With the evolution of European cuisine over recent years – Spanish chefs are currently at the forefront of contemporary European cooking. The real change came when Restaurant magazine revealed their annual World 50 Best Restaurants list and regularly now three or four Spanish eateries have made the top ten.
Fantastic food can be found in every region of Spain and not just the fancy new- wave things either. Tapas, Gazpacho, Tortilla and Paella that you may have experienced in the UK is on a whole new level when made with the correct ingredients that are grown and consumed in their natural surroundings.
Unfortunately with a lot of restaurants now catering for the foreign clientele, can convince you that something as simple as egg, chips, pizza and sangria are a Spanish national diet. However you will always find a good restaurant where the locals eat and all at good value for money, especially if you find the menú del dia, the bargain fixed- price lunch that is a standard fixture across the country.
Breakfast, snacks and sandwiches
The traditional Spanish breakfast (desayuno) is definitely what would be classed as continental; chocolate con churros are long, extruded tubular doughnuts and usually served with thick drinking chocolate or coffee. Majority of bars and cafes will specialise in this, but also cater for the tourists by the other types of food on offer, such as: cakes and pastries (bollos or pasteles), croissants and toast (tostadas) or crusty sandwiches (bocadillos) that usually comes with a choice of fillings. The average sandwich is just ham and cheese which seems to be their staple sandwich filling unless otherwise stated.
Bars, tapas and raciones
One of the Spain’s most popular creations has been the tapas movement – little portions of food that is traditionally served with a free drink in a bar (although often disputed, the word is from tapar which means to cover which suggests a cover for drinks glasses).
Tapa is such a versatile dish that it can be a handful of olives, a slice or two or cured ham, a little dish of meatballs or chorizo, spicy fried potatoes or battered squid. They are often either laid out on a counter to show you what is available, or on a blackboard menu. Most bars have a speciality dish and Spaniards who are familiar with them will commonly move from bar to bar, having just the one dish they consider is the best in each bar.
As mentioned previously, tapas is commonly handed out with a drink, but these days you pay for tapas (Granada and León are exceptions) usually around €1.50–4 a portion. Raciones (around €6–12) are simply bigger plates of tapas, perfect for sharing or enough for a meal – you’re sometimes asked if you want a tapa or a ración of whatever it is you’ve chosen.
Tapas does vary from region to region. In northern Spain they are often called pinchos (pintxos), especially in the Basque provinces. In these area’s tapas typically comes served on a slice of baguette or held together with a cocktail stick and by counting these at the end is how the server would total up your bill. This kind of tapas can be as simple as a cheese cube on bread or a far more elaborately sculpted concoction; they are also known as montaditos (basically, canapés). Famously good places across Spain for tapas-tasting include Madrid, León, Logroño, San Sebastián, Granada, Seville and Cádiz.