Tapas at El Gato Negro

Wow! This week I experienced the most amazing tapas.

There are several theories about how tapas, which are basically bar snacks, came into being. ‘Tapa’ literally means ‘cover’ or ‘lid’, and a popular explanation is that a lid was once put on top of drinks to keep off the flies. Over time it became the custom to place little snacks on top of the lids. Another theory says that a waiter to King Alfonso XII covered his glass of sherry with a slice of ham to protect it from sand blowing off the beach. So impressed was the king that he asked for his second sherry to come with the same ‘tapa’.
Whatever their true origin, tapas certainly caught on in a big way! Served mainly in Andalusia (in the south of Spain), tapas are either free with a drinks order, or they are charged for separately. They come hot or cold and are typically displayed on the bar counter.

Much of Speekee was filmed in the Andalusian town of Arcos de la Frontera, where an annual Ruta de la Tapa, or Tapas Route, takes place. It’s an opportunity for the local bars to display their culinary skills by creating their own special tapa, served alongside a glass of wine. Locals and visitors to Arcos de la Frontera are given a reference card showing a map of the tapas route and a list of the tapas in each bar. They can then have their card stamped at each bar they visit. If they fill the card with stamps from each and every one of the bars they can claim a free case of wine! They also use the cards to vote for their favourite tapa and favourite waiter or waitress. The bar with the most votes is presented with a certificate from the Town Hall.

I’m not in Spain at the moment but I do have the good fortune to live very close to El Gato Negro, a winner in Gordon Ramsay’s “F Word”, which servers the most amazing tapas. Here’s the menu:

We had:

  • Sour dough bread with olive oil and Pedro Ximenez balsamic
  • Jamon Serrano with celeriac remoulade
  • Baby roast chicken
  • Cauliflower & chickpea
  • A perfect tortilla
  • Syrian lentils
  • Manchego cheese with figs

Here’s the cheese & figs, which came with a hand-made torta from Seville:

¡Me gusta mucho!

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