A couple of weeks ago the boy and I took ourselves off to Andalucia for a well earned break. In fact, I had won a weekend at a 5* hotel near Estepona back in Autumn last year, via Quintessentially Travel, so had booked another 7 days on top of that via AirBnb, firstly in Seville then on to Cadiz, before the weekend at the hotel. More on both the hotel and Cadiz in my next few posts, but here I want to tell you about Seville.
I spent a year living in Seville in 2004. I have wonderful memories of lots of good food, interesting tapas bars and great places to drink. Although structurally Seville hasn't changed too much (apart from the addition of trams and tubes!) pretty much everything else seems to have been replaced or upgraded. Yes, there were still a few places I knew and recognised, but the food scene in particular, seems to have taken off in a big way. Gone are many of the small, traditional tapas bars, having been replaced by fusion restaurants, sushi bars and all sorts I would've never expected to see in Seville.
We set off, armed with various emails and blog links that recommended places to eat, and print offs from Lizzie's blog, Hollow Legs, including her really helpful spreadsheet she compiled from a Seville/Cadiz visit, ready to go. However, on arriving in Seville, I began to realise just how much has changed, even since Lizzie's visit 2 years ago. We hung on to all recommendations, and visited a few of them, but were thrilled to bump into an old acquantance of the boy's and mine, the very talented grafitti artist Seleka, who now runs the wonderful DeLimbo gallery in the centre of Seville, and had a whole load of recommendations of the newest and best places we should go to eat.
But I'm getting ahead of myself.
Day 1. We arrived tired after a very early start, and a late night the night before, hungry and in need of a long siesta. We ducked down to Plaza del Salvador and found a row of bars with tables outside, full of Spanish people drinking beers and eating tapas. We picked the busiest of said bars, and settled down for some prawns and beers, just what we needed pre-nap!
We headed back to the excellent AirBnb flat where we were staying and slept off lunch, only waking in time for dinner. Without too much idea where we were going for dinner, we wandered down to the river, walked along Calle Betis, pulled out Lizzie's spreadsheet and aimed for the nearest recommendation - La Primera del Puente, at the top of Calle Betis, a restaurant designed for beautiful sunny days, sitting and watching the boats go up and down the river. It was not this. Huddled in thick coats, the rain pettled down outside as we joined just one other group in the restaurant. It didn't really matter though, we were there for food, and the food was great. We shared chipirones (whole baby squid), chuletas de cordero (lamb chops) and espinacas (a cooked spinach dish with chickpeas).
All the food was served as massive portions (we were in the restaurant rather than the bar side, so it was only whole portions rather than tapas). I like La Primera del Puente, but it's not one of the new food places in Seville, and compared to the rest of the eateries we visited it did feel a little dated, and although the food was good, the standards only got better throughout our trip.
Day 2 and it was time for lunch at a place recommended by everyone - Bodeguita Romero, on Calle Harinas. I knew that we had to try the solomillio al whisky (pork fillet cooked in whisky) so we ordered that, which was heavenly; some jamon croquetas that were light and fluffy and really well ham flavoured inside, with a crispy coating outside - just perfect. Along with a few more tapas and a couple of beers our bill there came to less than 15 euros between us! (Excuse the photo, I was so excited about the food that I'd eaten half of it before remembering to get the camera out).
I haven't been back to Seville since I lived there 9 years ago so was worried that places I loved then might not be there anymore. This was true with certain places, but luckily, the BEST ice cream parlour I've ever been to is still there. Rayas is many, many years old (I can't find the exact date they established but it was decades ago) and is on Calle Imagen, near the new (and very strange) sculpture building on Plaza de la Encarnacion. They make all the ice creams and flavourings themselves, and offer a huge array of flavours, from all the regular fruit and nut flavours you'd expect, to more exotic sounding ice creams such as fig, meringue, pina colada, banana (declared the best banana ice cream ever by the boy) and nougat.
