Seville Gastronomic Heritage Guide

sevill gastronomy heritage

Introduing Sevilla’s first Gastronomic Heritage Guide to tapas (and the best places to find them). The first printing of the guide is out and about and you can also download the free APP, which has both Spanish and English versions. It’s a perfect way for both locals and visitors to discover the diverse and delicious gastronomy of Sevilla, one bar at a time. Handy maps and recipes are also included in the APP.

“Establishments suggested come from a popular survey conducted by Tourism Board of City of Seville website between April 15 and September 15, 2013, as well as from a selection prepared by a technical commission of experts composed of Julio Fernández, Chef of the Michelin Star restaurant Abantal, Fernando Huidobro, president of the Andalusian Academy of Gastronomy and Tourism, Javier Compás, wine tasting technician, journalist and gastronomic writer, Shawn Hennessey, best gastronomy Twitter 2013 and author of Sevilla Tapas gastronomy tours, and Paco Sánchez, historic bar-restaurant owner in town, former owner of Bar Giralda and Bar Estrella. As a rule, these establishments are limited to the traditional and touristic heart of the city, although some other establishments are also included beyond that area because of uniqueness, quality and tradition.”
~ Visita Sevilla

I am very pleased and proud to have had a part in the creation of this very special guide.

app sevillaDownload the APP at Visita Sevilla

Death of the Tapeo

An Open Letter to Tapas Bar Owners in Sevilla
[para la traducción en español pinchar aquí]

Two years ago I wrote about the increasing number of tapas bars in Sevilla charging for bread and service, a previously unheard of practice that started off in a small way with some bars charging, say 50 cents a basket, but that has now grown to the point where we find a few bars charging up to 2€ PER PERSON.

I’m not singling out any individual bars or restaurants here (I reckon you know who you are) so I’m not going to name names, either to praise or shame. But I do feel it’s time you gave this some thought and tried to understand the damage you are doing, both to the splendid tradition of the tapeo and to your own reputations. Because I actually love some of your bars, and your fab tapas, but enough is enough already.

The main arguments I keep hearing from you and your staff are:

  1. Everybody else is doing it.
  2. People pay more in other countries via taxes and tips.
  3. Why should we give food away?
  4. You’re the only one who ever complains, Shawn.

First of all, everybody else isn’t doing it. Not even close. The main culprits tend to be the new gastrobars, probably just like yours, especially those located in tourist areas. And hey, why not? By charging every person who walks into your bar an extra euro – for absolutely nothing! – you can probably pay one person’s salary. But let’s be honest here, if you can’t operate at enough of a profit to pay your staff properly then maybe you’re in the wrong business. Charging what amounts to an admission fee is so wrong that I can’t believe it’s been allowed to go on for so long. Yes, we all know that times are tough, but they are just as tough for your customers. Some of you say that many of your customers are tourists so it doesn’t matter, which also says to me that you probably don’t belong in the “hospitality” biz.

un placer

example of a tapas bar that cares about its customers

As for the second argument… what? What has that got to do with anything? We live and work in Spain. As do the majority of your customers. FYI, just a couple of examples here. In the UK the service charge is given to the staff and is not obligatory, and everybody there knows this. In the US and Canada tipping is the norm but is also not obligatory. If you don’t like the food or service, you don’t tip. Simple. But you also get coffee and soft drink refills, baskets of bread/nachos/ muffins, all included in the price. You don’t get charged just for walking into a place and sitting down. Perhaps this happens in other countries, but as already pointed out, we are not other countries. And in this country, especially in Sevilla, el tapeo is a cherished custom that you are threatening to wipe out. Imagine going out with 4-5 of your friends and being charged 1€ per person at every stop… at the end of the evening you will have paid an extra 20-30 euros. For absolutely nothing. So of course people will be forced to stop moving from bar to bar in order to save money, and this very charming element of daily life in Sevilla will die away.

