So the We Love Tapas Sherry Tours are going well… 🙂
… was mostly disappointing this time round. The first day we just had a few very mediocre tapas here and there (the tortillitas de camarones at Casa Balbino – pictured above – being the exception). The second day we went to a new “gastrobar” that was quite nice, but you know… gastrobar. But third day lucky! Following a tip by José Caireles (whose bodega of the same name we weren’t able to visit this time) we ended up at the best hole-in-the-wall spot ever. The Peña Bética de Carlos serves up super fresh fried fish in a no-nonsense tiny space that also houses a local fan branch of the Sevilla’s Bétis football team.
Carlos cooks up perfectly fried fish and seafood in the small kitchen behind the bar, while brothers Manuel and Carmelo take care of the customers. There are about eight tables, all of which had reserved signs on them when we walked in around 1.30 pm on a Thursday. We managed to squeeze into a small spot at the bar and within minutes all tables and any standing space between them and the bar were full. It was organized chaos. I couldn’t believe this all ran so smoothly with just 3 people, but later Manuel told me it used to be just him and Carlos. Then when things started getting busy his brother Carmelo joined the team.
Not all of these dishes were ours. The couple standing next to us at the bar let me take photos of their prawns and salmoretes, even offering to share their dishes with us. All of it was delicious, but that big fat cuttlefish in the middle of the collage was definitely the star of the show. What a great experience, so much more fun than one of the expensive touristy beach restaurants in Bajo de Guía. Thanks again José!
Bar Las Teresas yesterday, and a chilled late Sunday afternoon vibe. I stopped by after a lunchtime tapas tour for a penúllitma and a chat with the guys. This is one of the many family-run bars in Sevilla that I’ve developed a close friendship with over the past 24 years. Seeing these bars now being overrun by greedy copycat food tour operators is really heartbreaking. But there are still occasional moments like this.
This takes me back to a subject near and dear to my heart …. the many tapas bars I have come to know and love during the many years in Sevilla. And since starting my Sevilla Tapas Tours many of them have also become places I have enjoyed a working relationship with. This is a job I created for myself that I love, and one that has developed organically since I began the original Sevilla Tapas website in 2007. Then in 2014 I created We Love Tapas as a complimentary “sister company” so I could offer a slightly different style of food & wine tours that would maintain the quality of the ones I had built up over the years.
It was while I was developing We Love Tapas that I first noticed a huge increase in the number of food tours being offered in Sevilla. And upon closer inspection I saw that some of them were actually blatant copies of my own tours. A little further research showed how the copycats had previously been in touch with me for information, or had even sent “clients” on my tours so they could see what I did, where I went, etc. And I found this disturbing. Not because I have a problem with healthy competition – something that can indeed keep you on your toes and stay aware of changes in the market. But because many of these new tours were cutting corners and were so inferior in quality that they were an embarrassment. It always seriously upsets me that someone would ever leave Sevilla thinking the food here is anything less than amazing.
Well, that’s the free market for you. And as I say, nothing wrong with competition perse. BUT… what the fuck is it about people who just copy tours without a care for the bars themselves? I mean, I have personally known all of the bars that have ended up being a part of my food tours for many many years. I know the owners, the staff, we already had a relationship. And we also respect each other. So I’ve never asked them to give me a “deal” on prices, I’ve never insulted them by saying I was “supporting” them and was “good for their business”. Frankly, none of the places I go to on my tours need my business because they are always busy and buzzy… which is WHY I go to them. I love them.
Let me repeat. I LOVE them.
So when I see many of the aspects of why I love them being abused and eroded by thoughtless and greedy tour operators it pisses me off. I don’t have formulaic scripted food tours like these other ones. Mine are very personal and they vary a lot, depending on the number of people and client preferences. For example, there are bars I will only go to with two clients, and other bars I know are good for larger groups of up to 6, because they have the space and we won’t “stick out” like a group of tourists. Which is to say that I respect the “ecosystem” of these bars.
Because these types of bars do have their own “ecosystem”, many having been developed over generations, with family and friends and regular clients that are a part of the fabric of what makes them so special. Of course these are the places that everyone wants to visit. But what I do is choose the ones that I think work well for visiting, and for the others I give a list to my clients and recommend they go on their own.
Something that these Copycat Food Tour Operators haven’t seemed to figure out (duh) is that … you can’t just fill the same bars with more and more tourist tours and expect them to remain “authentic” and “local”! Also guys, there are MORE THAN 3000 TAPAS BARS IN SEVILLA. Surely if you are a new company starting out you should look to find your own favourite bars, and make yourself appear unique by not just doing what others are doing. Think about it.
