Arenal is the barrio just to the south-west of the centre of the Casco Antiguo. It’s the area west of the Cathedral, as far as the river, and between the Isabel I and San Telmo bridges and their continuations.
The district was once the port of Seville and contained the naval dockyards, until the river silted up so much that the port had to be relocated downstream.
On the river boundary of the barrio is the Torre del Oro (Tower of Gold), a famous symbol of the city. It was erected by the Moors in 1220 to control access to the river.
Unbeknownst to many, there is a second smaller tower over the road hiding behind a house. The Torre de la Plata (Tower of Silver) at 15 Calle Santander was part of the same defensive chain as the Torre del Oro. You can get a view of it by going into the car park behind the house.
That’s enough sightseeing, lets get down to the important stuff. Food!! Below are reviews of eight tapas bars, both trad and modern, and an ice cream parlour. I’ve listed them all in geographical order, starting from near the Torre del Oro and moving north in the neighbourhood. You could in theory visit all of them as part of a tapeo (tapas crawl) but that would be a lot of food! Better to break it down to two or three at a time. If you only have time to visit one though, make it Casa Moreno, which is a quintessential Sevillian experience in my opinion.
This place is very famous locally too though…
Bodeguita Casablanca (Advanced B+), 12 Calle Adolfo Rodríguez Jurado, bodeguitacasablanca.com
Casablanca came recommended by some culinary heroes of mine; the owners of Moro and the blogger Eat Like a Girl. Back then in 2015 it was described by some as the most famous tapas bar in Seville and who am I to disagree. I’m not sure if it’s necessarily the best though, I’d hate to have to call that one, but it is pretty darn good.
It’s a medium-sized place that gets very busy, so it’s best to come here early to get a seat. The waiters are old school, so formally dressed, but friendly and efficient. The food is excellent, and nicely presented. I had the hake, the prawns and the Coquinas (wedge clams), all of which were great.
One of my favourite tapas bars is not far from here, down a back street over from the Giralda…
Casa Morales (Intermediate A), 11 Calle García de Vinuesa, www.facebook.com/bodegacasamorales
There are two parts to this venerable tapas bar; a front room that opens onto the street and a back room with a separate door down the side street. Go to the latter as it’s the more atmospheric of the two. You’ll know you’re in the right place by the towering ‘tinajas‘ (clay vessels for storing wine descended from amphorae) that line the walls. Video here. Opened in 1860 and still owned by the same family, Casa Morales is in competition with El Rinconcillo for the title of ‘most beautiful traditional bar in Seville’. It doesn’t have the beautiful ceramics, but I think the food and service is much better here. A must visit in my opinion.
There’s another place with buckets of character just up the street…
Casa Moreno (Elementary A), 7 Calle Gamazo
This is Sevilla’s oldest and best loved ultramarinos (grocery shop). Stacks of tins and jars fill the heaving shelves and rows of hams hang from the ceiling.
Casa Moreno is also an abaceria, a grocery shop that serves up its own food. Go through to the back room and you’ll see there’s a little bar where you can sit and have their in-house wines and tapas. The menu offers chachinas (cured hams), quesos (local cheeses) and montaditos (little sandwiches) and that’s just about it as there’s no kitchen to speak of. Simple, friendly, intimate; it’s a great little spot.
The crossroads of Calle Gamazo and Calle Zaragoza is a hotspot for good tapas bars. This next place is just over the road…
Enrique Becerra (Intermediate A), 2 Calle Gamazo, www.enriquebecerra.com
This beautifully tiled bar is owned by Enrique Becerra, famed author of cookbooks, wine guides and mystery novels.
The service has a bad rep for being less than friendly but they were okay with me, perhaps as I was the only customer first thing on a Tuesday. To start, a glass of Alfonso, my favourite generic Oloroso (B+), and some really good olives (B+). I tried the house speciality of Albóndingas de Cordero, lamb meatballs with mint sauce, which were okay (B) but I enjoyed the Brocheta de Gambas y Chiperon more (B+). The Rias Baixas Albarino white went well with that (B+). The bill was a reasonable €14. I’m going to try the upstairs restaurant next time.
And further down the same street…
Bodeguita Antonio Romero Gamazo (Intermediate A), 16 Calle Gamazo, www.bodeguitaantonioromero.com
Antonio Romero’s ‘little wine shop’ doesn’t have the old world charm of the bars above but the food is excellent and they are very popular. I came for their hangover beating Pringá Montadito; leftover pork stew in a sandwich (A). I enjoyed it so much that I followed up with the Albóndingas (B+) and left a new man. The anchovies are supposed to be good too.
