The first time I was introduced to ‘Tapas’ was in a restaurant in Chennai, India. They called it the Tapas bar. And then, in Dubai. Neither was anything like what Tapas is supposed to be. Spain taught me that.
To understand it’s true essence you’ve got to wrap your head around one thing – the Spaniards are super social. They love their evenings and their evenings go all the way into late nights. Dinner begins at 10 pm, so an hour of Tapas at a local bar before dinner is quite the norm. I remember my first night in Seville. Walked out of my hostel at 7 30 pm looking for dinner, and restaurants weren’t even open. Wine, however, was available everywhere.
Tapas is basically your small portion finger food that comes with the glass of wine (or your choice of alcohol). Think salads, deep fried seafood, mushrooms and pastries. You can never plan ahead and go to a tapas bar. That defeats the true spirit of tapas. Walk impromptu into random noisy local bars, get your drink and the platter. This is usually accompanied with TV, but conversations are cool too. There are pockets of places around Spain that are known for the Tapas scene. Be sure to ask a localite for the best area to explore. Louder they get, better they are.
BEFORE YOU TAPAS
Here are a few things to know before you begin your tapas trail if you want your purse strings held tight –
There is usually an extra charge for sitting at a table. If you’re game to stand at the bar, you pay the least.
If you want to stand at an outdoor table (which is totally a thing all over Europe), you will most likely pay more than a seat at an indoor table. Because the view deserves more moolah!
The cost mentioned will dramatically increase if you order seafood tapas. And all you see displayed is seafood. Ask for the price in particular.
Vegetarian tapas is not a myth. But you have to ask for it.
You will see these words written on chalkboards everywhere – charcuteria (meat platter), quesa (cheese platter), banderilla (spicy, pickled veggies), rabas (calamari), jamon (ham).
Beware of the portion size. Racione is a full plate and that’s good for dinner. Unless you are planning to make a dinner off of Tapas (which I totally recommend), ask for half racione or media racione. This is a small platter.
Breadbasket is usually a free accompaniment.
The real nightlife of Spain is culturally rooted around Tapas. So give it a go.