Then there is the mistaken idea that you are somehow giving anything away. Nobody is asking you to give food away for nothing. But when you put food on a table as soon as customers sit down, it later looks very tacky when you charge for it, meaning it makes you look bad. It really does. Since I’ve heard most of you say “Do you have any idea how much bread and olives cost us every month, Shawn?” I’m guessing that you know exactly how much, making this a fixed cost (like rent and electricity) and something that could easily be factored into your food and drink prices. If you feel you want to charge for bread and olives, fair enough. But they should be clearly listed on the menu and you should wait for people to order them.

bread

can you believe I was charged 3 euros for THIS

Finally, I am far from the only person complaining about this. I hear complaints all the time, including from other bar and restaurant owners. Heck, even some of your own staff and management are embarrassed by this, but they need their jobs so of course aren’t going to say anything. I am aware that I may be the only one who will say something to your face, but I can’t even begin to count the number of visiting friends and tapas tour clients who have been surprised and put off after finding an extra charge on their bill. I’m often asked if the “service” is a tip that goes to the wait staff. No it is not, I tell them, it goes directly into your pocket. I’m also asked WHY bars in Sevilla do this and my only honest answer is that certain owners have hit on a way to make extra money for nothing and seem to think nobody minds. But people do mind. They mind a lot. Scrupulous bar owners I’ve spoken to also hate this practice and feel it is giving tapas bars in Sevilla a bad name. But do they complain when they go out and this happens to them? No, they do what most people do. Feel upset and taken advantage of and then don’t go back. Why? Because nobody likes making a fuss or getting into an argument at the end of a meal or tapas stop. Easier just to pay up and leave. And you know this.

Sometimes friends have said to me “well, I’m a regular at such-and-such so they don’t charge me”, as if that makes it okay. The truth is that NOBODY has to pay for bread they haven’t ordered, and especially not this atrocious per person service charge. But again, nobody wants to make a fuss. And of course visitors have no idea they aren’t obliged to pay. Even if they did, most don’t have enough Spanish to argue with their server. But it leaves them with a bad feeling after what was an otherwise pleasant experience, which reflects on you.

servicio pan

Not to mention that none of this is in compliance with Official Rules and Obligations which state that bars and restaurants cannot charge for non-food items, specifically cover charges and taking reservations. Nor can they charge for food items that have not been ordered by the customer ie. bread and olives brought to the table.

But legal or not, it is still morally reprehensible to charge people for absolutely nothing. Meaning that if you found that – somehow – it was legal to charge your customers for just taking a seat in your tapas bar… why would you do this to them? What is your excuse or reasoning? And why does a guiri like me care more about preserving the tapeo tradition than you apparently do?

Un abrazo,
Shawn

Continue reading “Death of the Tapeo”

Tapas Bars Open Sunday & Monday

This is an update of a blog post I wrote a couple of years ago.

Finding good non-touristy tapas bars that are open on Sunday and Monday can be a bit of a challenge in Sevilla. Many of the best family-run places are closed on these days, though some will open for Sunday lunch (1 – 4pm). This is something I always point out to my Sevilla Tapas Tour clients, and so I thought it would be helpful to also post a short list here of my favourite places to eat out on those “difficult days”.

I’ve tried to cover a few different barrios (neighbourhoods) but for some reason the Arenal is a bit of a dead zone on those two days, so I’m giving “honourable mentions” to three bars that are open at least part of the time over Sunday and Monday.

Remember that tapas bars usually close between 4 – 8 pm, or if they stay open all day their kitchen will probably be closed then. Also, some places close for summer holidays during either July or August, so call ahead those months. It’s also a good idea to call and see if you can book a table on Sundays, which tend to get very busy with families going out for lunch, or else get to the bar right when they open (usually 1pm for lunch, 8pm for dinner).

Barrio Santa Cruz
Vineria San Telmo
Paseo Catalina de Ribera, 4
Tel. 954 410 600
Las Teresas
Santa Teresa 2
Tel.954 213 069
Modesto (restaurant not tapas bar)
Cano y Cueto, 5
Tel. 954 416 811
(all-day kitchen)
Casa Roman
Plaza Venerables 1
Tel. 954 228 483
La Azotea Santa Cruz
Mateos Gago 8
Tel. 955 116 748
(all day kitchen)

El Arenal
Bodeguita Romero
Harinas 10
Tel. 954 229 556
Open Sunday 1-4 pm, closed Monday
Enrique Becerra
Gamazo 2
Tel. 954 213 049
Open Sunday 1-4 pm, open all day Monday
Casa Morales
Garcia de Vinuesa 11
Tel. 954 22 12 42
Closed Sunday, open Monday

La Alfalfa
La Bodega
Plaza Alfalfa, 4
Tel. 954 22 783 62
Casa Antonio / Bar Los Caracoles
Pérez Galdos 13
Tel. 954 213 172

Triana
La Primera del Puente
Bétis 66
Tel. 954 27 69 18
Las Golondrinas II
Pages del Corro 76
Tel. 954 33 82 35

La Alameda
Bar Antojo
Calatrava 44
Tel. 955 425 337
Al Aljibe
Alameda de Hércules 76
Tel. 954 900 591
La Parrilla del Badulaque
Alameda de Hércules, 37
Tel. 954 91 55 24
Arte y Sabor
Alameda de Hércules 85
Tel. 954 372 897 / 695 288 450
(all day kitchen)

Open in August!

