Exploring Granada’s Culinary Delights: A Gourmet Journey

Indulging in a treat of watching the sun set over the Alhambra, I am captivated not only by the view but also by the delectable bacalao and piquillo pepper sauce I have just savored. The serotonin coursing through my brain is a result of this delicious meal, making me consider licking the plate clean. However, I opt to use the last piece of bread to wipe every trace of the dish instead, much to the relief of my wife.

Alhambra at sunset

The Alhambra

Granada is a magnificent city to spend a long weekend in. The Alhambra and Generalife gardens are among Spain’s most popular attractions, and the influence of their Arabic and Romanesque architecture can be seen in the historic quarters surrounding the area.

Alhambra gardens

We visited during the spring, over Easter weekend, which was a delightful time to explore the city. The air was filled with the aroma of blossoming bitter orange trees that are scattered throughout Granada, and the weather was agreeable, much better than whatever climate awaited us back home.

Easter, known as Semana Santa, attracts both tourists and locals to the city center, where they witness festivals that bring certain parts of Granada to a halt for the duration of the Easter weekend.

Semana Santa parade

The entire week holds significant importance in this region of Spain, and the city center becomes bustling with locals and visitors alike, watching as protagonists dressed in traditional outfits parade through the streets, carrying floats and keeping rhythm to the beat of drums and brass instruments.

Inside alhambra

The locals being off work during this time is advantageous for visitors because it indicates the best places to dine in the city. The queue of Grenadians stretching out of Los Italianos ice cream shop and onto the street tells me that it is the ideal place to buy ice cream (I highly recommend their pistachio flavor).

Tapas, Raciones, and Pinchos

We all know tapas by now – small plates of food – but do we know the origin? “Tapa” comes from the Spanish verb “tapar,” meaning to cover. Legend has it that tapas were initially served on top of wine glasses to prevent fruit flies from taking a dip in the sweet nectar. While the source of this tradition may be debated, it is widely accepted that it started in Andalusia. In cities like Granada, going out for tapas, or “ir de tapas,” is a way of life. Many bars in Granada present customers with a complimentary tapa for every drink ordered. These dishes are usually modest, but they can become more elaborate if you choose to stay and order more drinks.

Tapas refer to small plates of various delicious foods. Raciones are larger plates of the same dishes, designed for sharing, as most Spanish cuisine is. Platos combinados are mixed plates of food commonly found in the UK, while pinchos are small bites of food typically served on a skewer or cocktail stick.

The Granada Walking Food Tour

We decided to embark on a Granada Walking Food Tour through Spain Food Sherpas, seeking an insider’s view of the city’s culinary scene. We had previously experienced a similar tour in Reykjavik, where a local guide led a group of about 12 of us on an Icelandic food adventure.

Our Granada tour was more intimate, consisting of just the two of us and our guide Marcel. However, it was just as informative and enjoyable. The first hour was spent exploring the history of Granada, strolling through the back streets and squares of the historic center, and learning about the town’s spice trade and food culture.

Casa Castañeda jamon iberico

Our tour then took us to three different restaurants, where we savored six delectable dishes and enjoyed five glasses of wine (or alcohol-free beer in my case), leading to a well-deserved afternoon siesta. Our first stop was Casa Castañeda, a traditional tapas bar famous for its jamon iberico. The legs of this delicious ham adorned the walls above the bar, and I learned about the grading system for this delicacy and the best purities to look out for.

Casa Castañeda

We then indulged in a traditional tortilla española, a slightly runny Spanish omelette that proved to be a worthy runner-up to my auntie’s renowned tortilla. A delicious chickpea and spinach dish spiced with cumin followed, showcasing the North African influence on Andalusian cuisine. All of these dishes were accompanied by traditional vermut to start, some cava, and a delightful white wine.

Our next stop was Restaurante Alameda, a modern and Michelin Guide-listed establishment in the Realejo area. Here, we enjoyed a perfectly round creamy croquette made from rabo de toro, a slow-cooked oxtail stew served in a rich and flavorful sauce. This dish was simple yet delicious, easily becoming the highlight of our tour.

Restaurante Alameda rabo de toro

Our final destination was Chikito, a well-loved restaurant where famous personalities’ photographs adorn the walls. This location holds historical significance, as Spanish poet Federico García Lorca and his artistic circle used to meet here. We relished in a salad of shredded salt cod and oranges, known as remojón granadino, a delicious fried artichoke dish with a sweet cane honey dressing, and a baked treacle tart for dessert.

El Chikito treacle tart

We bid farewell to Marcel, our incredible food and city guide, and retired to our apartment for a much-needed siesta to digest our food tour before heading out for dinner.

The Albaicín

On warm afternoons, we found ourselves drawn to the Albaicín, the Moorish quarter of Granada situated on the hill facing the Alhambra. Seeking sanctuary, we explored the UNESCO World Heritage site with its maze of narrow streets, alleys, and stepped pathways, immersing ourselves in the feeling of being slightly lost. The area that leads to the old quarter is reminiscent of the bustling souks of Marrakech and is filled with shops and street vendors. It is also home to charming teahouses where we enjoyed tranquil moments sipping Moroccan tea infusions and savoring sweet pastries.

Mint tea in Albaicin

During the evenings, we delighted in walking and eating, exploring the abundance of excellent dining options. On a couple of occasions, we blindly chose where to eat based on the appearance of the food. Additionally, some prior research led us to two restaurants that not only promised great food but also offered stunning venues.

El Claustro

Housed within the AC Palacio de Santa Paula hotel, El Claustro offers dining in the courtyard of a 16th-century convent. This beautiful setting creates a memorable dining experience. Although it was the most expensive meal of our Granada trip, it was worth every penny. The staff was attentive, and the food was excellent, featuring traditional Andalusian cuisine with a modern twist.

El Claustro

The staff at El Claustro proudly highlighted their partnership with the esteemed olive oil producer, Omed, which was named the best olive oil in the world that year. Eager to bring home a taste of this high-quality olive oil, I managed to find some at Mercado San Augustin.

Omed oil

A Restaurant with a View

For our final evening, we sought a table with a view of the Alhambra. While popular spots like Mirador de San Nicolas can be crowded, we opted to book a table at Restaurant Las Tomassas, strategically located in front of Mirador de San Nicolas. This restaurant boasts a great terrace and indoor dining tables, all offering spectacular views of the Alhambra. We relished in the excellent food, with a special mention going to the Catalan-style “black fideua” featuring short noodles and baby squids. The cod dish I chose was as remarkable as the view itself, making for an unforgettable dining experience.

The Alhambra’s enchanting beauty, coupled with savoring fabulous Andalusian cuisine, is a definite must-do if you find yourself in Granada.

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