Louise Spratt gets her teeth into the tapas bars of Granada and suggests those you shouldn't miss on a trip to the Spanish city
Granada is famed for its take on tapas. Not only does the city offer an inexhaustible selection of bars at every ten paces, each with their unique signature dishes or Andalusian classics, but tapas are also free. That’s right, free. The establishment may allow for choice or it could be down to luck of the draw but, either way, in Granada's tapas bars every beverage, alcoholic or soft, automatically gets you one free portion of tapas.
Given the extensive choice of bars and culinary delights, it’s easy to see why reaching a decision about where to tapear come 10pm often proves to be, well, difficult.
Among the hordes, however, a handful of establishments boast some spark of innovation and it’s certainly worthwhile veering off the tourist trail to find some of these tapas treats.
Aside from having a better ring to it in English, the name ‘Taps and Tapas’ gives a hint about this bar’s little quirk; here you can serve your own beer on draught at the table. The installed pumps are wired up to TV monitors that clock up the centilitres poured, so you can keep an eye on the amount you’re consuming – or compete with the other tables, if you so wish.
Unlike most novelty factor gimmicks, the beer works out no more expensive than the average price of a tubo (long glass) and each litre warrants four free tapas, which are by no means small. Grifos y Tapas allow choice from an ample selection and highlights include the savoury crépes with spinach and cheese, or the more traditional patatas a lo pobre (potatoes pan-fried with olive oil and peppers) with chorizo. There’s even a list of sweet tapas if you have room after all the bubbles.
Situated near a university faculty, it’s unsurprisingly a hit for the local students, although its doors are open to all travellers, and plenty of seating equates to a lively atmosphere every night.
Grifos y Tapas: Calle Almenillas 1, 18003 Granada
The international food scene is rapidly expanding in Granada, with new country-specific restaurants popping up all over the place, appealing to the more adventurous ‘foodie’ about town. Bella Kurva has jumped on the ethnic food bandwagon but what’s nice about this place is that it maintains the pick ‘n’ mix vibe of tapas, allowing customers to sample specialities from a range of cuisines including Japanese, Thai and Italian.
Bella Kurva is not the only exotic tapas bar, nor does it have the biggest choice but it earns a place in this list for its service, stylish presentation of dishes and, more importantly, for being less touristy than the competition. The décor is subtle, featuring female silhouettes and menu listings on the wall, and Japanese comics under the table glass give it a trendy feel.
Highlights include the sushi-inspired rice rolls (available in three flavours), and the ceviche, a dish taken from Peru’s triumphant gastronomic repertoire, is a must. White fish marinated in lime juice, chilli and coriander creates a summery zing that contrasts nicely with the crunchiness of the toasted corn nibbles.
Bella Kurva: Calle de San Jerónimo 19, 18001 Granada
As the name would suggest this tapas bistro is very original, innovative in fact. Falling under the neologism ‘gastrotapas’, Versión Original presents exquisite and daring dishes, all artistically presented.
Situated across the river in a tranquil residential zone – a good 15 minute walk from the centre – this contemporary gem is yet to be discovered by tourists that, combined with the designer-esque furnishings and pristine yet warming finish, give it a real sense of exclusivity.
The tapas here blends the traditional with the new, such as the Spanish tortilla canapés topped with fried quails eggs and a splash of salmorejo to decorate the plate. Others break the mould, like the shredded chicken wrapped in strudel pastry, pepped up by toasted pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries and embellished with an unexpected drizzling of chocolate sauce!
Versión Original: Calle Guarnon 1 Loc-5, 18008 Granada
Named after Egyptian singer Um Kulthum, particularly adored by Arabic classical music fans and belly dancers, this bar successfully combines Moroccan food with the Spanish tapas tradition. Given that Granada was once a Moorish empire and was later reconquered by the Catholic monarchy, it’s quite surprising that there is really only one contender for this ingenious concept.
The venue is beautifully decked out in true Moorish style, resembling a mini Alhambra, with its rich emerald and navy tiles adorning the walls, hexagonal tables with cushioned benches and intricately carved arches. Emphasis on the word mini; this is a small bar with approximately six tables, a few stools and some standing space – get there early to avoid disappointment.
Even when the place is packed (and despite the small team of staff) the service provided cannot be faulted; drinks are served immediately and tapas arrives shortly after. Opt for the falafel topped with tomato sauce, its lightly crisped coating and textured chickpea centre will disprove any prejudices held based on bad falafel kebab experiences.
Om-Kalsum: Calle Jardines 17, 18002 Granada
Nothing to do with Argentinian dance, this grotto of a bar wins points for its fun factor. Tango is a poky establishment, but intelligent use of the space has been made by converting beer barrels into cushioned stools and encouraging diners to perch on brightly coloured poufs.
The low-set tables are in keeping with the psychedelic ‘magical forest’ theme appealing to the inner hippy, with their real tree trunk bases and polka dot mushroom table tops.
You shouldn’t expect haute cuisine here, the tapas are just as wacky as the décor. Their iconic tacos have become a real talking point as each one is named with rather vibrant insults; ‘pervert’, ‘jerk’ and ‘revolting’ are just some of the profanities you can get away with saying to the bar attendants! If you’re feeling daring, go ahead and order the friki, or freak, three cheeses and dark chocolate melted within a taco – so wrong, but so so right.
Tango is refreshing too in the sense that it offers a good selection of herbal teas, with added honey, mint leaves or maybe a shot of something stronger that are perfect for the afternoon opening hours.
Tango: Calle Sol 22, 18003 Granada
What started as a hands-on approach of improving language skills, soon developed into a snowballing obsession with travel for Louise Spratt. Her love of everything Hispanic has thus far carried her to mountains and jungles in South America and currently to the life in Spain, but there’s still a whole world out there for the trotamundos (globetrotters )to explore…Take a look at Louise's website here.