Best Spanish Food Trips | olivemagazine

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Best Spanish food trips

San Sebastián

For pintxos and Michelin stars

A picturesque port and resort on the Bay of Biscay, San Sebastián has notched up 16 Michelin stars. There are seven three-star restaurants across Spain and three of them are here: Akelarre, Martin Berasategui and Arzak, the bastion of chef Juan Mari Arzak. It has the second highest number of Michelin stars per square metre after Kyoto in Japan, and more than Paris.

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It’s not all fine dining though. Pintxos is a signature of San Sebastián, born because “it’s not our custom to entertain at home. We meet friends for a drink and snack before dinner”. It’s one of the reasons that, originally, there were no sweet pintxos – these were pre-dinner snacks, not the main meal. There are over 100 pintxos spots to choose from in San Sebastian, mainly in the Old Town, and so a tailored tour is a good way to narrow it down. A locals top tip: ignore the piles of pretty pintxos on each bar’s counter and order dishes chalked on the blackboard. These are cooked fresh to order and each bar has its own specialities. At Goiz Argi that means the brocheta de gamba, a juicy prawn served on a skewer soaked in a sweet and sour garlic, pepper and onion marinade. The mari juli baguette, with salty slivers of smoked salmon, sardine and oily green pepper is equally moreish, with a glass of txakoli, the local sparkling white wine.

Find out where else to eat and drink in San Sebastian.

Where to stay: The glamorous belle époque Hotel Maria Cristina is a fitting base for the gourmet capital of Spain. The hotel, which nudges up to the Parte Vieja and overlooks the River Urumea, was exquisitely revamped in 2012, the year that marked its centenary. Its food credentials include its own concierge-designed DIY pintxos trail, a gourmet shop where you can stock up on gastronomic souvenirs from local wines to smoked olive oil and Basque cookbooks, while in the basement there’s the sleek, state-of-the-art cookery school.

Doubles from £472, check availability at, or

pintxos in San Sebastian


For an island getaway

Ibiza, Mallorca and Formentera might usually draw the kaftan-wearing scenesters, but word is quietly spreading that there is more to be discovered on Menorca than clean turquoise waters, pale gold beaches, secluded white-washed farmhouses and lush greenery (the island is a designated Unesco Biosphere Reserve). Unlike its neighbouring party isles, this small Balearic island has managed to stay relatively unspoiled – in everything from the landscape to the food and culture.

As on mainland Spain, tapas is big here (try some at the Mercat des Peix – fish market – in Mahon), but thanks to numerous occupations by the Moors, Brits, Catalans and French, the local cuisine is a melting pot. The most famous dish is caldereta, a Menorcan lobster stew that’s cooked and served in an earthenware pot; the local shellfish, in season from April to August, are sweeter than their Atlantic cousins. Sobrassada (a soft paprika sausage, similar to chorizo) is another must-try. And don’t miss the chance to go gin tasting at the last remaining distillery on the island, Xoriguer. Its Gin Xoriguer is a liquid legacy of the British presence here and is served, locally, with lemonade in a pomada.

Where to stay: Go luxe and book into Hotel Torralbenc. Set in 70 hectares of vine-draped countryside in the south west of the island, it recently introduced wine tasting experiences at its winery, on foot or by bike.