Another good option around here might be Torres y García www.torresygarcia.es at 2 Calle Harinas. It’s a big modern place with a nicely designed interior and Michelin reommmended food. I’ve only been in for a drink but will be back to try the food.
If you walk up Calle Zaragoza you come to a few more good places…
La Azotea Zaragoza (Intermediate B), 5c Calle Zaragoza, laazoteasevilla.com
This is the second of four branches of La Azotea. The original in Calle Jesús del Gran Poder is in my top three modern tapas bars in the city. This one is pretty good too. I came for lunch and had their Ajoblanco de Coco con Vituas de Confit de Pato y Huevos de Trucha (Coconut Ajoblanco with Duck Confit and Trout Eggs) to start. Ajoblanco is a famous Andalucian soup which was given a twist here with the use of coconut milk instead of almonds. Unfortunately it didn’t really work for me (C) although I know it can be better as I’ve had a similar version at Casa Antonio in Jaen which was excellent. After this I tried the Cocido Croquettas which were pretty good (B). Cocido is a hearty stew with a multitude of ingredients so it was hard to work out what was actually in it but I’m pretty sure carrot, cabbage and chickpeas featured. After this a Salmon Tartar which was fine but unremarkable (B). A glass of excellent Sauvignon Blanc by Hermanos Lurton rescued things a bit (A). So I was a little disappointed that the food and general experience wasn’t quite as good as it was in the original Azotea but it was still okay. Service was excellent though which seems to be a constant in all their restaurants.
And on the same stretch…
La Cata Ciega (Elementary C), 15 Calle Zaragoza, www.facebook.com/lacataciega
I really wanted to like this little hole-in-the-wall bar (only ten seats) but the food didn’t cut it for me, despite being Michelin recommended. I include them here though because I like their innovative, experimental attitude and maybe they just had an off day when I went. Things started fairly well with the Carrilladas de Jabali (wild boar cheeks) which were okay (B) and the Huevo Escalfado, Bacon y Setas al PX (a poached egg with bacon and wild mushrooms in a reduction of sweet Pedro Ximenez raisin wine) was fairly passable (B-) but the Timbal de Pulpo wasn’t great (C) and the Langostinos, Puerros y Mostaza Antigua (kingprawns with leeks and ‘old’ (?) mustard) were just down right horrible (D+). The Oloroso, Verdejo Sanz and Bornos wines were average I thought. However, I’d like to give them another try before writing them off. It’s a good spot for an intimate drink at least.
Dessert is just over the road…
Gelateria Artesana La Fiorentina (Elementary B+), 16 Calle Zaragoza, heladeria-la-fiorentina.business.site
My local friends say that Helados Rayas is the best ice-cream parlour in town but this place comes a close second I think. Rick Stein chose to film here as well, possibly because they are more experimental and have flavours which are unique to Seville.
They also have seasonal flavours. I tried the Crema de Flor de Azahar, cream of orange blossom, which was lovely (B+).
Another favourite tapas bar is just a couple of streets away…
La Brunilda (Intermediate A), 5 Calle Galera, www.labrunildatapas.com
For me, this is one of the top three modern tapas bars in Seville, along with Azotea and Eslava. I’ve been here a couple of times, in 2017 and 2018. It’s very popular so reserving is advisable.
I can recommend the Salt-cod Fritters with Pear Alioli which are lovely and fluffy (A) and the Grilled Fresh Foie with Pears in Red Wine with Spiced Bread is wonderful too (A). Looks like I had either the Ham or the Gorgonzola Croquetas at some point as well which no doubt were very good. The Tataki de Atun itself was very nice (B+) but I left the bed of couscous it came on (C-). The Mini-Beef Burger with Soy Mayo, Sun-dried Tomatoes and Yucca Chips wasn’t quite as good as I remembered it from the previous year but was okay (from B+ to a B). The French Toast dessert tastes okay too if not a looker (B).
They have a good selection of intresting red and white wines. I liked the glasses of Balandro Rueda (B+) and Zorzal Graci (B). However I wasn’t impressed by the limited choice of dessert wines which all seemed to be Gonzales y Byass, a very good but highly generic label. It seems a bit unimaginative to just stock one brand and nothing else. Their Nectar PX is always a winner though (B+). But give their house Orujo de Hierbas a miss (C). Total spend €28.
Lots of great spots in this barrio, but there are plenty more! Barrio Santa Cruz next…