Whether you’re shivering out there in New York, Maine or Ontario, or huddled under a European canopy of endless grey, now’s the time to consider a short break in Seville. You can tank up on tapas and winter sunshine, stroll the street beneath impossibly blue skies and catch a glimpse of those famous oranges, still dripping from the trees in the gardens of the Alcázar. And if you can’t get down there, you can always dream…of tapas, mainly.
Here are five favourite haunts, which I included in a short lineup in FT Weekend a while back. You can’t book. Just go.
Albarama, Plaza de San Francisco 5, 41004 Sevilla
Sevillanos do tapas standing up. Join them at Albarama’s bar, or for a little more comfort you can get seated in the dining room at the back. The decor – white walls, black tables and chairs, some greenery suspended from the ceiling — is functional, cool and minimalist. The fireworks are on the plate: scallops tumbling over a risotto loaded with black mushrooms, mini-‘hamburger’ of squid coiffed with a layer of inky-black jelly or ceps with a quail’s egg perched rakishly on top.
Zelai, Albareda 22, 41001 Sevilla
Recent reports of this sleek black space near the Plaza Nueva, one of Seville’s newer tapas places, suggest they’re victims of their – considerable – success and service has got a bit take-it-or-leave-it. Go anyway, if only for the shellfish ‘cappuccino’ with coconut milk foam topped with a skewer of plump mussels, or pearly-white hake wrapped in a black seaweed overcoat with a brick-red romesco sauce. Their ethereal croquetas achieve the comforting illusion that a thick béchamel with chopped ham rolled in breadcrumbs and deep-fried could ever be light.
Becerrita, Recaredo 9, 41003 Sevilla
An absolute institution, a little out of the centre on a busy avenue that forms the northern ring road. Perch on a stool in the beautifully tiled, ham-festooned space at the front, and go for artichokes with sherry and ham, shrimp ensaladilla or oxtail croquettes, mini-‘hamburgers’ of garlicky prawns, fresh ibérico pork with Idiazabal cheese topping or chunks of melting, slow-cooked, honied lamb (pictured). Final nail in the coffin is the tapapostre (dessert tapa): ice cream showered with chocolate shavings and a splash of sweetly viscous Pedro Ximenez.
Eslava, Eslava 3, 41002 Sevilla
Still fairly central, close to the Plaza San Lorenzo, this place is always heaving and yet the wait-staff somehow manage to keep abreast of the orders – and keep smiling too. Get here in good time, push past the bar, soon to be knee-deep in happy tapeadores, press through to the tiny room at the back and take a seat for some of the best-value food in town. Classics like salmorejo (think gazpacho but thicker and silkier), ibérico ham splayed out on the plate, and sardines and anchovies share menu space with a prize-winning soft-cooked egg (above) sitting on a heap of ceps with a sweet wine reduction.
Most taxi drivers have never heard of the street where Puratasca lives, far less the restaurant/bar. Consult Google maps, take off across the Guadalquivir (right) to the mildly edgy district of Triana – once home to flamenco dancers and potters – and track down this self-styled ‘gastrobar’ for yourself. The walk will set you up nicely for slivers of moist mojama (air-dried tuna) with a splash of olive oil, prawns and mayo wrapped in a fragile brik pastry cornet, a sweetly creamy rice confection with quail and mushrooms, or vegetable strips in tempura batter.
Numancia 5, 41010 Sevilla