Doubles start from £549, check availability at or



For the famous food market

One of the best Spanish cities for food, Barcelona offers a vibrant restaurant scene and chance to dive into Catalan cuisine. Start your day at Granja M Viader: locals line up at long-standing breakfast spot before the shutters rise. Go for a thick, velvety hot chocolate with churros, or one of its famous ‘bikinis’ – a cheese-and-ham-filled toasted sandwich. After the Sagrada Família, the Boqueria food market is the most popular destination in town. Get there before 11am to beat the crowds, browse the stalls and rub shoulders with local chefs over a plate of eggs and a glass of cava at El Quim de la Boqueria. Continue the food shopping at Casa Gispert and pick up marcona almonds, dried figs, saffron and smoky pimentón to take home.
To get stuck into tapas, head to El Xampanyet – particularly popular among locals, who come to drink the bar’s own-brand cava before a night on the town. Tapas are simple but on-point – order as the locals do with ‘pimientos con carne’ to receive a plate of blistered padrón peppers and soft, pink pluma ibérico pork. At night, convivial Can Cisa Bar Brutal is the place to work your way through local natural wines paired with more superlative tapas, or slip into tiny Bar Zim for wines by the glass with farmhouse cheeses and organic charcuterie (Carrer de la Dagueria, 20).
Read our full guide to Barcelona.

Where to stay: Check into hip Casa Bonay, a renovated mansion where traditional hydraulic floor tiles are mixed with Gaudí’s iconic paving stones, adding a hint of edginess to its ground floor lounges, coffee bars and restaurant.

Stylish, pared-back bedrooms redefine luxury with hand-woven blankets from Teixidors, maxi-bars stocked with premium gin, vodka and single malt, and room service in the shape of a tiffin tin to be eaten in bed. There’s plenty to attract foodies: house restaurant Bodega Bonay serving Mediterranean sharing plates, the hotel bar Libertine for grown up cocktails and the tropical-themed Chiringuito on the buzzy roof terrace for tapas as you watch the sunset.
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Views of the city of Barcelona


For unspoilt coastline

Perched on Spain’s southernmost tip, windswept Tarifa attracts a youthful kite- and windsurfing crowd. Head to Los Lances beach to kick back on the dunes with a goblet of Gin Mare and tonic at Arte Vida.

Tarifa’s old town comes alive at night, when visitors descend on the cobbled streets to eat secreto ibérico and hand-cut chips at La Vaca Loca (Calle Cervantes 6) and falafel from tiny vegetarian joint Chilimosa. Start the following day with a fruit salad, crêpe or smoothie in Café Azul’s courtyard, then lounge outside hip Café 10 with a café con leche.

Where to stay: Check into hip Hotel Misiana in the centre of the old town. Winning points for location, there are sea views to be had and all the local highlights are a quick walk away. The 15 light and airy rooms are simply decorated and there’s a continental breakfast in the morning and hotel-restaurant tapas bar for the evenings.

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Seafood platters in Tarifa


For a gourmet side to the party isle

The famed White Isle may be most known for it’s beach clubs, international DJs and nightclubs, but there is a quieter side to discover too. On Playa D’es Torrent, enjoy old world elegance at Es Torrent as you dine with your feet in the sand, under gnarled ocean pines, overlooking a beautiful bay on the west coast of the island. Call ahead to order fresh-from-the-boat fish. Start with the grilled clams and finish with the indulgent pineapple crema catalana. On Playa Es Cavallet, El Chiringuito delivers beachside glamour at its best: great people watching plus fabulous food. The spaghetti frutti di mare for two makes an extravagant but delicious lunch. Start with the artichoke and gambas salad. For watching the famous Ibiza sunset, head to La Torre for fabulous views over the water. Sip cocktails then order its signature steak with chimichurri and wrinkled potatoes.

Where to stay: Luxury meets nature at Atzaró Agroturismo, a boutique hotel with exquisite indoor-outdoor design, a spa set within orange groves and a hard-working farm. White-washed buildings, manicured gardens and glistening swimming pools surrounded by huge, pristine day beds all create a gorgeous first impression. Discrete, secret VIP deluxe suites are where celebrities can holiday with complete privacy. So far, so luxe. But a stroll through the orange groves to the hotel’s vast vegetable plot reveals how sustainable and farm-to-fork this family-owned estate is.

