I can’t believe it’s almost a week since I landed at Heathrow after a week in sunny Spain. Seville is a beautiful city, with a maze of impossibly narrow winding streets and incredible architecture… but obviously my main concerns were a) sherry and b) FOOD. I knew that it could prove tricky to eat a varied vegetarian diet there, Andalusia’s obsession with jamón and bacalao being what it is, but I managed perfectly well. With hindsight, it might have been a good idea to book some self-catering accommodation to take advantage of all the delicious-looking fresh fruit and vegetables we spotted in the markets (but which never seemed to appear on the tapas menus).

My favourite Sevillan speciality was definitely salmorejo – think extra-thick, concentrated gazpacho. I discovered after the first night that it usually comes topped with chopped egg and ham, so Paul spent most of the week scooping the ham off the top for me while I tried to pretend that there was nothing piggy about it all. Tortilla was a great staple, as were slices of manchego cheese (often drenched in olive oil, as if it isn’t delicious and greedy enough as is).

Vegetables, where they appeared in tapas, were generally smothered in cheese and baked – no bad thing, but I craved some fresh veg once the novelty had worn off. A notable exception was Las Golondrinas II, just around the corner from its sister bar, and recommended by Sevilla Tapas as a veggie-friendly choice. Most of the dishes on their menu contained fish, but a selection of small salads included amazing radishes, simply dressed with olive oil and sea salt, and a plate of tender beetroot with red onion. All washed down with copious quantities of Tio Pepe, of course.

Another great recommendation from the Sevilla Tapas website was Soravito, south of the city centre. A wonderfully convivial and low-key neighbourhood favourite, the bar was run by a very friendly multilingual lady who recommended their mushroom croquettes, amongst other dishes, including homemade chocolate tart and cheesecake. We soon realised that we’d been very lucky to get a table there at all as the room filled up very quickly, but, as in every bar we visited, there was never any pressure to pay up and clear the table – lingering over a glass of wine was positively encouraged everywhere.

The weirdest thing I ate all week was without doubt ajo blanco, a cold soup of (I think) milk, almonds, garlic, and grapes. I was initially excited and enthusiastic about something so deliciously different, but soon came to realise that it was the sort of soup of which a shot-glass would suffice. A large bowl of cold garlicky milk soon loses its charm, even when consumed in a cosy characterful bar that takes its name from its speciality.

Ajo Blanco

Venturing out of Seville for the day to visit Córdoba, we found all the recommended restaurants packed out at lunchtime, as well as being alarmingly expensive for what they offered, and so ended up having much the same tapas spread as usual for lunch. We kicked ourselves pretty hard later, when we stumbled upon El Astronauta for a late-afternoon beer and read their lunch menu, which looked inventive, exciting, and tasty. A pity we were too stuffed with fried food to manage anything there.

El Astronauta

We tried to be relatively frugal throughout our stay in Spain, sticking to tapas bars wherever possible, but we did splash out a bit on lunch at ConTenedor, which prides itself on market-fresh produce and hosts art exhibitions on some days of the week. There was nothing vegetarian to be found on the menu at all, but the lovely French waitress managed to convince the kitchen to produce a plate of their rice and mushrooms (much better than it sounds!) without the promised duck. Paul nursed an admittedly naïve and unfounded hope that his jamón iberico and bread might come with “some sort of salad” – as if! Sherry again for me, and we finished with a meltingly tender chocolate fondant to share.

ConTenedor

So now it’s just a question of trying to adjust to not starting every meal with a sherry, not having a sleep in the afternoon, and having to wear layer upon layer of clothing every time I leave the house. Sad times.

Cold, damp, and miserable on Tottenham Court Road last night, Paul and I had a brainwave. Where was guaranteed to cheer, warm, and feed us? Of course: The Salt Yard. Forget the fact that we hadn’t intended to eat out at all that evening. As buzzy and bustling as it was on our last visit a couple of years ago, we managed to score a couple of stools in the upstairs bar for drinks and tapas. The warm welcome and convivial atmosphere was exactly what we needed after trudging round the shops in the rain, and after a fino for me and a white wine for him we were sufficiently revived to consider the food menu.

Paul went for tuna carpaccio with baby broad beans and salsa verde, and we shared fried violet artichokes with pine nut purée and black olive oil, deep-fried courgette flowers filled with Monte Enebro cheese and drizzled with honey, patatas fritas with romesco sauce and aioli, and chargrilled bread with olive oil. The artichokes were crispy nuggets of deliciousness, and the purée added smoothness and substance. I have the courgette flowers every time I visit the Salt Yard, which used to be much more often, and although I was disappointed to note that the plate of three flowers has now shrunk to two, the quality was as high as ever; a perfect balance of crispness, melting cheese, sweet honey, and green freshness from the courgette. I really must learn to make them myself. Even though the patatas fritas were blatantly just chips, they were good ones and the duo of dips classed them up. Chargrilling had added a lovely hint of smokiness to the bread, although the accompanying dish of oil was redundant considering the bread had already been liberally drizzled.

By the time we headed back out into the night, the restaurant was fit to burst, and soggy diners waiting for their tables were queuing around us. It’s definitely worth booking a table in the downstairs restaurant for a more relaxed meal, but the bar’s the place to be if you’re after a more authentic tapas-style experience (and lighting that’s too low for photography, hence the lack of pictures here). Just make sure you have the courgette flowers.

Post-flu and in need of a cheering yet low-key night out, a trip to Moro on Exmouth Market for tapas fit the bill beautifully. It had been far too long since my last visit, but last night was a reminder that it’s equally perfect for a post-work drink, some snacks, and a catch-up as for a special occasion. The lovely Sophie and I perched at the bar – ideal for two people but, I imagine, awkward for a larger group – and worked our way through some deliciously moreish babaganoush, tortilla packed with creamy caramelised onions, and slices of manchego with membrillo, all incredibly delicious and accompanied by plenty of Moro’s own sourdough bread. With Tio Pepe for me and house red for her, we spent a few hours chatting, snacking, and eyeing up the platter of unclaimed tapas left tantalisingly close to us on the other side of the zinc bar.

In the mood for something sweet, we settled on Malaga raisin ice-cream (but were almost tempted by the yoghurt cake with pistachios and pomegranates, as well as the rosewater and cardamom ice-cream) and forgot our restraint altogether with a glass of Pedro Ximénez each. I’ll admit it: I heart Moro. It won’t be long before I’m back at that bar.