Along with paella, tapas is probably the most iconic foodie delight in Spain. Before we went, I had no idea what tapas was and was under the impression that it was a specific meal indigenous to the country. What it is, however, is the best idea since sliced bread and I personally think it should become a worldwide phenomenon.
Exploring the streets of Malaga is hungry work. We stopped for lunch in a square not too far from the cathedral, in a little restaurant called Café Madrid. At first, I was a little reluctant to eat here, because the name somehow suggested “franchise” to me and I imagined it would be full of tourists eating sausage, egg and chips. Much to my delight, there wasn’t a single English-speaking soul inside and the menu was as unintelligibly Spanish as it could be.
Somehow we managed to convey to our waiter that we were interested in tapas for lunch. He showed us to the bar area, where they had a large variety of foods on display behind a glass counter, from paella to sausages to cheese platters to tuna mayonnaise. I shook my head in confusion. “Tapas?” I asked again, convinced that he must have somehow misunderstood me.
“Si, tapas,” he nodded and pointed to where someone else was sitting with five small dishes of a variety of meals. And then the penny dropped. Tapas isn’t something specific, like cordon blue or wiener schnitzel. Tapas is a small helping of whatever you’d like. And because it’s small (and very cheap) you can go crazy and try out everything you fancy. Plus you get to see what you’re ordering, which is very handy when all you understand is huevos and patatas and neither of those appear on the menu!
I ordered my usual chocolate caliente and Gareth had a glass of San Miguel as we tucked in and set about discovering the joys of tapas.
For more posts in the Spain 2010 series, click here.