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Where to go on a tapas crawl in Granada

You’ll find the true taste of this Andalusian city in its small plates, from seafood salads to croquetas and meatballs.

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View of The Alhambra and Albaicín neighbourhood, Granada.

Photograph by Getty
By Jessica Vincent
Published 10 Jun 2022, 06:04 BST

Eating tapas has brought Spaniards together for centuries, but determining its origins can be divisive. Some believe the clue is in the name: the word ‘tapa’ comes from the Spanish word ‘tapar’, meaning ‘to cover’; the story goes that when King Alfonso XIII stopped for a drink in a beachfront bar in Cadiz, he needed something to protect his wine from the flies and sand, so a waiter put a slice of ham on top of the glass. Another theory has it that an earlier monarch, King Alfonso X, invented the tapa after being prescribed alcohol for an illness — he used the small portions of food to help him stay sober. 

Much like its history, the definition of tapas depends on where you are in the country. But in Granada — an ancient Andalucian city with one of the largest student populations in Spain — it can only mean one thing: a free plate of food with your drink. While raciones (larger sharing plates you have to pay for) are chalked on blackboards across the city, the best way to enjoy Granada’s tapas scene is to bar hop from bodega to bodega, letting the food flow as slowly — or as quickly — as the vermouth.

Night one

Start the evening at Bodegas Castañeda, a tavern in Plaza Nueva where ham legs hang from the ceiling and vermouth and moscatel are served straight from the barrel. The best place to stand is at the bar, where lightning-fast waiters dish out saucer-sized plates of salpicón (a vinegary salad of octopus, crab sticks and onion), habas con jamón (broad beans with cured ham) and hard-boiled eggs stuffed with tuna and red pepper. 

Afterwards, follow the crowds across the street to the intricately carved doors of Bodegas La Mancha. If there’s no room at the bar, grab a barrel on the street and wait for plates of chicken and mushroom stew and blue cheese croquetas, which are best paired with a cold caña (smaller than a half pint of beer) or tinto de verano (red wine mixed with soda). And if you’re ordering from the menu, try La Mancha’s flamenquines, pork loin wrapped in serrano ham and deep-fried in breadcrumbs. 

End the night at nearby Los Manueles, a restaurant that dates back to 1917 and has an experimental selection of tapas, including mini tortellini carbonara and jumbo-sized croquetas filled with cured ham and bechamel sauce, served with lightly spiced pickled cabbage. There’s plenty of seating available and the atmosphere is more relaxed than the bodegas, so take your time over some of the heartier items like roasted garlic soup and tennis ball-sized albóndigas — meatballs in a paprika-spiced tomato sauce — which can be ordered individually.

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Albóndigas, a classic tapas dish.

Photograph by Peter Cassidy - Ryland Peters & Small

Night two

The next evening, head to Plaza Bib-Rambla, Granada’s pedestrianised square that’s lined with 19th-century townhouses, for seafood tapas at Bar Los Diamantes. Apart from a garlic mushroom tapa, the free dishes here — steamed mussels, grilled prawns, fried anchovies — are exclusively fishy. If you’re in the mood for a racion, the clams and prawns with artichokes cooked in lashings of butter are sublime. 

Sticking to seafood, make the five-minute journey to Cunini, where some of Granada’s most generous tapas portions are served on a striking marble bar studded with Roman-style pillars. This 1950s restaurant is best known for its award-winning ensaladilla de gambas (a silky-smooth potato and prawn salad whose trophy sits proudly by the till), but the hunks of fried hake and seafood rice, which features mussels and prawns from the nearby Costa Tropical, are also wonderful. 

Finish the evening next door at Restaurante Oliver, where migas (pan-fried breadcrumbs with chorizo and peppers) and baby tuna sandwiches are the star tapas. To finish, order a pionono — a dinky cinnamon sponge cake with toasted cream — to enjoy with a coffee.

How to do it
Vueling has introduced five new routes between London and Spain for summer 2022, including three-times-weekly flights from London Gatwick to Granada. Hotel Barceló Carmen Granada has doubles from €63 (£53) a night, B&B. 

Recipe: albóndigas

These meatballs can be served with aioli and lemon instead of tomato sauce if you prefer. The meatballs reheat well, and once cooked they’ll last 2-3 days in the fridge.

Serves: 4   
Takes: 1 hr 15 mins 

150g minced pork
150g minced veal
1 tsp lemon juice 
½ small onion, peeled and 
finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled 
and crushed
2 tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
½ tsp ground cloves
30g dried breadcrumbs
1 egg 
1 tbsp single cream
plain flour, for dusting
2 tbsp olive oil

For the tomato sauce
125ml white wine
400g tin chopped tomatoes
½ small onion, peeled and 
finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled 
and crushed
½ tsp smoked sweet paprika
1 bay leaf

Put the pork and veal in a large bowl. Add the lemon juice, onion, garlic, parsley, nutmeg, cloves, breadcrumbs, egg, cream and a pinch each of salt and white pepper (black can be used instead). Mix, then roll into 16 walnut-sized balls. Sprinkle with flour to lightly coat.
Add the oil to a large saucepan or casserole, and place over a medium-high heat. When the oil is smoking, add the meatballs and fry for 2-3 mins, moving them around, 
until browned on all sides.
Reduce heat to low. Add the sauce ingredients and 100ml water. Cover with a lid and simmer for 1 hr. The sauce should be quite wet, so add extra water if needed. Serve warm. 

Recipe taken from Tapas: and Other Spanish Plates to Share (£9.99, Ryland Peters & Small)

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Published in the Jul/Aug 2022 issue of National Geographic Traveller (UK)

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