Talking Tapas

Tapas is more than just a fare; it's a meal, a concept, a way of eating.

Tapas is more than just a fare; it’s a meal, a concept, a way of eating.

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Every major cuisine has exported its foods around the world, either in concept or as actual produce. Italy, France, China, Japan, Mexico and the US all have foods or eating concepts that have travelled the globe. For Spain, that food is tapas.

Invented in Andalusian taverns as a way to drive the sale of drinks and prevent flies from getting in your wine (the Spanish word ‘tapa’ means lid), tapas has become a world-wide phenomenon. Since its invention, it has grown to comprise a series of foods and styles of presentation that is copied the world over and not just with traditional Spanish dishes. It is not uncommon to dine in a New York restaurant, or a Scandinavian  one, and be presented with a “tapas-style” menu of dishes that have no origin or connection to Spain.

Back to the Source

Although the tapas concept has spread its global wings; there’s nothing quite like enjoying food in an original setting, which is why many aficionados of this eclectic approach to eating say that one of the best places to enjoy tapas is in Barcelona. The vibrant cultural and commercial nature of the location also means it’s a great place for dining and tapas bars are definitely in plentiful supply.

In Barcelona, tapas can include everything from appetisers to sweets and is served hot, warm or cold. There can be salads, meats, breads, seafood, vegetables, desserts, you name it. Thanks to the small portions, the tapas style dining experience allows the diner to taste a wide variety of dishes in one sitting and it is also a meal that’s perfect for sharing, which is exactly what I did with some food obsessed friends on a recent city break to the Catalan capital from London.

Famous Family Feast

Tickets by the famous Adrià brothers is perhaps the most well-known and hyped of all the tapas bars in Barcelona, not just because of its famous founding fathers, but also because of the quality of the food and the quirky feel of the place. Divided into different sections, each with its own feel and concept, and each one serving different types of tapas and drinks, Tickets is an excellent place to take friends for a fun night out. The menu comprises a mix of cured meats, innovative snacks, oysters and other seafood, as well as sweets to end a spectacular meal. Albert Adrià also recently opened Bodega 1900, another tapas bar taking its name from the year the building in which the restaurant resides was constructed. The menu changes depending on the season and the produce available at the local market, but diners can expect traditional tapas from the turn of the 20th century, but interpreted in a new way.

Heritage Treasure

Cal Pep is a veteran on the Barcelona tapas scene and the queues outside of this institution are a sure sign that the owners are doing something right. The restaurant is set in a rustic space with a long bar where diners sit and watch the chefs work their magic on fresh produce sourced straight from the local market. A commitment to the freshest ingredients means that the menu changes daily, so it’s a good idea to ask for what’s new or even ask the chefs to come up with a personalised menu especially for you. Make sure you book in advance if you don’t want to wait hours at the bar.

Tapas Taste Tour

For a laid back, no-fuss experience, head to the Casa Jacinta near Parc de Joan Miro. The Peruvian owners make some excellent meatballs in tomato sauce, empanadas with various fillings and a rich venison Pâté. The wine list is small but well curated and the bottles very affordable. Another popular place to enjoy some good quality tapas in a great atmosphere is Maitea, off Avinhuda Diagonal road. Popular with locals and foreigners, the concept is easy and fun; you pick plates of meat, cheese, stuffed bell peppers, or seafood off the bar, each kept in place with pintxos, which means spikes. At the end of your meal, the pintxos will be counted and your bill settled that way. Make sure to try the squid from the a la carte menu too.

Classic Catalan Fare

A landmark when it comes to tapas in Barcelona, Cerveceria Catalana has managed to keep locals and tourists keen with an exhaustive menu that includes everything from traditional dishes such as patatas bravas and manchego cheese to less common dishes that include specialised Catalan picks. A place for fast breaks and bites; the atmosphere is not ideal for a longer session with friends you haven’t seen for years.

Although most tapas menus feature a stable of classic favourites, the depth and variety of creations on offer can differ considerably from place to place. If you want to plan your taste sensations in advance, it’s a good idea to peruse the menu offerings online before you head off on a culinary adventure.

Click to savour the flavours below:

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