A key part of Andalucian life is eating out. It’s so reasonably priced in most places that it has become the norm. In fact, going out for tapas – tapear – is something the locals do daily. Mealtimes become events where everyone comes together and shares their food, and you only need a few days in the south before you feel a part of this enjoyable communal activity.
Our journey began in Sevilla, and despite being a native of Barcelona and a proud Catalan, I have to admit that there’s something quite unique about this city: for me, it was love at first sight! The locals’ personality seems to match the warmth of the climate, and the best way to get to grips with the food culture – apart from enjoying a tapas trail, of course – is to visit a freiduría.
Once you step inside one of these places, you´ll see what I mean. The speciality here is fried fish – and there’s lots of it! What’s available will depend on the market each day, but whatever you choose – hake, cod, sardines – you will find to be super-fresh and delicious. If you go to the Freiduría El Salvador, make sure you order a paper cone of choco frito (fried cuttlefish), accompanied by a tapa of Salmorejo (a local version of gazpacho) and a cold glass of cerveza. You’ll be in heaven!
Next stop was Jerez de la Frontera, the home of sherry. I come from a family where wine has always been an essential part of any meal – my dad is a sommelier, and I grew up in a home where the wine rack took up half of the kitchen! I used to spend my summers in my grandparents’ village, where our home was literally a bodega, and I used to fall asleep surrounded by the aroma of wine-infused barrels every night.
And although my knowledge of sherry was almost zero before my trip, after two or three bodega visits, I was hooked! My favourite places in Jerez, though, are the traditional tabancos – ‘sherry taverns’ serving the wine straight from the cask. Nowadays, they double as bars, offering drinks by the glass, tapas, and – more often than not – flamenco shows. So listen out for the rhythmic tapping and clapping, step inside, and you might find yourself among the locals, dancing the night away.
The closer we got to Cádiz, the fishier things became. I'm no stranger to Spanish food markets, but an all-time favourite has to be the Mercado Central de Abastos: built in 1838, it’s located in the heart of the old town and is a food-lover's dream. The heart and soul of this place is the fresh fish section, where the selection is huge but where tuna is the undisputed star of the show.
Take your time, watch the locals, then pick what catches your eye and head up to the first-floor restaurant. There’s a lovely lady there who will cook it, just as you like, for just a small fee – a great way to experiment and make up your own seafood tapas to enjoy there and then. For the adventurous, a piece of mojama – raw, salt-cured tuna dried out in the sun – is another speciality to try. Sliced thinly and served with olive oil and almonds, its taste is as intense as the Andalucian sun, and the experience typically sublime.