Tapas dishes include salmorejo

Boasting more than 4,000 tapas bars, Spain’s fourth-largest city and the capital of southern province Andalucia is the epicentre for the country’s traditional sharing snack food. You’ll find them cheek by jowl throughout the city, and locals often hop from one bar to the next to graze appetisers before lunch or dinner. Friends sometimes make a complete meal of them, trying a few dishes in each bar with one person paying for the meal at each stop.

Tortilla is another popular tapas dishorigins

Tapas literally means lid, and the term is said to have derived from the practice of putting chunks of bread or slices of salty ham over glasses of sherry to deter fruit flies. Over time the bread became embellished with other local ingredients and became more elaborate side dishes of appetising snacks to eat with the drinks. Bars and restaurants will generally offer a selection of tapas, served in small dishes.

the dish

The appetisers encompassed by the term tapas come from all over Spain with each region having its own specialities. Popular tapas snacks include olives, calamari, patatas bravas and tortilla (Spanish omelette), while Seville specials include cured ham, tortillitas de camarones (shrimp fritters) and cold soups such as gazpacho, ajo blanco and salmorejo.

Wash them down with a local fino sherry or a beer.

the city

With influences from occupiers including the Romans, Moors, Phoenicians and Carthaginians as well as the New World (Christopher Columbus is buried in its ornate cathedral) is an intoxicating blend of elegant history, Andalucian tradition (bullfighting, flamenco and sherry all originate from the area) and modern (Seville hosted Expo ’92 and several of the futuristic buildings remain).

Seville Cathedral © Spanish National Tourist Office

where to eat tapas in seville

• El Rinconcillo (+34 954 223 183): Seville’s oldest bar dates back to 1670 and while a tourist magnet is a must visit with its great atmosphere and cheap tapas.

• Las Columnas (+34 954 388 106): Good-value tapas bar near the cathedral with great food (try the ensaladilla potato salad), but seats are at a premium and it gets crowded. 

• Bar Eslava (+34 954 906 568): Often standing room only in this favourite in San Lorenzo, the tapas is worth it; solomillo al whisky (sirloin in whisky sauce) anyone?

where to eat tapas in london

• Barrafina in Soho (www.barrafina.co.uk): Sourcing not saucing is the motto of this always-busy Spanish tapas restaurant, where seafood is a speciality.

• Barcelona Tapas Bar & Restaurant (www.barcelona-tapas.com): Styling itself the “authentic taste of Spain in London”, this mini-chain has been around over 20 years and has two City locations plus one in Dulwich. Good portions and ambience.

seville facts

getting there: EasyJet (www.easyjet.com) and Ryanair (www.ryanair.com) fly direct from Gatwick and Stansted; other airlines fly via Madrid and Barcelona.

when to go: Enjoy tapas any time of year but, for a week during the annual Feria de Abril (Spring Fair), the city’s Los Remedios area is a huge party of flamenco dancing, drinking, bullfights and tapas eating. It takes place from April 16-21 in 2013.

gourmet trip: A seven-day gourmet holiday with Tasting Places (www.tastingplaces.com) costs from £1,795 per person staying in a historic hotel and includes cookery classes, a market trip, visits to local wine, ham and olive oil producers with tastings plus some meals.

information: Spanish National Tourist Office www.spain.info

Click here for traditional tapas recipes