Almost every Barcelona visitor heard something about Tapas. But many of us coming to Spain know only the name but not the culture and traditions around it. We thought that it’s our duty as locals to inform you and give you some tips about tapas and all around!
First of all it’s important to remember that there are different names for tapas specialties:
Tapas: This is the general name for small dishes of food that are served to be shared. They can vary widely and cover anything from a bowl of almonds or olives to a plate of grilled prawns.
Raciones: On menus you will often see the dishes marked with two separate prices – one for tapas and one for raciones. This will simply be the same dish, but a bigger portion of it – ideal for when you’re really hungry!
Pinchos. This is a concept that originates from the Basque region of Spain. Pinchos are like mouth sized tapas – always served on top of pieces of bread. They are also sometimes called ‘Montaditos’ (this is what they are called in Quimet y Quimet).
Platos Combinados: This is the name often given to what we might call ‘meat and two veg’ – an entire meal on a plate. However, it sometimes also relates to tapas. In Quimet y Quimet a Plato Combinado is a larger plate containing a variety of the tapas that are on offer.
Tapas vary from region to region. Barcelona is not particularly well known for its tapas culture, in comparison to other areas such as the Basque country and Andalusia. However, it does have a few classics that you will see again and again on menus. Tapas are not always the chorizo and garlic prawns that you might have come to expect. Some typical tapas that you might expect to see in Barcelona:
Pan con Tomate: The quintessential Catalan tapa. White bread rubbed with tomato and drizzed in oil and salt. A perfect accompaniment to the rest of your tapas.
Patatas Bravas: The chips or french fries of Spain. Small deep fried cubes of potato served with two sauces – alioli (a garlicky mayonnaise) and a spicy tomato sauce.
Chipirones: I have never seen these deep fried baby squids outside of Spain. They are tiny and you will receive a plate heaped with them.
Anchoas: These anchovies are not normally the very salty kind that you may be used to. They are served in vinegar with parsley and garlic. Delicious.
Russian Salad: Not the healthiest of salads. This is a heavy dish made up of potatoes, peas, hard boiled eggs and potential other vegetables, covered in mayonnaise.
Croquetas: Croquetas are often made with ham, fish, chicken or spinach. They are made from a sort of béchamel sauce, breaded and deep fried.
Finally, when you enjoyed your tapas it would be right to pay for it, wouldn’t it? In tapas bars it’s very easy but not very obvious for a foreigner.
Barcelona locals love to talk about the ‘guiris’ – the tourists and foreigners who come to the city with no knowledge of the culture. A sure – fire way to blow your guiri cover is by trying to pay for your drink or tapas whilst ordering. In Barcelona you will be impressed by the abilities of the bar staff and waiters to remember the various orders of hoards of people – sometimes not even writing them down. Relax and enjoy your food and simply request “la cuenta” (the bill) when you’re finished and ready to leave.
The whole notion of tapas is intended to grease the wheels for an evening of chatter, liveliness and camaraderie with friends. It is important to leave your pre-conceived notions of how to enjoy lunch or dinner behind. There will be no ‘I’m ordering this’ -all of the dishes will be shared and devoured. And do not, under any circumstances, politely leave the last prawn sitting on the plate for someone else to enjoy – if you don’t take it the waiter will have whisked away the plate before you have time to shriek in protest. Take example from the locals and enjoy the moment – you are likely to be standing in a crowded space all night, but this is part of the fun.
And don’t forget that you can order take away tapas (“para llevar”) which you’ll have a chance to enjoy in our holiday self-catering apartments!
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