Thursday, 10 June 2010

Urban Vegetarian in Seville

Having had our first attempt at a holiday this year sabotaged by the Icelandic ash cloud, my mother and I were looking forward to a few days in Seville. Neither of us had spent much time in Spain but we were soon to realise what a mistake this had been on our parts. Seville appealed to us on so many levels and we soon snapped into a rhythm that included very many gaps for meals, snacks, and, by necessity as gets pretty hot this time of year, plenty of Cruzcampo beer.
Travels with my decidedly not vegetarian mother can prove prickly but here we managed to eat incredibly well for the entire stay. We were staying in La Macarena near the Basilica and the old city walls, a fair walk from the main sights, the Barrio Santa Cruz and the more tourist-luring establishments, but close to some superb tapas bars and the wonderful nocturnal bustle of the Alameda de Hercules.
Obligatory shot of dangling jamones

I wondered how well I could eat as a vegetarian in a place where piggy parts are so venerated and solicited advice from the Ginger Gourmand and Sevilla Tapas. Their tips proved incredibly helpful but even without them I suspect I’d have done OK as everywhere we went offered some non-meat based dishes and some places were particularly creative in this regard, though I can see how one could easily end up eating variants of the same dishes over and over again.

And so to the eatables. Salmorejo is the local version of gazpaco, a lovely garlicky tomato soup served cold - the addition of more bread than usual gives it a thicker consistency and a distinctive pink colour. As well as being served as soup it appeared everywhere, drizzled over meat, swaddling slices of tortilla, pooled around crisp sticks of fried aubergine. The best example we tried was at the popular Bar Eslava where it was lovely and creamy.
Espinacas y garbanzos was also a dish I saw a lot of. An aromatic stew of spinach and chickpeas, this was incredibly tasty but proved too robust for a hot summer lunch.
Here we have some spinach croquettes and fried aubergines in the ubiquitous salmorejo, both at Las Coloniales.
I also ate plates of delicate, lace-like fried onions, lovely cheeses, beetroot dressed in garlic and oil, glistening ribbons of roasted peppers, lemony cous-cous salads, wedges of tortilla laced with whiskey, papas bravas and plenty of plump, green olives.

I learned to be wary of the Sevillian habit of adding canned tuna to the vast majority of their salads. Fortunately my GCSE Spanish was surprisingly sturdy after a decade of dormancy and I was usually able to check if this was the case and order accordingly. The most inventive vegetarian tapas I ate were at the popular bar Eslava, probably our favourite of all the bars we visited. Here I ate courgettes ‘charlotte’, a kind of intensely savoury vegetable terrine that was coveted by my mother and a vegetable strudel that was far tastier than its name implies.

My mother was also in her element, munching her way through thick white pieces of fried cuttlefish, deliciously rich slow cooked pigs’ cheeks, springy grilled squid drizzled in garlic and oil, an indecently large piece of suckling pig, numerous platefuls of fried boquerones, hunks of silky salt cod, and, of course, that gloriously marbled jamon iberico. She also ate and enjoyed the following:

Slow cooked piggy bits in Pedro Ximenez

Fritters of baby shrimp

Skewer of prawns with cous-cous

Cuttlefish balls with potatoes

Quails eggs with serrano ham

Her favourite dish was also at Eslava, espinacas con chocos en su tinta. This was dark and rather forbidding in appearance but my mother got very excited about it, dunking her bread into the black, inky sauce and making noises of general contentment.

We never had a bad meal the whole of our visit, though some places were more memorable than most. Of all the bars and restaurants we ate at, three really stood out. The first was Bar Eslava (get there early, it fills up fast). We went there twice and managed to get a table in the back both times through a combination of luck and a willingness to eat at the - by Seville standards - early time of 8.45pm. There's a more formal restaurant next door, but we were happiest sitting in the back ordering dish after dish from a menu scrawled on a whiteboard in marker pen. We also liked Alcoy 10, a tiny bar in the same neighbourhood with pavement seating and some inventive dishes, and Las Coloniales, which was more touristy than the other two but had a very pretty terrace on a leafy square.

Many thanks to the Ginger Gourmand and Sevilla Tapas for some excellent recommendations.

Bar Eslava, Calle Eslava, 3, Sevilla

Alcoy 10, Calle Alcoy 10, Sevilla

Taberna Coloniales, Plaza del Cristo de Burgos, 19, Sevilla

1 comment:

  1. i love the Quails eggs with serrano ham a perfect morning breakfast.