Spain's eating and drinking culture is one of its greatest attractions, and a very sociable one too, with people rubbing shoulders in tapas bars and cafés. An excellent way to understand different facets of Spanish cuisine is to sample tapas: small dishes served to share and typically placed in the middle of the table. They can range from gourmet canapés to simple plates of croquetes, cheeses and cured meats.
Spanish drinks have also brewed up quite a storm worldwide – from the thirst-quenching sangria to bubbly Cava to the sophisticated Rioja wine.
Paella: Originally from Valencia, this rice dish can be loaded with seafood or chicken/rabbit, saffron and vegetables.
Croquetas: Fried bread-crumbed fritters with a creamy, potato base with different ingredients (ham, chicken, etc). Chipirones/Calamares: Fried Spanish-style squid, usually served with lemon.
Cocido: A fragrant and rich chickpea and meat stew popular in Madrid.
Tortilla Espaniola (Potatoe omelette): A rich, chunky potato omelette – a staple throughout Spain.
Gazpacho: A chilled tomato-based, tangy vegetable soup from Andalucía. Served in the summer.
Jamón (Spanish Ham): One of many cured Spanish meats, Jamón is a type of finely sliced cured ham.
Pulpo a la gallega: Tender, boiled octopus seasoned with paprika and salt and drizzled in olive oil. Usually served on top of cooked potatoes.
Chorizo: A dried and course pork sausage seasoned with smoked paprika.
Patatas bravas: typical tapa for sharing or to have as an “aperitive”. Albondigas: Fried Spanish-style meatballs, usually smothered in tomato sauce.
Sherry: A fortified wine available in several styles: Fino and Manzanilla (pale and dry), amontillado (dry, richer in body and darker in colour), Oloroso (medium, full-bodied, fragrant and golden) and sweet sherries such as Pedro Ximénez.
Red wine - Rioja: Spain’s flagship red wine, made from Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes. White wine - Albariño/Rias Baixas: the one to order from the list.
Cava: A sparkling wine from Catalonia made using the same method used to produce Champagne. Always order Brut Nature.
Things to know
Most restaurants serve a menú del día at lunchtime; this is a three-course meal including water that generally costs from €10 to €20 and can be very good value.
Spanish VAT (IVA) of 10% is included in most menu prices and 2-4% is customary.
16 for wine and beer, 18 for spirits.