Anchored by the towns of Seville and Granada, Andalusia extends along Spain’s southern coast and is defined by two historically significant delicacies: sherry and jamón ibérico de bellota, ham from free-range pigs that feed on acorns in the surrounding UNESCO-protected forests. Once you’ve checked off the gateway cities’ main sights like the Alcázar castle and Alhambra palace, embark on a food-fueled road trip through the region’s top tapas bars and tasting menus, sampling a mix of classic and contemporary dishes that have earned the region a reputation as a culinary cornerstone of Spain.
Located in El Puerto de Santa María, a town of whitewashed walls on the Bay of Cádiz, Toro Tapas is housed in an old sherry bodega in the 250-year-old Osborne winery. The revamped space delicately balances the classic bones of the building with contemporary elements like copper light fixtures hanging over minimalist, high-top tables. Tapas plays on typical fare from western Andalusia and uses fresh, seasonal ingredients, as well as staples of the area like jamón, Almadraba red tuna and tortillas de camarones—fritters made with tiny shrimp from the Cádiz region.
Considered to produce some of the best ham in the world, Cinco Jotas boasts centuries-old curing cellars—designed almost like a mine—centered around the town of Jabugo, in a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve lined with Mediterranean forests of cork oaks, chestnut trees and pine. After touring the dehesas (or meadows) with the porquero tasked with herding 440 pigs, take a seat in the tasting room at the cellars for a wine and ham pairing with paper-thin slices skillfully shaved by the master carver.
The combination restaurant and tapas bar earned its first Michelin star this year for its refined simplicity—dishes are composed of only two or three ingredients and rely on the quality and freshness of the produce. Live cooking is part of Cañabota’s appeal, as is the sustainably sourced seafood, which is delivered by dedicated fishing boats in Cádiz. If you’re in the mood for small plates and sherry, take a seat at the casual La Barra or watch the masters in action from the chef’s counter.
El Faro de Cádiz
A firm favorite in Cádiz, El Faro (founded in 1946 and now run by a third-generation family members) has been an institution in the historic port city for more than 50 years due to its elegant yet approachable setting. Diners can stand and enjoy tapas at the bar or take a seat in the more traditional dining rooms lined with polished wood, walls of framed photos and Islamic-influenced tile-work.
Surrounded by pine forests, Finca Alfolíz sits in a converted family home on a farm just outside the port city of Huelva. Michelin-starred chef Xanty Elías cooks over flame with seasonal ingredients sourced from the onsite garden and nearby producers. The rustic menu of dry-aged ribeye, grilled Ibérico pork and vegetable paella cooked in a charcoal oven is spruced up with elements like artisan brioche and homemade sauces. Once you wrap up in the dining room, linger with coffee or cocktails out on the terrace or on a hammock in the gardens.
Seville-born chef Juan Andrés Morilla worked at a handful of Michelin spots around Spain before opening up his tasting menu restaurant, Manzil, in the center of his hometown—and earning his own star. Working in an open kitchen, Morilla crafts whimsical variations rooted in the region’s classic cuisine. The reasonably priced menus include bites like a spoonful of smoked broth garnished with a slice of tuna and a deconstructed version of duck and rice.
Terraza Rooftop Bar at The Corner House
Above the bar-lined square of Plaza Alameda de Hércules in Seville’s historic center, Terraza Rooftop Bar at The Corner House embraces the feel of the area with its dangling Edison lightbulbs, beanbags and industrial-style stools. The plant-filled terrace wraps around three sides of the building and makes for a great perch for people-watching and enjoying some of the city’s best views—particularly with a negroni come sunset.
Images courtesy of respective venues, hero image courtesy of Cinco Jotas