I don’t think we had the best luck food-wise. I have absolute faith in the culinary offering in Seville. I believe there are places that will live up to its reputation; we just didn’t manage to eat in many… I was determined to go with the flow a bit more and not dictate our dining quite so much. We’d been told that any restaurant you wander in to in Seville will likely serve up something decent so we mostly just stopped in somewhere convenient when we felt peckish.
The exception to this was ConTenedor. I had done a bit of research in advance and thought this looked like a safe compromise between more than tapas but not too posy. It ranked relatively highly on Trip Advisor, the modern travel bible it seems, and the reviews were really positive so it was one of the few places I ear marked as a destination. In heading to the restaurant, one fortuitous occurrence at least, was stumbling across quite possibly the most dramatic paso we saw. Dramatic because it was down a narrow street and took up nearly the entirety as was, dramatic because they then decided to rotate it perpendicular to the road to face a church doorway (nothing short of miraculous) and dramatic because the street burst into song which was clearly so poignant it left members of the gathered crowd overcome with tears.
Once the spectacle had passed on by we stumbled into ConTenedor. Despite me emailing in advance to try and reserve, in the best rusty Spanish I could muster, we never heard back. No tables, they said. I looked around at nothing but empty tables and felt like I was the butt of a joke. All reserved, they said. Just as we prepared to leave the managed had a light bulb moment. There was a table reserved that wouldn’t be in use until 4:30pm (it was 1:45pm). Maybe we could use that? What I will say is that the design of the interior is certainly original. I loved gazing around and I’m sure if you were looking for a date destination, some of the tables tucked in at the back under the haze of fairy lights would hit the nail on the head.
So we did. Seated we were explained the chalkboard menu and tried to decide. Safe in the knowledge that my mum had ordered the duck and rice dish acclaimed in several reviews (and knowing I would sneak a taste) I plumped for the pasta dish with wild boar. We also decided on a pâté and ‘ecological’ cheese board to share. The board arrived and was fine… It looked really decent but would I defy anyone to get excited by it. The pâté was ok but drastically under seasoned; if you lucked out and got a bit of the rock salt sprinkled sparingly on the top, you were alright. The cheeses were pretty bland and the chutney portion, measly.
The mains arrived, and it was a similar story. Really nothing whizz-bang. The boar was nicely cooked and probably the best thing in front of us, the pasta silky and soft but that’s as far as I’ll go. The famed duck dish was extremely salty (talk about a tale of two halves) and the rice dry, clumpy and uninspiring. Even the overcooked duck lacked umph. Even the lashings of sauce, for some reason unbeknownst to me, smothered over the rim of the bowls rather than on the food, couldn’t salvage the situation. The last sting was the price tag which came in as the most expensive meal we ate by a clear mile. I’ll be honest think I was my own worst enemy in this instance. Never build your expectations too high purely based on Trip Advisor.
For one of our more spontaneous lunches we found ourselves in Robles Laredo, one of four restaurants of the sort across Seville. Conversely, here gets some very average reviews now I’ve looked in retrospect but we had quite a nice selection of tapas so, maybe anecdotal, but positive from me. The jamón was some of the best we tasted. They also have an attractive patisserie with, what look like, delicious cakes. The location of this café is probably the best asset; it’s on the corner of one of the main shopping streets with a view over the Plaza de San Francisco. The price also helps; we both ate lunch for around €25 (admittedly with no alcoholic drinks).
I’ve not been the most upbeat in this post I realise so now time to really praise something and I would definitely say that El Mercado Lonja del Barranco deserves the praise. This renovated World Heritage Historical Site has been repurposed and now houses a gourmet market proving to be a hot spot for Andalusian cuisine. The crisp interior is light and airy but clever use of lighting softens the mood and keeps the atmosphere warm as if bathed in sunshine. We headed here after spotting the market in a newspaper article and weren’t disappointed. What this place offers is to enjoy tapas hopping all under one roof.
The dishes are prepared in front of your eyes and you can choose precisely what you want. Every stand provides cutlery and serves up tapas portions so how you design your meal is up to you. It may be that you want to gather in everything you want at the start or, alternatively, make a lovely leisurely afternoon out of tasting each nibble one after the other taking it in turns to pick what you fancy. Our favourite was the cheese bar, Cheese Tavern. You won’t make the right call every time, and maybe you’ll disagree, but that’s the fun of it and when you’re only dealing in a few euros a tapas you’ve got licence to experiment. All this adds up to a very social, foodie afternoon and a great introduction to Seville’s culinary make-up.
A last mention goes to Catalina Casa de Comidas. I’m slightly saddened while I write this. We chanced upon the place for coffee late one evening and I didn’t click that it was one of the other restaurants I’d really liked the look of. We promised each other we would go back, and decided upon going for our last night, a Monday. Mistake. So many restaurants in Seville are closed on a Monday and Catalina was one of them. One on the list for next time…