Granada has the reputation for being one of the last Spanish cities to give you free tapas with each drink ordered. Alas that seems to depend where you go… but whether you’re paying or getting it gratis, there are some great places to eat.
Al Sur de Granada
At the end of Calle Elvira, near the huge gate in the ancient city walls, this deli-cum-bar is for tapas with a difference. Not only are the ingredients for sale, so you can stock up on jamon, cheese and olive oil, all the products are organic or from artisan producers.
Which also means you’ll get a more interesting range than you might find elsewhere. We ordered wines by the glass, although you can also get local beers – organic vintages can sometimes be a bit hit and miss but both white and red (from a large selection) were fantastic.
Try a bit of everything by picking a few of the mixed plates – we had one of cheese, with half a dozen different types, another with ham and sausage, plus some spicy black pudding and artichokes, a tomato and avocado salad, and finished up with coffee and an orangey cake. I could quite happily have ordered another dozen things from the menu but had to be able to walk afterwards…
Even the staff get a rave review – our friendly and knowledgeable waitress Rebecca was encouraging and patient with our attempts to speak Spanish, and fluent enough in English when needed.
For the classic tapas experience, Los Diamantes near Plaza Nueva and Bodegas Castaneda on Calle de Almireceros both came very highly recommended by guidebooks, travel features and the locals… which is probably why both were absolutely packed to the rafters when we tried to visit.
As a result, we ended up in La Palatina on Calle San Jeronimo near the cathedral where some mildly confused ordering ended in us getting dish after dish after dish of tapas for a measly six euros each. With plenty of locals and decent wine by the glass, it was a happy plan B.
The best fish restaurants cluster around Plaza Pescaderia, unsurprisingly, so it’s a good place to start. But Oliver’s was worth the recommendations. Bustling and busy by 9pm, practically tea time by Spanish standards, it had as many local families as tourists and couples.
We sat at the outside tables, tucked helpfully away in a marquee with very welcome under-table heaters during March. I suspect the tent vanishes during the summer months and it’s even better.
More friendly service, bilingual if needed, and a fantastic garlic soup including plenty of sweet roasted garlic, chunks of bread and a rich egg yolk tucked at the bottom. We followed up with a seafood paella, something which turns up on a lot of Granada menus. As usual it’s for a minimum of two people and you’ll have a half hour wait (which proves it hasn’t been stewing under a hot lamp), but order it if you can.
Perhaps skip the soup first though, gorgeous though it was, as there was easily enough for three in the vast paella pan, plus plenty of seafood. We devoured it so quickly, I all but forgot to take a photo…
With so much focus on tapas, Granada’s restaurants seem a slightly mixed bunch – if you’re splashing out, there’s Restaurante Damasqueros in Realejo with a tasting menu that’s flagged as one to watch by Michelin and Mirador de Morayma, which would be high up my list for next time. At the other end, there are a few places that rest on their laurels.
Ruta del Azafran in Albaicin has spectacular views up to the Alhambra at night, including riverside tables. But while I don’t have first-hand experience, the reviews seem to agree that service is pretty dire, and food can be mixed. Lovely though the view may be, it wasn’t a risk I wanted to take.
Restaurante Sevilla, which we did visit, is famous for being something of a celebrity hotspot after opening in 1930, including Federico Garcia Lorca. These days, it just looks slightly tired. Most people there were obviously tourists, service was efficient but perfunctory, atmosphere was almost entirely absent and the food was a bit hit and miss – there was free tapas to start, but it was a slightly odd potato salad. Oxtail stew was lovely but came with half a dozen greasy undercooked chips, and nothing else. Most of the tables had reserved signs so it’s evidently popular – but I couldn’t help wondering if it pulled in the crowds on the basis of its reputation.
All images copyright MummyTravels/Cathy Winston