Spanish cuisine is culturally diverse, has history and instils passion. From “retro” to modern, everything tastes authentic. The most traditional culinary delights are tapas served everywhere, from non-pretentious taverns to Michelin-star establishments.

“Tapa” means lid. The origin of tradition is uncertain; several theories involve shepherds, kings, drunken sailors or resourceful bartenders. Actually, Spain doesn’t care.

The beauty lies in fresh, quintessentially local ingredients. A confluence of elements – soil, weather and other factors (which the French who have a word for everything call “concept of terroir’) gives a certain flavour, and Andalusia is a happy camper with the farm-to-table movement. “Tapas concept” is shamelessly simple: little nibbles brought when you order a drink. Elsewhere tapas have evolved into a fancy dining experience. You queue to enter tapas bars in New York, or Houston’s BCN with “taste & tradition” recreated by Chef Luis Roger, who worked for Ferran Adrià at El Bulli.


Tapa is defined by its birthplace but not fiercely loyal to it. It’s cosmopolitan, well-travelled and turned into a global phenomenon. The world is under Tapa’s spell. Bistró Podenco (Luxembourg), Tasca (Munich), Boqueria (Stockholm), London’s Michelin-starred Barrafina give a taste of true Andalusia. Others create Spain-inspired dishes (Californian-style tapas) or combine local and Spanish flavours, like Finnish Juuri (sounds more dramatic if you say it with a Spanish accent).

Why does it work well? Tapa delights eyes and improves mood. Even the simplest one – perfectly crispy toasted bread with tomato, olive oil, garlic and sea salt, makes you go weak in the knees and beg for more. Humble, nothing fancy, which we love about it, but mouth-watering, with flavoursome X-factor and spiritual side-effects, tapa needs company: people, cultural offerings like flamenco, drinks. Tapas aficionados have excellent choice: well-chilled sherry, exuberant reds and pleasant whites (Albariño is the fashionable front runner), cheerful young tempranillos, beer, sangria adored by tourists. Cava hits the spot with deep-fried tapas.

A typical tapas restaurant is a long room with original Spanish furniture adding authentic vibe. Standing or sitting with a glass and ceramic tapas plates is ideal way to enjoy life. Take a bite, a swig, murmur approvingly… A laid-back, chilled-out state of being, a world view, philosophy and adventure. And you thought it was just a cool fast food!


Exploring menu is a holy drool fest! There are a gazillion ways to feast on tapas: tortilla, jamon (a must), cheeses, patatas bravas, olives, chorizo, roasted peppers (utterly irresistible), spicy chicken wings (conversation-stoppers), croquetas, meatballs in tomato sauce (a classic textbook example), fried anchovies, sardines (special memories to cherish), garlicky mushrooms, shrimps in sizzling oil (with crusty bread to carry all the goodness… hips may regret, taste buds never!). Gimme more! 

Tapas are health-conscious (Spaniards never think about it) but sometimes indulgent. Life’s too beautiful to be bland! Sweet tapas can pretty much tip you over the edge into foodie heaven (think smooth chocolate ganache with olive oil and Andalusian Flor de Sal “born of purest parents: Sun and Sea”). Bless me Health Gods, for I have sinned. But how can you deny such exquisite divinity? So many miraculous things in one place…or not one. ‘Ir de tapas’ means ‘pub-crawling’.


Traditions should be honoured by updating them. Spaniards may disagree, but it’s fun to put a creative twist on classic dishes. That’s what Marbella’s 3* Michelin chef Dani Garcia does, using artisan ingredients and serving up unique tapas. 

It’s easy to embrace your inner foodie living in “Perlas del Mar”. Paseo’s chiringuitos are popular spots; Boulevard offers sophisticated tapas. Hard-core tapas addicts choose rustic bars in Old Centre, shaggy versus chic. Going off the beaten track is a good call as well. Roam the streets for taverns hidden in alleyways. 

Buen provecho!