Yep… ANOTHER Sherry Saturday! But unlike last Saturday, this time I was actually working. Back in December 2015 I spent a lovely Christmas Day afternoon with Becky, Scott and family at La Azotea. Since then Becky and I have kept in touch via social media (check her Instagram – @havepaprika) and a few months ago Scott got in touch about booking a Sherry & Tapas Tour for himself and buddy Richard, who would be celebrating his big 5-OH. And today was the day.
Although I love all my tours I have to say that the Sherry & Tapas tour is both my most challenging and possibly most gratifying. On the other hand, I’m not sure I could do them every day because I am always a bit exhausted afterwards… a LOT of talking goes on. But today was fabulous. The boys not only ate and drank very well, they also learned a lot about sherry, so they can now show off to their friends back in London. 😉
Great day guys – thank you!
It was great catching up with Mary & David from London Walks yesterday. I first met them when they visited Sevilla two years ago, and this time I got to take them out on a proper Sevilla Tapas Tour. Happily they were up for anything, so we were able to squeeze into one of my fave places that I can’t usually go to on my tours, as it’s too small and crowded for most people’s idea of comfort. If I have time I hope to go out on one of their London walking tours when I am there next month.
Stuff like this just makes my day. After a couple of hours sorting out “papeles” at the social security office for my online digital certificate, and then setting up appointments for blood tests and my next oncology appointment, it was definitely BEER O’CLOCK. But then I remembered reading about a place I’d never been to (yep, there are still a few of them out there) so Peter and I walked over to the Abacería Puerta Carmona. I had only expected to have a quick beer and go home, instead we met a lovely guy called Chía who offered us manzanilla en rama and mango vermouth… and well, we had to stick around after that. Tried a few tapas, had a great time. Love my job. 🙂
Diego, Antonio, Pepe (2012)
Pepe, Julio (Diego’s son), Antonio (2017)
So as most of you know, I’ve been running this food website for about ten years now, called Sevilla Tapas… 😉
But what you may not know is that I don’t actually make a bean off that site. It started off as a labour of love, and has remained so. Also, I don’t get offered free meals (as many people suppose), which means I actually pay for every tapa and every glass of wine you see posted. And all of that is fine because I think it is what sets me apart, and it also means that Sevilla Tapas has become my online portfolio, showing that I am far more than “just another tapas tour guide”. It also means that I am free to post my own opinions.
And very often it enriches my life in other ways. Like when I went back to El Cairo five years after my first visit (hey, there are more than 3,000 tapas bars here – I do my best!). As usual I got to talking to the guys behind the bar, who looked familiar. So I got out my iPhone and looked up my previous entry for El Cairo and the guys loved it. Especially Julio who saw his father Diego in my 2012 pic. So he very happily posed with the same two barmen as before, Pepe and Antonio, and that encounter totally made my day. Love my job.
This was absolutely the highlight of my Madrid Getaway… FINALLY getting to meet Lee @sheleebeelee! We’ve known each other for years, meeting first (I think) on Twitter, via our mutual pal @raincoaster. Since then we have stayed in touch via Facebook though, for some duh reason, I forgot to get in touch during my summer 2014 Madrid visit. So when I went back last July I was looking forward to getting together. Unfortunately Lee was having some serious health problems, and I wasn’t able to see her.
This time, although still undergoing treatment and recovery, she was well enough to meet up on my final afternoon in Madrid. I popped over to her apartment after checking out of mine, left my bag there and visited for awhile with Lee and the charming Toni (her lovely golden cat). Then I went for a stroll through nearby Antón Martín market before meeting Lee again and going out to Tandem (another spot I didn’t manage to get to last summer).
Lunch, as you can see, was amazing. But the company was even better and the time flew by far too quickly. By 5 pm I was back on the AVE heading home to Sevilla (and an evening tapas tour!), and feeling ever so thankful that the internets had brought Lee and I together. Hope to see you again soon, sister! xx
It was almost exactly two years ago when Victor and I last visited Janet Mendel in Mijas, so another day trip to that pretty village (and Janet!) was in order. We left Málaga at midday under mostly sunny skies but shortly after meeting up with Janet the skies opened up and we took shelter – where else? – in the nearest bar.
But our hero Victor borrowed an umbrella from the bar (ours were all at home – duh) and went to collect the car, and on the way home we were rewarded with a spectacular rainbow.
So okay, it was almost a month late (through no real fault of either myself or Pilar) but better late than never. Today we finally managed to get together for lunch and celebrate Pilar’s birthday, which has become a bit of a tradition over the years.
This time we went to the always fabulous Vineria San Telmo and, not only was Pilar sung to by the staff when her candle lit birthday, erm, pie arrived, another client came over to us and said it was HIS birthday too, and gave Pilar a kiss. Great food and wine (including sherry), cosy ambiance… a lovely afternoon with a lovely friend.