European travel and lifestyle
Tapas are intrinsically Spanish, no question. If you need a reminder, travelling to Seville can show you just how much they’ve been integrated into the city’s weekend culture: Sunday mass or family meet ups with everyone dressed in their smartest clothes, gathering at small bars on even smaller corners.
That’s where the mad bidding begins. There’s no such thing as being soft spoken in Spain: the locals respond to energy and a well-heard order for more croquetas. People send their children to the front to get the barman’s attention (everything is fair in tapas and war). Half a dozen dishes are eaten from small wooden tables or wobbly metal ones at the front.
It’s loud. It’s chaotic. It can even (probably will) get very messy. But that’s Spain – and I love it.
Albeit authentic, what I’m offering today is slightly different, a twist on traditional tapas. Instead of just eating from one small bar, why not try 20 different locations at once?
Enter Mercado Lonja del Barranco. Opened in November 2014, this beautiful riverside market on Calle Arjona is placed inside a glass and iron building designed by Gustave Eiffel (yes, the same guy who plotted that little tower in Paris). The setting is a suitable introduction to what’s on offer inside: 20 stalls offering mouth-watering gourmet tapas. The dishes include undisputed classics such as patatas bravas, Iberian ham, croquetas (croquettes) and squid, to international staples like sushi, mini hamburgers, rice dishes and cheese platters. And, just so you don’t get too parched, there’s also plenty of wine and beer at the entrance.
The market opens from 10AM to 12PM Sunday to Thursday and from 10AM to 2AM on Friday and Saturday. You couldn’t get a better setting for evening drinks: the glass and modern design makes it light and airy, with tables and benches set outside as well as inside. Either way, the glass walls allow a fantastic view of the Guadalquivir and the Puente de Triana, so you won’t miss out no matter where you’re sat.
Although you could say more about the former fish market’s architectural merits, what people really flock there for is the food. You can order directly from the stalls, and most will serve portions in two sizes: a tapa (small) or a ración (large). Different stalls cater to particular preferences, so there will always be tapas to suit every taste.
Replicating the Lonja’s staple trade, this stall is inspired by old fish, seafood and chippy markets. Buyers can choose their favourite cut and watch the cooking process on the spot.
Hailing from Getafe, Madrid, the grill endorses itself as the reference for quality American food in Spanish territory.
Everyone hears praises about the French cheese sector, but Poncelet does a fantastic job selling the Spanish cheese market to the masses.
Cold cut extraordinaires with almost 30 years experience and products ranging from freshly cut jamón and salami to giant sausages and chorizo.
Need I say more? This is a Spanish staple at its best, as well as a market favourite. In sometimes stark contrast to its more adventurous neighbours, a traditional eggs and and potatoes stand always wins customers over.
While you’re enjoying as many raciones as possible, you might as well get yourself a glass of the good stuff to wash it all down.
Even if you’ve enjoyed a Spanish croquette recipe before, you won’t regret picking up a box of sweet and salty ones at the Croquetería. The unique flavours and the stall’s incredible value for money are the secrets behind its success.
The restaurant delivers Asian cuisine with a Sevillian twist. At a food market that broadly specialises in heavy protein and carb dishes, Mushi caters to healthy eating advocates at affordable prices.
You might just melt when you see this stall. The ice cream is rich and creamy, with flavours based on Spanish baked goods and popular global favourites.
So, overall impressions? For a Thursday afternoon, the market was already quite busy, so you would be better off checking it out mid-week than on the weekend. Finding a table was also trickier than anticipated, but most couples and groups were more than happy to share their table with us. The layout was simple and easy to navigate, though trying to retrace steps can be hard due to the amount of people advancing in one direction.
Prices were a higher than your average tapa restaurant, with some coming in closer to the €5 mark than other areas of Seville. However, most servings were generous and prepared on the spot. I’d recommend doing a lap around the market and examining your options before deciding what to buy.
Service was fast, and the stall workers were pleasant and knowledgeable when it came to suggesting different tapas. It was particularly useful when trying to choose one of the many cheeses at Poncelet!
One product I was sad to miss out on was the octopus (pulpo) from the Pulpería. My boyfriend isn’t a seafood fan – even less so when it comes to anything with tentacles. As it was only served in large plates, I could hardly justify having one to myself. There was also half a market left to explore, and I wasn’t about to compromise my choices over one dish. Otra vez será…
Aside from the crowds, I’m glad to say that I could find little fault with Lonja del Barranco. If you’re ever around Seville, make sure to pencil this one in for an evening break!
Have you been to Mercado Lonja del Barranco? Did you try the squid (someone must’ve!)? If you have any other Seville tapa recommendations or want to know more, leave a comment below or tweet me @sideroutes.
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