When dining out in Spain don’t expect to take a seat at one restaurant and stay there. The towns and cities of Andalusia in the country’s south are all wall to wall with food experiences so stopping at one place just won’t cut it. Like the bulls that this area is famous for its people also graze long and slow. You could be excused for thinking they share the four stomachs of the bull as they dine out but there is a knack to this way of eating. Start small and match each course with some good wine and you are on your way to a Spanish style degustation.
First course at a typical tapas bar eating some simple local dishes. A white wine accompanied by a local favourite, fried eggplant topped with honey. Followed by prawns in garlic oil sizzling in a small clay tapas bowl.
Not all tapas sticks to the traditions of Spain. Next stop is the Soho non stop tapas bar which takes international flavours and shapes them into the small plate format. These guys really impressed so eight plates and a couple of drinks followed. Porcini mushroom risotto, crunchy wild rice with octopus, grilled bratwurst, home made sausage in caramelised onions, a rich beef and vegetable braise, fried potato with four cheese sauce and a cheese potato gnocchi came slowly to the table to make up the bulk of our meal for the night. The drinks for my girl a local dry white wine and for me the Andalusian favourite Tinto de Verano, a refreshing blend of one part red wine to one part “gaseosa” which is like a soft lemonade(50/50 lemonade to soda water mix).
Now for something sweet we head to Casa Aranda, an old Churros cafe that is super popular with the locals. They serve only churros, chocolate and coffee and have done so for decades. Fresh from oil puffy light churros served with a mug of melted chocolate not too sweet and not to bitter. Coffee comes to the table black with milk added from a height by waiters who must have poured into a million cups over the years.
After this sugar and caffeine hit it is time to head to another Malaga landmark untouched by the flow of time the Antigua Casa de Guardia. This old room with a dirty concrete floor holds barrels of local Malaga region fortified wines served straight from the barrel. Some twenty barrels with varieties such as Vermut, Pajarete and Pedro Ximen served in small tumblers. Every order is marked down in chalk on the bar to pay when you have had your fill.
About this time the camera goes away and the tale gets a little blurry. The Spanish dine and drink on late into the night and so the end of this tale of degustation must remain untold. Wherever you travel eat and drink when the locals eat and where the locals eat. Food and culture are inseparable so a night out with the locals will teach you more about a place than any museum or guidebook ever will.
Story by Wade Ranson
Photography by Wade and Michelle Ranson