200 years old, Seville has seen the passage of many civilisations. In mythology, it was apparently founded by Hercules, next came the Moors from Northern Africa and then the Castilian rule. All of these different influences have given Seville its distinct personality that tourists marvel in today. Spain’s fourth largest city is probably my favourite. Its weaving, narrow streets and grand historic sights make it quite the visual spectacle, but it is the food that sells it for me. Once famed for its oranges, brought over from East Asia by its Moorish inhabitant’s centuries ago, this idyllic Spanish city is commonly dubbed The Home of Tapas. The orange trees that now line the city’s streets only offer shade to hot, dishevelled tourists. Tapas tours frequently circle the city, groups of blinkered tourists hop from bar to bar, led by a frantic guide who tries to maintain some decorum amongst the hoards. With the invention of the internet and genius apps such as TripAdvisor, my party of four and I opted against a tour and carefully selected some of Seville’s best tapas bars and restaurants. Here are my top three.
In at number three is Albarama, a slightly pricier tapas restaurant which offers a nouveau twist on classic tapas. For example, my friend Simon inquisitively ordered two mini slider burgers. The first was a traditional beef burger sandwiched between a mini donut bun. Intrigued, I asked for a bite and instantly regretted it, the sweetness of the donut overpowered everything else and it was actually quite sickly. The second slider was much better, a lightly breaded cod fillet came in a soft white bun this time. It was simple and relatively tasty. I too ordered a modern dish; seared tuna belly which, when it arrived, had a syringe of soy sauce protruding from it. After plunging the soy into the meaty fish I opened wide and inserted the swollen fillet. Not unpleasant but the soy did somewhat mask what was a beautifully fresh slither of fish. From the more traditional side of the menu we ordered some flaky, tender beef cheeks and a fantastic lamb shank which peeled away from the bone with mighty ease. We had an odd assortment of dishes at Albarama, some were very tasty yet others were disappointing. It tries too hard to be different, many of their new-age twists did not compliment the traditional ingredients, culminating in a severe lack of identity. I suppose we should give them credit for trying something new, however, I am a firm believer in the saying, ‘if it aint broke don’t fix it.’
Casa La Viuda
Located in the bustling heart of Seville’s historic centre, we went to Casa La Viuda on my birthday. Suggested on the Michelin guide, this establishment is renowned for serving up traditional tapas and larger plates of the same fare, we ordered a selection of tapas dishes for variety. Although it is situated in the most touristic area of the city, the only other diners were native Sevillianos, usually a telling sign of authenticity and quality. We were met by a very jolly waiter who was eager to practice his English, he quickly deduced it was my birthday and the service for the rest of the evening was splendid. First came pork loin medallions from the Iberico pig, they were gently fried and served with a fresh salsa. As ever, I ordered an enormous plate of octopus which had been marinating since the previous day according to our friendly host. It melted into nothingness on my tongue. At Viuda, they are famous for their cod. We ordered a few cod dishes to sample their self-proclaimed speciality. My favourite of the three was cod in a deep-fried potato nest, drizzled in balsamic vinegar and a parsley and olive oil sauce. The crunch of the potato against the soft, delicate cod was excellent. The highlight, for me, was the pork knuckle. Not too dissimilar to lamb shank, pork knuckle is delicious when cooked at an almost tepid heat for a long, long time. The chef at Viuda knew this, as his pork knuckle was even appropriate for those with poorly administered dentures. We ate a gluttonous meal at Casa La Viuda, a befitting birthday banquet.
In at number one, another from the Michelin guide, Eslava is a must visit when in Seville. Various dishes on its menu have won awards in the annual Seville tapas competition. My favourite of these was the slow poached egg atop a dehydrated boletus mushroom finished with a wine reduction and caramel sauce. The flavours were expectedly peculiar but the umami mushroom and rich egg yolk played delightfully against each other. It has to be eaten to be believed. Another award winner from its menu is the Eslava razor clams, unfortunately by the time we had been seated for supper they had run out. Distraught is an understatement. My spirits were easily lifted, however, when the pig cheeks arrived. I had eaten pig cheeks in numerous locations across France and Spain and it was at Eslava, the final stop on my tour, where I found the best of them all. Unmatched in tenderness these piggy morsels won my heart. Equally as delicious, were the sticky beef short ribs which were unusual for such a traditional tapas menu but they were at home there. For pudding I had Manchego ice-cream; the salty, savoury cheese numbed the sweetness of the ice-cream and the balance was impeccable. It is difficult to find faults with Eslava, we had to sit on a table outside which was a little chilly in early November but it feels cruel scorning them for this reason. If you are ever in Seville, please, I urge you, eat at Eslava.