Tapas in Spain is meant to be a starter that opens up the appetite. My experience, however, was a bit different. Every time I ordered a few tapas from the menu, I was pretty much done for the day.
So here we are, in Barcelona (husband, me and the two children). On Las Ramblas, the main artery or hub of the city, that has thousands of people walking on it everyday. You see shops, cafes, souvenir stands, bars on both sides of the pedestrian walkway.
We had been warned not to eat at places on the main road and instead look for the more sleepy looking restaurants in small alleys. Too hungry and jet lagged to care, we walked into the first place that had a sign board saying "Enjoy Spanish Tapas."
So what do we order here? Patatas Bravas (fried, spicy potatoes) Anchovies Shrimp Olives Meatballs in tomato sauce
The menu offers no more of an explanation. We order a bite for everybody. Family and kids look pleased. Till the food arrives.
The deep fried potatoes taste of cold stale oil, the shrimp and anchovies are batter fried, and taste like wannabe-pakodas. The meatballs in tomato sauce is somewhat edible, just a shade better than the rest. What we did polish off was the olives. I suspect that's because there was no cooking involved. And so went our first meal in Spain. And mind you, it wasn't cheap by any standards. This tasteless bite sized meal, which came in huge portions put us back by 50 euros for 4 people!
Even though I never allow my kids to waste food, I was willing to make this an exception. I knew that consuming this meal would have dire consequences on our digestive tracts as well as alter our feelings about the rest of our trip in Spain. After all, food is paramount to having a good holiday. And looking at the bright side, it could only get better from here on.
The good news was, every tapas meal after this did get better. And the best one was at a tiny village square, in a town called Elviria. The kind of place you see in foreign films, where the playground is filled with kids, and the elderly are walking hand in hand against picture-pretty homes.
So what do we order now? Octopus in Paprika. Mussels cooked in garlic and cream. Marinated Olives. Hot and Spicy Chicken wings cooked in harissa.
The food comes in saucer-like plates. Superbly fresh and subtly flavored. We were one happy family. And this meal cost us not more than 35 euros, including a bottle of Spanish wine, and 2 Cokes. The long and short of eating tapas in Spain was clear. You must scan the menu carefully to see if everything is not just batter fried. Avoid the restaurants on Las Ramblas, if in Barcelona. Opt for the lesser known places, and chances are, you'll get really lucky. Like we eventually did.
CommentsIn case you didn't know: Tapas originated when King Alfonso, X, was unwell, and the royal doctor ordered him to have frequent bite sized meals through the day with wine. After he recovered, he apparently laid down the law that no restaurant would serve wine without food.