 

summer

Here’s a short list of some of my favourite tapas bars and restaurants that are going to be open in August. Remember that tapas bars usually close between 4 – 8 pm, or if they stay open all day their kitchen will probably be closed then. It’s also a good idea to call and see if you can book a table on Sundays, which tend to get very busy with families going out for lunch.

Barrio Santa Cruz
Vineria San Telmo
Paseo Catalina de Ribera, 4
Tel. 954 410 600
Las Teresas
Santa Teresa 2
Tel.954 213 069
Modesto (restaurant not tapas bar)
Cano y Cueto, 5
Tel. 954 416 811
(all-day kitchen)
Las Sal
Doncellas, 8
Tel 954 535 846

El Arenal
Casa Morales
Garcia de Vinuesa 11 (open 16-31 August)
Tel. 954 22 12 42

La Alfalfa
La Bodega
Plaza Alfalfa, 4
Tel. 954 22 783 62
Casa Antonio / Bar Los Caracoles
Pérez Galdos 13
Tel. 954 213 172

El Centro
La Azotea
Jesús del Gran Poder 31 (open 16-31 August)
Tel. 955 116 748
La Azotea Zaragoza
Zaragoza 5 (open 1-15 August)
Tel. 955 116 748
La Antigua Abacería San Lorenzo
Teodosio 53
Tel. 954 380 067

Santa Catalina
El Rinconcillo
Gerona 40
Tel: 954 223 183
Taberna El Panduro
Doña María Coronel 17
Tel 954 045 751

La Alameda
Bar Antojo
Calatrava 44
Tel. 955 425 337
Al Aljibe
Alameda de Hércules 76
Tel. 954 900 591
La Parrilla del Badulaque
Alameda de Hércules, 37
Tel. 954 91 55 24

Triana
La Primera del Puente
Bétis 66
Tel. 954 27 69 18
Las Golondrinas II
Pages del Corro 76
Tel. 954 33 82 35

Methinks They Doth Protest Too Much

censorshipIt’s been just over a year since I wrote here about the Sevilla Tapas Policy Change and yesterday I had my first experience of someone trying to gag me. I received a Threatening Email from the lawyers of a tapas bar I reviewed last December on Sevilla Tapas. They cited various laws and articles before coming out with their DEMAND that I remove all photographs and text, saying that some of the photos included images of their customers and also “marketed products” (the tapas?) that were taken without permission. They then went on to say that some other law protected their client from any “value judgement” that may adversely affect their reputation and professional image and insisted that I remove any references to this bar from all my blogs, websites and social media accounts.

I mean, WTF??

It wasn’t even a scathing review. I basically just said that I’d gone there twice and was disappointed both times. And well, they can’t really blame me if their tapas look like crap.

Anyhow, I’ve been threatened with legal action if I don’t comply. But while I can see their flimsy excuse for wanting photos of customers removed to be somehow “justifiable”, it seems way over the top to insist that I remove any mention of this place from everywhere on the Internet. Protesting far too much, don’t you think?

Oh, and for the record, I did ask permission to take photos and, after the first disastrous visit, spoke to the manager who apologised for the bad service and food and said she hoped we would come back again. She also knew about my Sevilla Tapas blog and that we had a friend in common who had recommended the bar (which is why I went there twice – I thought my friend couldn’t be that wrong!). Well, they won’t be able to remove the Trip Advisor review that’ll be going up shortly…

 

Sunday & Monday Tapas Bars

Finding good non-touristy tapas bars that are open on Sunday and Monday can be a bit of a challenge in Sevilla. Many of the best family-run places are closed on these days, though some will open for Sunday lunch (1 – 4pm). This is something I always point out to my Sevilla Tapas Tour clients, and so I thought it would be helpful to also post a short list here of my favourite places to eat out on those “difficult days”.

I’ve tried to cover a few different barrios (neighbourhoods) but for some reason the Arenal is a bit of a dead zone on those two days, so I’m giving “honourable mentions” to Bodeguita Romero (open for Sunday lunch) and Enrique Becerra (open Monday).

