Spanish is one of my absolute favourites cuisines. I would probably say that about Thai, Chinese, Mexican, French, Italian and no doubt others depending on my mood, but Spanish food done right is truly tasty. However, emphasis on the ‘done right’. I have yet to experience really amazing Spanish food outside of Spain. I am not sure why that is the case and I am certainly open to dispute if you have some personal favourite Spanish spots.
Some of the best tapas I ever had were in Madrid on my first trip to Spain. Stupidly, I did not note down the name of the restaurant. I will forever regret that. But it was my introduction to traditional tapas. Since then I have enjoyed tapas countless times in Spain, some bad, some good and some extraordinary. Here is my perfect tapas feast.
To start, order patatas bravas, chorizo and some calamari. I can eat a whole patatas bravas tapa on my own easily though I am normally fighting over them with my sister. They are chunky potatoes fried to perfection and smothered in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. The best are also covered in a garlic mayonnaise but that is down to personal preference. Chorizo and calamari are served differently depending on the tapas bar or restaurant. Personally, I love chorizo on its own and I can guarantee it is far better than anything you can buy in a grocery store in the UK and probably in the US. I love calamari when it is breaded and fried which the Spanish do very well but for those who do not enjoy fried food as much as I do, grilled squid is just as tasty. Grilled octopus is also common and perfect for those who like to venture a little further out of their comfort zone.
Next come the gambas al ajillo, croquettes, and tortilla de patatas. If you do not like garlic, pass on the gambas al ajillo but I can guarantee you are missing out. This simple dish of garlicky goodness is very popular in Spain. The traditional Spanish croquette is ham but there are also vegetarian options. It is the last on my list of fried tapas, I promise. While croquettes are served all over the world and traditional to many countries, the best are in Spain. Though never tell that to the French. The tortilla is a Spanish potato omelette and probably my least favourite of the tapas listed here but it is one of the most common traditional dishes and should not be missed.
Finally, if you can fit more food in your stomach, which I normally can, order paella. Though strictly not a tapa, many restaurants serve it in tapa sized portions and if not, go large! Paella is one of my favourite dishes and has become one of the most exported Spanish dishes. But the Spanish still do it best in their home country. It would be a crime to travel to Spain and not experience it!
Above: Outdoor restaurant in Seville, Spain
Photograph by Savannah Hayes