Solar panels and an on-site well supply power and water to the gardens, pools, spa and rooms. Herbs and botanicals are used in rejuvenating spa treatments. Figs, tomatoes, cucumbers and pomegranates are picked that day, and served just minutes and metres aways in the hotel’s sunny, vine-covered veranda. The garden also supplies its nearby, laid-back sister restaurant, Aubergine by Atzaró, where clever combinations like roasted aubergine carpaccio, cherry tomatoes, feta, dates, pistachio and rocket pesto create texture and zing. At Atzaró beach club, tuna ceviche with mango, chilli, coriander and tiger’s milk is light and flavour-packed. Design at Atzaró Agroturismo references Ibiza’s natural beauty with a profusion of plants, natural wicker and wood, bright whites, with splashes of colour provided through bougainvillea or swimming pool azure.

Doubles from €245, check availability at

Atzaró Agroturismo Hotel 3.7.21 Ana Lui


For a capital city break

Find salt cod croquetas, elaborate squid sarnies, Iberian eggy bread and orange cappuccinos (plus cured ham and sherry, of course) in Spain’s lively capital. Not sure where to begin? In the heart of one of the capital’s most vibrant neighbourhoods, Mercado de San Ildefonso is a custom-designed street food space is spread over three floors. Set on the site of a 19th century food market, there’s a fuss-free, industrial feel to proceedings and a sociable vibe that comes from having plenty of places to perch while you eat, plus the addition of several bars serving interesting Spanish wines by the glass.

To try local specialities, visit Casa Labra (going strong since 1860). It’s packed with locals who throng the restaurant’s elegantly austere, high-ceilinged interior for the house speciality – salt cod. Served by efficient, white-jacketed staff, it’s best eaten deep-fried or cooked in plump, creamy croquetas, paired with a little glass of vermouth.

Those with a sweet tooth should drop into La Casa de las Torrijas. Colourful tiling, plates of huevos rotos (‘broken eggs’) with crispy potatoes and slivers of jamón, and chilled cañas of local beer are all on offer. But the clue to the chief attraction lies in the name. Torrijas is an Iberian take on French toast, and this restaurant’s version – thick slices of bread soaked in milk, egg and sugar (and sometimes sweet wine), then deep-fried until deliciously wobbly, with a creamy centre – is irresistible.

Where to stay: Usefully positioned opposite Puerta de Atocha railway station, Only YOU Hotel Atocha impresses with its buzzy industrial-chic lobby (complete with barber, patisserie and restaurant) and complimentary glass of fizz on arrival. Spacious rooms have a sleek mid-century feel, and the hotel’s rooftop Sép7ima bar (with panoramic views of the city) puts on a lavish buffet every morning that includes pastries and churros, charcuterie and cheeses, fresh juice, fruit and cooked breakfasts.

Doubles from £122, check availability at

Mercado San Il Defenso Madrid


For the home of tapas

The spiritual home of flamenco, Seville is also the birthplace of tapas. One of the best ways to experience Seville’s fabulous gourmet scene is to engage in your own little ‘tapeo’ – a relaxed wander around some of its many bars. You can also ask for a media ración or ración, which are larger than a tapa. For authentic tapas with charm that is hard to beat, Casa Morales was founded in 1850 and now in its fourth generation. Enjoy some salt cod with salmorejo, tortilla de patatas or lomo en manteca, with vermouth, sherry or house wine alongside them.

Walk to the Metropol Parasol – nicknamed ‘the mushrooms’, it dominates the Plaza de la Encarnación with its futuristic-looking wooden structure. Underground is a museum displaying some of the city’s Roman walls and artefacts while above it is one of Seville’s best daily food markets. Make sure you visit the stalls selling jamón de ibérico bellota; it can be vacuum packed to take home (from €60-120 per kg). On the upper levels there is a 30-metre high walkway with panoramic views which you can access through the Antiquarium below. Don’t leave Seville without trying some sherry: it’s Andalucía’s most iconic wine, yet is often misunderstood. Versatile and fascinating, there’s a sherry – or sherry cocktail – for everyone. Let José and his expert team at the Premier Sherry & Cocktail Bar help you discover yours.

