A beginner’s guide to the food of Spain
The food of Spain has become one of the most popular cuisines around the world. Let’s take a look at what makes Spanish food so delicious.
The food of Spain has evolved over a considerable period of time. As it has evolved, it’s incorporated key elements from invading armies, but also from territories that the Spanish Empire conquered.
Key influences that can be seen within Spanish cuisine include:
- The control of Spain by the Roman Empire – which began around the year 220 BC.
- The conquest of Spain by the Moors – beginning around the year 711 AD.
- The European colonisation of the Americas – which began around the year 1492.
- Olive oil
- Pork – often cured as ham or chorizo
- Onions and garlic
There are enormous regional and seasonal variations in Spanish cuisine. Some of the most popular dishes that you’ll find on your travels include:
- Paella – a rice dish flavoured with seafood and meat
- Tapas – small dishes eaten with drinks before a meal
- Tortilla – Egg and potatoes
- Allioli – a sauce made from garlic and olive oil
- Gazpacho – a chilled tomato and cucumber soup
- Gambas al ajillo – prawns cooked in garlic
- Cochinillo asado – roast suckling pig
Where to find Spanish food in London
Barrafina is a small chain of tapas restaurants in London.
I’m often at the Drury Lane outlet in Covent Garden before heading to the theatre. It’s a small space, generally jammed full with people, but the friendly and efficient team behind the counter effectively manage the queue for seats and keep everyone plied with drinks and snacks.
The food they’re serving is modern, fresh, and delicious.
This is one of the top favourites of Brixton locals.
After you’ve been here a few times you’ll be greeted like members of the family by the friendly and effusive staff.
Boqueria Tapas delivers great Spanish food - perfect for sharing with friends or a larger group.
One of the long-standing destination restaurants within Borough Market, Brindisa Tapas gets pretty much everything right.
I like this place for breakfast, but they also do interesting and intelligent tapas-style food throughout the day and evening.
After work, it’s usually so crowded that you’ll struggle to get a table, but you can always prop yourself at their counter to snack on chorizo and contemplate a glass of Amontillado while you wait.
This is a chain of restaurants with a number of outlets across London. Not bad in an emergency, but there’s plenty of better places out there.
Dehesa delivers classic Spanish tapas, but done really really well.
Now a small chain of cafe/restaurants, the Fernandez & Wells outlets generally follow a fairly appealing fit-out of a long wooden counter, some small intimate tables lit by candlelight, and some perfectly chosen music to create a bit of ambience.
Ibérica is slightly tucked away, around the corner from Farringdon Station. It’s a beautiful space, but a number of restaurants have tried their luck in this location without being successful. Ibérica however is a winner.
It’s always busy when I’m here, but the helpful and professional staff are pretty adept at finding a space for you to stand in the bar while they secure a table for you.
Meson Don Felipe is always busy – a firm favourite with the locals who live in the South Bank precinct.
It’s loud and boisterous - small tables jammed closely together. If that’s what you’re in the mood for, then you’ll love this place.
The food here is really good - top-drawer tapas and modern Spanish cooking.