As the postponed 12th annual Granada Tapas Competition finally comes to a close, who better than Gayle Mackie, business owner, local foodie and tapas aficionado, to give us the low-down on the city’s tapas culture and this year’s competition. A mouthwatering glimpse at the variety and quality of tapas on offer in the bars and restaurants of Granada during competition time.
Black pudding paté fried ‘burritos’ with cream cheese and caramelised red onion | Nuevo Rialto
What’s the story with tapas in Granada?
Granada has something over 2000 bars and restaurants to boast about. This is not bad for a city with a population of just a little more than 230,000 inhabitants. And a crawl of Granada’s tapas bars is always right up there with the Alhambra, topping the lists of ‘things to do’ in this vibrant city I call home.
Visitors are delighted to find and indeed are attracted to the city by the fact that the bars offer tapas along with the drinks. It’s very helpful to know that the Granada bars operate two systems for serving tapas.
The first is the choosing system, whereby there is a set list of tapas for customers to choose from . The second is known as the rounds system, meaning the bar gives you what they have on that day according to every round of drinks you order. A different tapa with every drink.
Pickled artichoke with green shoots, honey and toasted “salaílla” croutons | Taberna Los Trastos
Is there such a thing as typical tapas in Granada?
That’s the delightful thing about Granada, there is a huge variety. Yes, there are typical options, such as fried aubergine slices drizzled with sugar cane honey – berenjenas con miel – or sauteed baby broad beans served with cubed Serrano ham – habas con jámon.
But depending on the bar or the time of day or time of year, for example, the tapa selection changes and you might be offered breaded cod with homemade tomato sauce, curried chicken couscous, crustless vegetable quiche or a creamy spinach concoction on toast.
The list is endless as it is delicious!
Tuna tartar served with edible flowers and artichoke sauce | Restaurante Alacena de las Monjas
My tapas story
My tapas journey started over 20 years ago at Granada University. I’d have a tapa ‘snack’ in between classes, around 12.30, thinking that would be my lunch. Then I’d invariably end up back at my new Spanish friend’s house where her mother would present me with a massive plate of rice and vegetables for ‘lunch’ at 3 pm. I was stuffed silly!
I also have a less heartwarming memory from many moons ago when I was tricked into eating chicken hearts in the town of Ceuta. This is a typical tapa served in that part of Spain but not a favourite of mine. Apart from the chewy texture, the sheer quantity was off-putting… about 25 on the plate!
Experiences like that haven’t, however, dulled my passion for Spanish food, a passion that I have turned into a business – Granada Tapas Tours.
Pork cheeks on carrot coulis served with sweet potato sauce and a fried carrot slice | Bar Rojo
The Granada Tapas Competition 2020 – Highlight of the Granada gastronomic calendar
As you can imagine for a dedicated foodie like myself, the annual Granada Tapas Competition – ‘Granada de Tapas’ Luis Oruezábal – is one of the highlights of my year. The competition, sponsored by Alhambra Beer, usually runs for around two weeks every year in March, but like most other events in Spain, and around the world, it was put on hold due the global pandemic and lockdown.
It’s been a real boost for Granada and the city’s hospitality industry that the 2020 competition was given the green light in September. And from the 8th to 26th a total of 51 bars and restaurants competed to showcase some of the finest produce and culinary talent that Granada has to offer.
The emphasis is always on combining the best local ingredients with creativity and imagination to produce something that tastes great and, crucially, is beautifully presented. As you can see from the images here the standard in 2020 is as high as ever.
The competitors are judged by a panel of food critics and industry figures and the final three winning entries will be sent to the Official Spanish Tapas and Pinchos Championship in 2021.
The popularity of Granada as a culinary destination continues to drive excellence and creativity in its bars and restaurants, and competition time is a great opportunity for real food lovers to visit the city before it gets really busy. Granada’s peak months are April, May, June, September and October.
Congratulations to all winners and finalists who were announced this weekend. This lineup makes a great tapas bucket list for any of you foodies out there planning a visit to Granada this autumn or spring 2021.
For more details of this year’s participating bars and where to find them visit Granada de Tapas Gastronómicas.
- ‘Pionono de cordero segureño con brandada de alcachofa’, Antonio Francisco Rojas, Picoteca 3 Maneras
- ‘Con mucho rollo’, Cristian Puebla, Garden Plaza Bar
- ‘Secreto Marino’ Patricia Aguilar, El Secreto de Humphrey
- ‘Repápalo del Sacromonte’, Jéssica Corpas, Arrozante Restaurant, Hotel Barceló Granada Congress
- ‘Aquellas gachas de ajo quemao’, José Miguel Magin, Gastrobar Qübba, Hotel Santos Saray
‘Pionono’ of slow-cooked Segureño lamb, topped with foie gras on a bed of cod and artichoke brandade | Picoteca 3 Maneras
Take a tapas tour in Granada
The term ‘food tourism’ was coined back in 2003 by the World Food Travel Association. I started my tapas tours in 2006, without knowing that this style of tourism even existed. I simply wanted to promote Granada and show visitors good places to eat in the city.
In the 15 years I’ve been organising tours, I estimate that around 10,000 people have come ’through the doors’. Groups are always small (maximum of six to eight people) and with new Covid-19 measures in place, the tours in the future will undoubtedly be even smaller.
So much more than ‘just’ a tapas tour with the standard four or six drinks included. Every route is unique, depending on when you go, where you go, who is leading the tour and of course the participants themselves. The experience is more like a ‘night out with friends’ and you’ll learn about the history and local life in the city as well as the food and drink.
For us, it’s always about the experience. Enjoying Granada and the finest tapas it has to offer.