Remember that tapas bars usually close between 4 – 8 pm, or if they stay open all day their kitchen will probably be closed then. Also, some places close for summer holidays during either July or August, so call ahead those months. It’s also a good idea to call and see if you can book a table on Sundays, which tend to get very busy with families going out for lunch, or else get to the bar right when they open (usually 1pm for lunch, 8pm for dinner).

Barrio Santa Cruz
Vineria San Telmo
Paseo Catalina de Ribera, 4
Tel. 954 410 600
Las Teresas
Santa Teresa 2
Tel.954 213 069
Modesto (restaurant not tapas bar)
Cano y Cueto, 5
Tel. 954 416 811
(all-day kitchen)

La Alfalfa
La Bodega
Plaza Alfalfa, 4
Tel. 954 22 783 62
Casa Antonio / Bar Los Caracoles
Pérez Galdos 13
Tel. 954 213 172

Triana
La Primera del Puente
Bétis 66
Tel. 954 27 69 18
Las Golondrinas II
Pages del Corro 76
Tel. 954 33 82 35

La Alameda
Bar Antojo
Calatrava 44
Tel. 955 425 337
Al Aljibe
Alameda de Hércules 76
Tel. 954 900 591
La Parrilla del Badulaque
Alameda de Hércules, 37
Tel. 954 91 55 24

3rd Sevilla en Boca de Todos

The third edition of Sevilla en Boca de Todos (Seville on Everyone’s Lips) promises several new features such as a competition by area, the final where the tapas have to be prepared before a jury, and the first Ensaladilla Competition.

I’m assuming that, as with the two previous editions, the main competition will be to create the best tapa in Seville for less than 2.50€, but so far the neither the official website or Facebook page is giving out much information yet, not even the list of participants.

As I did last year, I will be posting photos of the tapas I manage to sample, though I think I’ll skip the ensaladilla competition…


[update: new dates announced for this competition]

Sevilla en Boca de Todos
2 May – 27 June 2012.

Five Fab Tapas Bars in Sevilla

It’s often said that the best way to get to know a different culture is through its food, and Sevilla is no exception. The name of the game here is tapas – the small snacks eaten with a drink in bars and cafés. Although some good ones can be found in the more touristy districts, the best are usually those frequented by the locals, so don’t be afraid to do a bit of exploring. There are so many really good tapas bars, ranging from the traditional to the modern, that choosing the five best is a nigh-on impossible task, but these are five of my personal favourites, chosen from five different barrios…

Vineria San Telmo
From the mottos and quotations in several languages painted on the ceiling to an extensive and eclectic selection of wines by the glass, the Vineria San Telmo has been moulded by the philosophy of owner Juan Tarquini. The service here is probably the best of any tapas bar that I’ve been to, and the regularly updated menu is interesting and varied, with both traditional and innovative tapas and several tasty vegetarian options. Try the aubergine, goat cheese and tomato tower, the black pudding crepe in red pepper sauce, or the grilled tuna with tempura fried onions, and finish off with one of the homemade desserts on display in the cabinet just inside the door, which are just as delicious as they look. The busy outdoor terrace has a nice view down the Murillo gardens.

Paseo Catalina de Ribera, 4 (Santa Cruz)
tel. 954 410 600

Eslava
Bar Eslava, just off the Plaza San Lorenzo, is definitely one of those bars that’s always packed with locals, and it’s not hard to understand why. The tapas are top notch and are very reasonably priced. Among my favourites are pork ribs in honey sauce and solomillo in dill sauce, but whatever you try you won’t be disappointed. It’s noisy and convivial, and quite small, so remember to get there early!

c/Eslava 5 (San Lorenzo)
tel. 954 906 568

La Azotea
La Azotea is a cosy and intimate tapas bar and restauraunt just five minutes’ walk from the main shopping streets, and thanks to owners Juan and Jeanine it has a deserved reputation for excellent food and service. There are two menus, one seasonal, and one that changes every week or even daily, depending on what looks good and fresh at the market. Like a lot of places, it’s tapas at the bar, and full or half raciones at the tables. Best to turn up early, as it gets very crowded, very quickly.

