My sister and I decided to meet up in Sevilla, Spain for a week as a break from our independent holidays we were spending in Europe. I was spending several months around the south of Spain in Andalusia while she was galavanting in Paris with a couple of friends. The objective was to visit a new city we’ve never been to and immerse ourselves in the local food and culture. Sevilla is a vibrant city where bullfighting is still politically correct and girls still dream to become flamenco dancers when they grow up. Sevilla has soul—and we feel it in its beautiful Moorish-inspired architecture, cobble stone streets, historical monuments, and fascinating history.
My 6-hour train ride from Almeria to Sevilla was quite scenic as I passed through Granada and Malaga. Sevilla lies on the banks of the Guadalquivir and is one of the largest historical centers in Europe. It is Spain’s fourth-largest city and the capital of Andalusia. The heart of the city is the Cathedral and the Giralda Tower. The Cathedral is the largest Gothic cathedral and third largest church in the world. It is also recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
While you visit all the must-see sights, don’t miss out on the food! Sevilla has over 4000 tapas bars that serve everything from seafood to jamon and from vegetables to cheese. That’s a lot to choose from. The locals actually make a meal of them, moving from bar to bar and trying one dish at a time. It was one dictum we happily followed.
Since eating was always on top of our agenda, we did our obligatory run down of online searches, reviews, and friend recommendations. With that list on hand and an appetite that will make men cry, we’ve managed our way through the quaint quarters of Sevilla either sipping a gin and tonic and grabbing a tapa or two. We sometimes surprise ourselves of the amount of food we can actually consume.
TAPAS STOP: EL RINCONCILLO
One of these places that should be part of your tapas stops is El Rinconcillo. Since its doors opened in 1670, it’s considered the oldest tavern and institution in Sevilla. Their history draws in tourists and locals alike, which has seen countless of people go in and out of its doors on a daily basis for the last 346 years.
The unassuming facade of this tapas bar with its pretty tile work and stained glass windows along a small street is quite quaint. As you get closer, you’re suddenly greeted with friendly chatter of people that come in and out of the bar. Once inside the bar, it may feel like things haven’t changed for years. This cozy place exudes a warm vibe and comprises of a charming bar on the ground floor and two rustic dining rooms on the upper floors. The shelves are lined up with old bottles and decor while the walls are plastered with posters and paintings. Legs of jamón are lined up above the ceiling and a chalkboard hangs right beside the bar scribbled with their daily specials. Friendly bow-tied waiters smoothly maneuver their way around serving the crowds making sure everyone has been attended to. While waiting to be seated, I’ve quickly noticed their uncanny ability to track everyone’s tab written in chalk on the bar and table.
With a growing number of diners waiting to be seated and served, we finally found ourselves comfortably standing and leaning against one of the many wine barrel tables across the bar. We’ve read that the restaurant is known for its efforts to preserve the spirit of the traditional Andalusian-Mozarabic cooking. Their traditional cuisine and variety of recipes, which have been rescued from old cookbooks are the highlight of their menu. Since it was in the middle of the afternoon, we decided to just have some tapas to tide us over for dinner. Despite the time of the day, the place was packed.
Tapas or small plates, whose translation is ‘lid’ or ‘cover’, are intrinsic to Spanish food culture. We quickly scanned through the tapas carte and it featured a variety of tortilla de patatas (Spanish omelette), soups, salads, jamon, sausages, and fritters. We chose to feast on some jamon Iberico (Iberian cured ham), bacalao (cod fritters), and boquerones fritos (white anchovies) paired with some cold cerveza (beer).
One by one our small plates started to arrive. We quickly snapped some photos before we devoured what was in front of us. The jamon Iberico with its dark red meat and marbled veins of fat was melt-in-your mouth. The bacalao, on the other hand, was one of the best I’ve tasted in Spain. The slight crunch of the batter and the moist and delicate cod was absolutely delicious. It was perfectly cooked. It was so good we had to go for seconds and thirds. Wherever you go in Andalusia, you will always find good boquerones. This was no exception. The fresh anchovies lightly coated in flour is also a favorite. Even with these three tapas, the visit was worth it and I will find myself returning to this place on my next trip back Sevilla.
If you get a chance to visit Sevilla, make your way to El Rinconcillo and as soon as you bite into one of the many delicious options, you’ll instantly feel like a local. Saludos!