Where to get inspiration

image1 (3)Tapas tour discovering must be one of the best ways to be inspired for event food;  here we have a whole nation dedicated to the art of small eats with drinks, which after all must constitute a large part of the event catering offer.

What is ‘Tapas’ and where did it come from: According to the Royal Spanish Academy, tapas is: “A small portion of any food served to accompany a drink.” While the exact true origin of tapas is uncertain, there are various legends throughout history (and on the web) although the exact truth is speculative, both King Alfonso XIII and King Fernando XVII are, according to the various legends, involved in the origins of tapas. However, according to one of the oldest restaurants in Spain, El Ventorrillo del Chatoit was King Fernando VII.  No matter who, the story goes: After a long voyage, travelling one of the longest routes in Andalusia, a Spanish king was served a drink at a restaurant where he was served a glass of wine with a slice of cheese atop the glass. It was being used as tapaderaa cover to protect the wine from bugs or dust (some say it was ham or bread). Although the King knew that, he ate it as did his entire court. Following this, it is said that the King continued to ask for “Tapas” with his wine everywhere he went and the life of tapas was born – thank goodness for us today!

I had the fortune to be in Spain over Christmas, and as I had to go to Malaga I decided to make the most of my trip and discover more about tapas and so booked www.tapasinmalaga.com with the lovely Michael.

A common problem in Spanish towns is there are always lots of tapas bars (apparently 1:1000 people) but the trick is discovering the great ones which only the locals know about.  Michael from Tapas in Malaga helped us brilliantly with this. After rendezvousing with Michael we walked through the magnificent pedestrian street of Calle Larious to Gamba Wendy – yes really! Who knew the Spanish knew my name!  A good tapas bar is all about seasonality and daily menu change reflecting what’s available, so here we tried fantastic partridge pate, local Andalusian gazpacho – and my favourite of the day – a small beef burger using Oxtail…………….. OMG,  A-m-a-z-i-n-g …….as Craig from strictly would say. We also drank some great local Andalusian wine ‘ Moscato Seco Botani’ from the Cadiz region – Crisp and delicious, who would have guessed the wine from that region was so good.

We didn’t have to go far to find the next place, it was on the opposite corner and a contrast to the local family tapas ‘Gamba wendy’  This was called KGB – No not Russian inspired but the chefs name, Kisko Garcia Bar, owned and operated by one of the aspiring great Spanish chefs who came from a Michelin restaurant. The food here is authentic Spanish with Asian specialities. It’s amazing how many great chefs are coming out of Spain in the last 10 years; there really are some very talented ones who are also influencing the London food scene. It’s worth looking out when in Spain for these chefs, as quite often they return home to set up. The Spanish are very family orientated so you get great restaurants from international chefs popping up in most unlikely places. KGB was definitely a case of modern take, quite a few involving cocktail inspirations, which tasted amazing, even if the names were a concern. The chicken with margarita foam was a firm favourite.image2 (1)

We then diverted to the fresh food market area – it makes you wonder why we can’t get food like that in the UK. The fruit and vegetables are definitely not conforming in shape but look fresh and tasty. The meat and fish sold at the stalls are a delight to behold and the EU health and safety rules seem to bend considerably. My favourite being, cooked dishes right next to the raw dishes!

We then moved over to the newest foodie instillation: The Mercado Mercedes (www.mercadomerced.com). Cities have recognised that food is one of the best attractants to generate revenue and a reason to visit. The Mercado is a central area where local restaurants can have a pop up to showcase the best of their menu and regional tapas specialities; it certainly brings the crowds in. I was delighted to see there were mainly Spanish customers who were excited to have something new, but I have no doubt the foodie fundamentalists will be on their way.

Our final stop was a very atmospheric wine/ Tapas bar Los Patios de Beatas(www.lospatiosdebeatas.com) which is also a vinoteca. It’s down a side street, so not so easy to find. The owner was keen for us to try local wines and happy to explain the merits of them. Again we had a great experience with the food, with my personal favourite being the blackened cod. Whilst this bar has the foodie element, it also does great traditional food – we had amazing Chipirones. The last dish of the trip we had was tongue, which as with foodies, Michael took the risk and kindly shared it- to the horror of my non foodie friend! But we all loved it.image3

So yet another good foodie reason to visit a city. Whilst it may be cheaper to do it on your own, it definitely won’t be as great value as sharing it with a local foodie guide. Michael was one who can really help peel off the ‘tourist layers’ and help you discover the real flavour. It certainly changed my view of Malaga and as one of my friends said, he was so inspired that he thought he may go live there, so all in all a great day

Wendy Bartlett MBE FIH