Jesús del Gran Poder, 31 (Centro)
tel 955 116 748

Bodeguita Romero
If you want the very best pringá montaditos (a small toasted bun filled with pork, chorizo and blood sausage) in town, Bodeguita Romero is the place to come. Also come here for the marinated potatoes, amazing stewed pig’s cheeks, spinach with garbanzos and Argentinian beef. Great atmosphere, traditional without being old-fashioned, and the staff are efficient and friendly. For me it’s become something of a home from home.

c/ Harinas 10 (Arenal)
tel. 954 229 556

La Primera del Puente
Directly across the river from the Torre del Oro is the delightful Primera del Puente. The decor of this definitely traditional bar celebrates Seville’s nautical past, the service is fast and friendly, and the tapas at the bar are excellent. The speciality is fish and seafood – try the pepito de gambas (a small toasted sandwich with langostines and alioli), grilled swordfish, battered prawns, chiperones or puntillitas and, well, just about anything else, all of it really fresh. La Primera also has a riverside terrace across the street (serves raciones only) with a great view of the city. Lovely and naturally cool in summer.

c/ Bétis 66 (Triana)
tel. 954 276 918

Bread Dough

UPDATED: December 27th 2013

This blog post was originally published back in April 2011, and I thought it was time for an update since the growing nefarious trend of Sevilla tapas bars charging for bread and “service” continues to grow.

It started off small a few years ago, say charging 50 cents for your typical dried-out pre-sliced vienna with a tiny package of picos. More often these days it’s become a 1 euro charge for a small basket of bread, though recently many bars have taken to charging PER PERSON for bread, which amounts to the same as a service charge.  The other day I was charged 5€ for a handful of olives, three slices of bread and a packet of picos because there were five people in my group. Scandalous.

What really irks is stopping off somewhere for a quick tapa and a beer and then finding out that I’ve been charged an extra 1.50€ for a basket of bread, especially when I hadn’t ordered bread and only nibbled on a couple of picos or used a small chunk of bread to soak up a bit of sauce, and then later I see this bread being “recycled”… ewwww.

Bar owners I’ve spoken to like to think that this is somehow a personal issue of mine and say they never hear complaints from anyone else. Well, I hear plenty of complaints from all kinds of people, including other more scrupulous bar owners. It’s not just the unpleasant surprise when you get your bill, this practice actually theatens the entire tradition of tapas bars. Imagine going on a tapeo with four or five friends, visiting several bars in an evening, something that is very common here, and at every stop you get charged an extra 4-6€ for bread or “service”. At the end of the night you’ve paid up to an extra 20-25€ or more… for nothing.

I also hear the arguments that “everyone else is doing it” and “food and drink costs a lot more in other countries”, the first argument being pathetic and the second? That’s kind of the point. Spain is not other countries. You can’t compare eating out in Sevilla to eating out in New York. At least not yet. Is that really what bar owners here want?

I have no problem when the menu clearly lists items like bread and olives and the price for each (usually 1€). I can decide if I really feel like spending extra for those items and if I order them then of course I am happy to pay. But when these items are brought to the table without being asked for, usually before you’ve had time to even look at the menu, then one naturally assumes that they are compliments of the house. In fact, bars are not allowed to charge for any items brought to the table that haven’t been ordered by the client. Likewise, they are not allowed to charge any sort of “service” charge. So if this happens to you at a bar then you are not obliged to pay.

What does this “service” charge even mean? Most visitors from the UK would assume this means it’s the tip for the waiters, which here it isn’t. The wait staff see none of this. So bars who charge for “service” are actually doing their staff a disservice as they will end up getting fewer tips. One restaurant owner recently told me that the “cubierto” charge was not only for bread but also because he uses cloth napkins which cost more than paper ones. I mean, what next? Extra charges for turning on the air-conditioning in summer? For putting toilet paper in the loos? Imagine how much extra bars could make by charging to use the toilets! Really the opportunities for getting something for nothing are endless. Seriously though, what happened to trying to offer something more or something different to attract more customers, being innovative, instead of suddenly charging for things that have always been included as part of regular service? Five years ago there were no bread or service charges in tapas bars. In my opinion people are getting too greedy and lazy.

I say that tapas bars and restaurants should factor in these fixed costs as they are clearly a part of their day-to-day operating expenses and thus should be easy to figure out. Tacking on extra charges like this just feels, well, tacky.  What do you think?

From Official Rules and Obligations for Bars, Restaurants and Cafeterias

“Los servicios no solicitados no se pueden cobrar. Tampoco se pueden cobrar conceptos como, por ejemplo, reservas, cubierto o mesa.”
“Neither unasked-for services nor such things as reservations, cover or table charges, can be charged for.”

Obligaciones de Bares, Restaurantes y Cafeterías