Where to stay: Doubles at the Corner House, in the buzzy Alameda de Hércules (one of Seville’s most iconic squares), are very affordable. There’s also an in-house restaurant/bar, El Disparate, serving a selection of traditional and innovative dishes; if you’re lucky grab one of the tables on its spacious terrace, overlooking the square.

Doubles from £86, check availability at, or


For historical delicacies

The historical port city of Cádiz in Andalucia has bargain tapas bars, vibrant food markets and unique local delicacies to discover. Head to the Mercado Central, housed inside a former convent and watch as the theatre of the working day unfolds: swordfish are butchered, chocos (cuttlefish) cleaned of their black ink. If you’re self-catering, stock up on vacuum-packed mojama (smoked tuna), ham, chicharrones and fritos, before hitting the stalls selling sherries, plates of local cheese, glasses of albariño at €2.50 and fat churros hot from the fryer. Stick with the locals at tapas bar Taberna Casa Manteca: try chicharrones de Cádiz, a speciality of the region, thin layers of soft, fatty pork dressed withe lemon and salt.

Round the corner is Virgen de la Palma, a pedestrianised cobbled street in the heart of this slightly shabby former fishermen’s quarter. It’s lined with tapas bars and restaurants, but during daytime hours it becomes
a magnet for weatherbeaten men selling oysters (six for €5) and prawns from carts on corners. For some more luxurious splendour, head to the rococo Cafe Royalty, a restored grand salon, and eat refined courses of Andalucian cooking, including a punchy gazpacho garnished with prawn, alongside a glass of albariño. It opened in 1912, and intellectuals, artists and politicians came here to chew the fat before it closed at the dawn of the civil war.

Where to stay: Situated right on the coast, the Parador Hotel Atlántico affords astonishing views out across the ocean at almost every turn. It’s central location makes it easy to walk anywhere, discovering new parts of the city down pretty cobbled streets. The stunning hotel pool equally makes the most of those sea views, plus you’re just five minutes from the beach.

Doubles from £211, check availability at or

Fresh seafood on ice


For local fusion cuisine

Visit the capital city of Mallorca to get an insight into this unique island. Spend time browsing the city’s main market, Mercat de l’Olivar – check out the cheesemonger S’Aglà for the best Mallorcan and Menorcan cheeses. Elsewhere in the city a handful of gastronomic markets have also sprung up, including Mercado de San Juan and Mercat 1930, in an art deco building overlooking the marina, where you can also join cookery workshops.

The international tourism that has generated a renewed appreciation for these types of markets has also fuelled a local spike in Mediterranean fusion cuisine. This is especially evident at Fera, where Austrian chef Simon Petutschnig combines Asian and Mediterranean influences in dishes as eye-catching as the space’s contemporary art. He dubs it borderless Mediterranean cuisine, and it’s anything but hearty, rustic mountain fare. This is the face of modern Mallorca.

Where to stay: check into Boutique Hotel Sant Jaume in the heart of the historic old town. On hot days during a summer visit, the indoor pool, flower-covered roof terrace and outdoor plunge pool will have maximum appeal.

Doubles from £451, check availability at, or

View of Palma's cathedral from afar


For art and architecture

Futuristic architecture, renowned art galleries, elegant cobbled streets and a thriving food scene make this Basque city a great Spanish weekend destination. Join locals at the bar for pintxos and txakoli wine, browse for seafood and croquetas at one of Europe’s largest food markets, and eat Basque-style French toast.

A museum restaurant might not be your first stop in a new city, but the Bistró Guggenheim isn’t your typical gallery café. A favourite with locals and visitors alike, it focuses on Basque cuisine with a modern edge. Contemporary art decorates the walls and you can eat while enjoying soothing river views. Follow up with a coffee stop at elegant Café Iruña, or swing by Basquery – a brewery and bakery serving fresh crusty breads and flaky pastries.

