According to legend – well, one legend, anyway – tapas were invented in Seville, when bartenders placed a saucer on top of a glass of wine to keep out the flies, then added a little ham or some olives. In any case, Andalucia is the heartland of this quintessentially Spanish snack – and here are ten unmissable tapas bars to try in the region, from Seville to Málaga, Ronda to Granada…
C Hernando Colón 8, Tel: 955 123811, www.ovejasnegrastapas.com
Just around the corner from the cathedral but packed with locals as well as visitors, this buzzy modern bar keeps the quality high and the atmosphere relaxed. Fusion flavour combinations make for some stellar tapas plates, which are very generously proportioned. Wines are excellent also.
C Cárcer 8, Tel: 952 609 458, www.eltapeodecervantes.com
Intimate and charming, one of Málaga’s best tapas options is a couple of blocks north of Plaza de la Merced. You might have to wait for one of the few tables, but it’s worth it, with excellent traditional dishes backed up by some highly original creations. Closed Monday.
C Acera del Darro 8, Tel: 958 255008
Open since 1911, this is a deserved local favourite, nicknamed El Elefante perhaps because it's so small. Decked out with dark wood, hanging hams and old wine bottles, and without a seat in the place, it's a classic Spanish bar and has heaps of atmosphere. There are deli products from all over Spain, such as Jabugo ham, Galician cheese, Burgos morcilla and Bierzo chorizo. There's also tasty house vermouth from the barrel. Tapas are not free here.
C Rodrigo Caro 1, Tel: 954 213246
This busy and cheerful bar does some of Sevilla’s choicest tapas and montaditos, with cazón en adobo or pringá particularly delicious. As the night wears on, the frantically busy bar staff wipe what they’ve run out of off the menus, which are chalked up at each end of the bar. Sees plenty of tourists but still very authentic. Also known as Las Columnas.
Av Miguel Cano 15, Tel: 952 857913, www.bodegaslavenencia.com
In this promising tapas zone between the old town and the beach, this is the most outstanding choice. There’s an excellent range of cold and hot plates; you can’t really go wrong. There’s cheerful seating around barrels both inside and out, and top service.
Gran Vía de Colón 59, Tel: 958 202138
Steeped in tradition, this bar is more than a century old and doesn't seem to have changed much. It's a fabulous spot, a big bodega with its own wine served from barrels, tiles on the walls, raciones and tapas of things like cooked ham that really hit the spot, and a patina of generations of contented customers.
C Nueva 4, T952-877209, www.tragata.com
The delicious fare at this central tapas bar features plenty of innovation, with ox tataki taking its place alongside salmon with vanilla and lime or fried squid sandwich with salsa brava.
C García de Vinuesa 11, Tel: 954 221242
This great old place is in a one-time sherry bodega – the big jars in one of the two bars used to hold the stuff. The service is old style, with orders scrawled on serviettes and friendly chat. The tapas and montaditos are served on a wee wooden tray; the guiso del día (stew of the day) is often a tempting option.
C Don Juan Diaz 4, Tel: 952 603920, https://trillomalaga.com
This warm and convivial spot is an atmospheric tapas stop. Excellent wines are available by the glass, and there’s a big range of bar food, from trillos served on toasted bread, to revueltos and delicious chopped steaks. There's also a restaurant menu, served in the spacious interior or on the terrace.
C Monjas del Carmen 2, Tel: 958 222595
A dark and atmospheric venue with one of the city's best selections of wines by the glass. Work your way through the regions of Spain; the bartender will be happy to give advice on some of the lesser known choices such as Ribeiro, Somontano and Bierzo. These all come well accompanied; the bar specialises in ham and chorizo, and there are tempting mixed platters of pâtés and cheeses available, and some seriously delicious ciabattas, as well as the mouth-watering queen scallops, zamburiñas. Draws a loyal Granada crowd who never tire of discussing the significant merits of Spanish food and wine. Tough to find (the name isn't prominent), but worth the effort.