What do you think of when you think of Seville?
Wherever we travel, we’re always looking for good food. That is absolutely the priority for us as food is our obsession. Finding new flavours, new combinations, new ways of presenting, cooking, new producers – it’s all to do with food.
We set up our deli in Bristol, Papadeli, 20 years ago and much of our inspiration came from our travels and time living in Spain, Italy, France. In those days, there was nowhere near as much outside influence on British cuisine. We’re so lucky to have an incredible array of ingredients from Europe these days, as well as a superb range of British producers that just weren’t around then.
Our enthusiasm for food and travel took us this year to Seville. Simon and I had been there about 25 years ago and remember the oranges, the winding streets and beautiful cathedral and Alcazar palace. We could vaguely remember eating tapas, and loving it. Fast forward to December 2022 and we visited a city that has changed so much.
There are so many parts to this city, each with its own character. The sun shone in December and the skies were blue. A great escape from some pretty wet UK weather!
Our first evening, we arrived late. The excellent thing about Spain is that you can eat late into the evening. We found a nearby square and installed ourselves outside a tapas bar. Something we had to try was the Ines Rosales (we sell them in the deli – large crisp round biscuits made with olive oil) with pollo al curry (chicken curry). Quite a step away from traditional tapas. The waiter was amazed we knew what they were. During our stay we noticed pollo al curry and gyozas have become a staple on many tapas menus. After a reasonable meal, we wondered across the little square and noticed a beautifully furnished old hotel – with a piano bar. We made our way up the tiled stairs (Seville is full of beautifully designed tiles) to the piano bar which was a long room full of antique furniture and paintings. No piano playing but it was late and apart from a French couple, we were the only people there.
We had a bottle of red between us and were delighted to see this lovely old hotel didn’t charge ridiculous prices. Would definitely recommend Las Casas de la Juderia and we went back a couple of times as it was such a lovely, peaceful space.
In contrast, the next evening, we stumbled upon a much more lively place. We were winding our way back to our flat and heard clapping – walking through a courtyard into a dimly lit, large, well, I’d describe it as a shed, full of people chatting and drinking. Suddenly the whole place went quiet and a man’s voice started singing a beautiful Sevillana song to be joined by a fabulous dancer all dressed in black, on a tiny bit of concrete in the corner. Her dance told a story and it was all brilliantly dramatic. A glass of decent wine was 2 Euros here – we came back to La Carboneria a few times! Each evening there was a different dancer – so different to the more touristy shows offered in other parts of the city. Really loved it here.
Food highlights in Seville
We’d booked a table for lunch at Contenedor
Superbly quirky decor and arty interior with marvellous waiting staff. It’s a slow food restaurant and its menu contains no tapas, which was a relief at that point as we’d had quite a lot! The menu was really creative, featuring artisan cheese plates, local wines, seafood, meats. As we found with most other restaurants and tapas bars, there wasn’t a huge choice for vegetarians (lots of ox tail, pig cheeks, seafood, ham croquettes to be found all over), I had giant cannelloni filled with a classic Sevillan spinach / kale with chickpea combination. It wasn’t brilliant but I loved the spirit of it! The cheese board we had to start featured four cheeses we’d not heard of or tried before, which is always a delight as we have so many cheeses in the deli. One was so aged that its saltiness almost burnt the mouth, but it was strangely more-ish. We loved the idea of starting the meal with cheese too. Sam had black / squid ink rice with mussels and Tom the oxtail. Some of it worked, some didn’t, but the whole atmosphere and ethos of the place absolutely won us over
Breakfast is normally a chocolate croissant with coffee or similar if you’re out and about so we were so happy to find Naturalmente which serves brilliant brunches of vegan and meat breakfast dishes. Simon and I had fruit, granola and yoghurt (we had eaten so much by then we craved something healthy!) And Tom had wholemeal pancakes with vegan chocolate sauce. Again service was so friendly and they happily brought another jug of chocolate sauce when Tom ran out. Good coffee and great juice combinations. We were very happy here.
We were lucky to get a table here the day before New Year’s Eve. They had a cancellation and the wonderful owner called us to say we could have a table. It’s situated in El Porvenir area of Seville, which seems to be pretty popular for new and great eateries. Estraperlo is a cooperative bringing zero kilometre sourced food and produce in the form of a deli, cookery school and restaurant. The bread was so good! So was the chickpea and kale soup we all shared alongside boquerones marinated anchovies and an absolutely delicious tomato and almond salad. I had pasta carbonara (again a bit challenging for veggies or vegans) and Tom pork cheek. Simon and Sam shared a steak (rare for us these days) which was locally sourced. Wine and soft drinks all excellent and beautifully sourced. Loved it here.
Other highlights – art and shopping
Feria area of the city is superb for its Thursday morning vintage market. Lots and lots of great stalls selling clothes, unusual knick knacks like tiny dolls hands (!) and glorious religious relics. There are lots of vintage shops here too and we spent a happy morning meandering and browsing.
The more modern shopping area of Seville is great – and the sales were on which is an added bonus.
I do love a bit of contemporary art! Situated a little outside the centre, we took a bus to what was an slightly industrial suburb. The gallery is an old church and farm I think, surrounded by water and greenery. Quite surreal in the suburban setting. I had low expectations as the website is fairly simple and entrance just under 8 euros for the four of us. WOW we loved it here. The bar is full of character (lots of outside seating, very simple inside cafe area). The waiting staff were fabulous and the menu slightly random but great! From pollo al curry (chicken curry – this time with rice) and I think there were gyozas from memory. Oh and the tempura vegetables were excellent. Each dish was around 4 Euros. Definitely not an upmarket gallery cashing in.
The first thing you come across is an ancient ochre building with a giant face and hand looking out at you. We entered the old chapel to see a machine shooting clay cannon balls at a tiled wall, the colour of bruises. Each ball damaged the wall a little more. It was violent (bringing to mind stoning) and strangely mesmerising (the rhythmic release of the balls drew you in). Quite a start.
The gallery is a series of rooms and courtyards around the chapel leading on to a corridor of larger spaces. The variety and brilliance of the art and installations was breathtaking and the curation just brilliant. From commentary on the global economy (yes, it’s fascinating!) to political and feminist installations and art. You must go! I would honestly visit Seville just for this.
Back to markets
Feria is a great indoor food market. Buzzing with people and food. Definitely worth a stop especially for its location near the river.
Roof top bars
We do love a roof top bar and there are so many in Seville. Isme hotel is up market and full of smart young things, Abba Hotel near las Setas, an enormous mushroom like edifice is a little more laid back. Loved both for their views.
On New Year’s Eve, we took the train to Cordoba to visit the Mesquita. An unmissable, gigantic cathedral built around a mosque. Just breathtaking. You can spend hours here wandering around or just sitting and people watching. The orange trees in the outside courtyard were laden and fragrant. Gorgeous. And it’s beautiful town for wondering around.
We absolutely loved Seville. It’s great at this time of year if you get the blue skies and warm sun. Plentiful tapas options, so much to see, super friendly. Good in Winter and Spring. Think Summer is hot so unless you love the heat try and avoid. Would recommend a visit any time.