For traditional deli produce, head to Casa Rufo, a cute restaurant squeezed into a 1950s Italian deli. In the shop at the front they sell everything from cheeses and tinned seafood to bottles of wine; in the back, you can dine on regional delicacies such as anchovies from Cantabria, grilled asparagus from Navarra and peppers from Guernica. More shopping can be had at La Ribera market, which dates back to the 14th century and is one of the largest undercover markets in Europe, home to more than 100,000 square metres of food stalls.

See our full foodie guide to the best restaurants in Bilbao.

Where to stay: Iturrienea Ostatua is a simple yet charming bed and breakfast located right in the centre of the Old Town, housed in a property built in 1906 for a countess. Originally designed to look like a typical Basque country house, inside the largely modern décor is modest (simple white bedlinen, colourful quilted headboards, practical en-suite shower rooms) but homely. The nine bedrooms nod to the building’s history, with stone floors and wooden-beamed ceilings, and some have small private balconies. Breakfast is served in a country-style kitchen and stretches to local cheeses, charcuterie, sticky pastries and toast.

Doubles from £85, check availability at

A striking modern building with people dressed up walking in line outside it


For the finest Iberico ham

The medieval town of Trujillo’s kitchens have long been rich thanks to ibérico ham, smoky pimentón de la Vera and creamy sheep’s milk cheeses. Just a few Spanish regions boast the holm oak trees (encinas) and open pastures necessary for the feeding and rearing of pure acorn-fed ibérico pata negra ham, including Trujillo. Everywhere, from restaurants to tiny cafés, offer plates of the stuff, freshly carved to order.

All the steep, narrow roads in the town seem to lead to Plaza Mayor, the main square, with its ravishing conquistadors’ mansions. Restaurants are happily rustic, dependent on a wood grill and fryer for many of their treats. Just off the main square, is Corral del Rey where you can have jamón and also try ibérico pork secreto (the shoulder cut that, with its liberal marbling of fat, has sometimes been called pork wagyu) thickly dusted with another of Extremadura’s hero products – sweet, smoky pimentón de la Vera, and grilled over encino, the very wood that fed it – a wonderfully symmetrical cooking method. Sit on teh main square and people watch at Cerveceria for beers and the locals’ favourite dish, migas – paprika-laced breadcrumbs fried in pork fat, studded with chorizo and topped with a frilly fried egg.

Trujillo, Spain

The Alpujarras

For a rural escape

The rugged foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains, south-east of Granada, the Alpujarras exert a semi-legendary pull on many Andalucians, and indeed many other Spanish people. It’s a romantic, whimsical place, known to be remote, rural and – that most Spanish of things – quixotic.

The region is blessed with extremely fertile soils that yield all kinds of ingredients, from almonds to grapes via figs, oranges and, of course, olives. The Moors, whose rule over the Alpujarras lasted for 800 years, introduced almonds, cumin, pomegranates and aubergines to the region, all of which thrived thanks to the many long days of sunshine. The ports, an hour or so away, are part of a thriving fishing industry, and the forests run thick with game and wild herbs – all high-quality raw ingredients that local kitchens make the most of.

A largely unsung hybrid of North African and Spanish influences, la cocina Alpujarreña is as rudimentary as it is delicious. It is not fancy, it is seasonal and robust. What distinguishes it most of all is its relatively straightforward preparation – traditionally much of it would have been done outside in the fields, using portable ingredients and improvised fire-pits (when prepared inside, people used elementary hearths in the corner of a kitchen).

Today, this approach hasn’t much changed. In Berber-like villages, small but resilient communities tend almond and olive terraces, and cultivate immaculate and ancient vegetable patches, while tiny local bars and restaurants serve recipes that have been handed down through generations of farmers.

Words by David and Emma Illsley (September 2017)

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