We settled in the park opposite to eat our 2 scoop and then we found Seleka, with all his ideas of where we should try for food, so things started getting a little more exciting!
We abandoned plans to visit Mariscos Emilio, Calle Gonzalo Segovia, an old favourite of mine from when I lived in Seville (definitely worth a visit though - go and try Bacalao Frito - it's essentially the best glorified fish finger you'll ever eat!) and headed instead to a new restaurant, right next to the Cathedral, called Ovejas Negras, on Calle Hernando Colon. It was recently opened by a chef who'd come from a hugely expensive restaurant that had tried and failed to stay open during Spain's economical difficulties. This isn't a bad thing though - it means that all the chefs working there ended up opening their own, much more affordable and original places. Ovejas Negras is one of these. We wandered in without a booking and they managed to squeeze us in. It has more of a cafe feeling to it than a formal restaurant and the walls were lined with tins of Campbells soup and Heinz baked beans! The menu was much more typically Andaluz though.
We had Galician octopus and tuna tartare, both of which were divine. Fresh and just exploding with flavour, the octopus was sweet with the jamon, and the tuna pierced by the salty capers, they were a real revelation of the new wave of food hitting Seville. Of course, we filled up on their wonderful patatas bravas as well, which were equally delicious.
Then a quick amble up to the EME Hotel for an extortionately expensive cocktail on the roof - which was lovely, but I think the point of the roof is the views, and by this point it was raining and dark, so we didn't really win that one! Although after many, many beers it was nice to have a cocktail.
Day 3 (I can't believe we'd eaten all that food in 48 hours!!) was more of Seleka's favourites, and also the boy's birthday. We celebrated with pizza for lunch (his favourite) at a really cool place called La Mia Tana, where each menu is unique, as they are all cut out from a huge piece of art that Seleka did for them last summer. The pizza's weren't bad either!
After another siesta, it was time for the birthday boy's meal. We wandered past Plaza de la Encarnacion, down Calle Regina, which is full of lovely independent shops and cafes, along to the Alameda, which has also changed a lot since I was there! It's a long strip of sandy grass, that's littered with bars, restaurants, cafes and drinking spots. Our destination though was Nikkei on Calle Calatrava, a Peruvian/Japanese fusion restaurant, also run by a friend of Seleka's. Luckily our table was booked for late, so we'd had time to digest lunch's pizza before arriving, and magically, were both actually quite hungry again!
We picked a bottle of nice, local white wine, and the eating began. We started with their salmon salad, which was perfect. Slithers of raw salmon, fresh leaves, crunchy croutons and two dressings - one was creamy and slightly sweet, the other cut through this with its sharper taste.
On to ceviche for me, but sadly the tigers milk had a little chilli in it, so the boy wasn't able to eat much (he tried a little but even the tiny amount of chilli set him off) so without a seconds hesitation, the restaurant brought out his very own dish - sizzling prawns that crackled as hot oil was poured over them. Both dishes were spectacular - such intensely fresh flavours that packed a massive punch.
Finally, with very full bellies, we ordered the bill. But no, we weren't allowed it yet! They insisted on serving us pudding (to share) which was white chocolate hollows, that when cracked with the chef's special spoon emitted a puff of smoke - all too fast for me to capture on my camera!
We were eventually allowed our bill. And that's where we got the biggest surprise - I was expecting to pay £40+ a head for what we'd had (we had another drink before the bottle of wine) but were presented with this:
43 euros for all of that!!!! Just incredible. Please, if you go to Seville, go and check these guys out. I know it isn't traditional Spanish fare, but it is SO worth a visit! They had heard it was the boy's birthday so kindly also brought us a shot of Pisco sours to send us on our way, along with a little Happy Birthday from the chef.
It really was a perfect meal!
The next morning we jumped in a cab to go and collect our hire car, and drove the 100km down to Cadiz, with the sun finally coming out to greet us on the way. More on that part of our holiday in the next post.