No etiquette in Seville’s oldest tapas bar

Posted by Diane Penwill in Europe | See & Do | Uncategorized

Article appeared in the Toronto Star

 Dishes, glasses and menus fly past my head as I try to hold on to my corner spot at the El Rinconcillo bar in Seville, Spain. One man slices jamon, or ham with olympian dexterity, while another chops bread with equal precision. The waiter spins the glasses he has cleaned before placing them on the shelf. Hams hang from the ceiling above the bar and wooden shelves with bottles of wine and sherry line the walls. Waist-high sherry barrels serve as stand-up tables. Sevillians generally stand, their drinks resting on the sherry casks, although the bar gives me a better spot for soaking up the atmosphere.

The first thing I learn about etiquette in Spain’s oldest tapas bar is there is no etiquette. No ashtrays. Cigarette butts, olive pits and mackerel exo-skeletons all go on the floor. Spaniards are happiest standing, packed in like the sardines they so love to pop in their mouths whole. The bartender finds it amusing that I keep looking for places to stash my refuse. He gestures to the floor, which has a thick carpet of debris.

The tapas bar tradition in Spain dates back to the 15th century when they were known as “spit and sawdust” bars, probably because everything was thrown onto sawdust floors. Tapas bars feel a bit like pubs in England or Ireland, where the term “spit and sawdust” originated, although the floors are no longer sawdust. El Rinconcillo is the oldest tapas bar in Seville, the town where tapas originated and given the age of this bar, which dates to 1670, the tradition may well have begun right here. Seville, Spain’s fourth-largest city and the capital of Andalusia, has 4000 tapas bars and tabernas – about one for every 200 locals. “Trying to find a bar in Seville is like trying to find a man in a suit on Bay Street.” says my Canadian friend.

As I sip my Rioja, three large-bottomed ladies are laughing me out of my hard-won corner, so I order a plate of tapas to establish my presence. Spanish taverns used to use slices of ham or cheese as lids (tapas) on the tops of wine glasses to keep insects out; a free snack. The small plates known as tapas aren’t free, but the ritual “el tapeo”, or eating on the go, is still very much alive.

The house specialty at El Rinconcillo is a rich, dark vegetarian stew with chickpeas, wilted spinach, olive oil and pimientos. Another is fat, salted anchovies. Barreled sherries from nearby Jerez and Sanlucar are popular and the locals drink cold, dry fino with their tapas, especially with caramones or shrimps, or the local Cruzcampo beer. The wine served is generally oaky Rioja, which is delicious, cheap and abundant.

“A tapas bar is like the female heart,” observed a mustachioed patron sitting near the door, “it will always let in one more person.” The volume increases and the smoke gets thicker as the place gets busier. The serious-minded, middle-aged men working the bar are sweating as the pace of ordering and consuming becomes frenetic. By 10:00 p.m., the place is bursting at the seams. The density of human bodies, and general chaos of ordering and consuming, brings to mind Picasso’s painting, “Guernica”, as hands reach above the sea of heads to grab dishes from waiters, bodies twist and turn and heads, arms and torsos appear to be floating. A visit to the toilet is an expedition, as I try not to be spilled on, stepped on, burned or bruised en route. It comes as no surprise there is no toilet paper.

The bartender keeps track of my order on a tab written in chalk upside down on the wooden bar in front of me. The tab grows longer with each item consumed, graphically demonstrating my excesses. When a patron leaves, the tab is added up and erased. Not an expense-account place; no receipts are proffered. You have overstayed your tapas time when your list grows too long for the width of the bar. It is time to move on to the next bar.

Severe rainstorms make the streets of Seville rivulets, and the downpour means all the bars are packed to the rafters, people laughing and hanging out the windows, getting very wet. The bar next door is called Bar los Claveles, although part of the letters are worn away so it reads just “Aveles”. I edge my way in, and watch the news of the flooding on TV. The staff and clientele are friendly and I feel instantly like a local.

Most tourists hang out in the Santa Cruz area and leave the older barrios of La Macarena and its subset, Santa Carolina, where El Rinconcillo is located, alone. Santa Carolina is where the locals go. The narrow streets barely allow a car through, and people are forced to cling to the crumbling, colourful buildings every time one attempts to pass. The 600-year-old Santa Carolina church is nestled up breathing distance from El Rinconcillo.

As I leave another tapas bar in the wee hours of the morning, one bartender confessed to me he deliberately messes the place up if it is too tidy, spreading cigarette butts around the bar area and strewing toilet paper on the floor of the bathroom, to make it look as though hordes of people have just left, on to the next bar. So, tour the tapas bars, but don’t forget your toilet paper.

Pack your bags:

Seville is in Andalusia, in southwest Spain, a 2-½ hour express train ride from Madrid:

El Rinconcillo, Gerona 40, Alhondiga 2, 41003 Sevilla, Tel: 954 223 183
www.elrinconcillo.es

Where to Stay

Hotel Don Pedro, Gerona 24, 41003 Sevilla, Tel: 954 29 33 33, Fax: 954 21 11 66, www.hoteldonpedro.net – charming, renovated, family-run hotel
Hotel Baco, Plaza Ponce de Leon, 15, 41003 Sevilla, Tel: 954 56 50 50, Fax: 954 56 36 54 – charming, friendly hotel

Media

View Print Version of Article

Map


View Larger Map

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

19 Responses

  • You can definitely see your enthusiasm in the paintings you write. The arena hopes for even more passionate writers such as you who are not afraid to mention how they believe. At all times go after your heart. “Every man serves a useful purpose A miser, for example, makes a wonderful ancestor.” by Laurence J. Peter.

  • seo firms says:

    you’re truly a just right webmaster. The site loading pace is incredible. It seems that you are doing any distinctive trick. In addition, The contents are masterwork. you’ve performed a fantastic process in this topic!

  • seo firm says:

    Thanks for any other great article. Where else may
    just anyone get that kind of information in such
    an ideal manner of writing? I’ve a presentation next week, and I am on the look for such info.

  • Hello, the whole thing is going sound here and ofcourse every one is sharing
    information, that’s in fact fine, keep up writing.

  • Just want to say your article is as astounding. The clarity in your post is just spectacular and i can assume you’re an expert on this subject. Well with your permission allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep up to date with forthcoming post. Thanks a million and please continue the gratifying work.

  • Great site! I am loving it!! Will be back later to read some more. I am bookmarking your feeds also

  • Hiya, I am really glad I’ve found this info. Today bloggers publish only about gossip and net stuff and this is actually irritating. A good site with exciting content, that is what I need. Thank you for making this website, and I’ll be visiting again. Do you do newsletters? I Cant find it.

  • I don’t even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was great. I don’t know who you are but certainly you are going to a famous blogger if you aren’t already ;) Cheers!

  • Thank you for another informative web site. Where else could I get that type of information written in such an ideal way? I’ve a project that I’m just now working on, and I have been on the look out for such info.

  • Hi there, I found your blog via Google while searching for a related topic, your site came up, it looks great. I’ve bookmarked it in my google bookmarks.

  • Nice post. I was checking constantly this blog and I am impressed! Very helpful info specially the last part :) I care for such info much. I was seeking this particular info for a long time. Thank you and best of luck.

  • bossjura says:

    This is quite easy simple, easy and fast. This loan scmhee is usually free from all the hassles which make delay in approving. Borrowers can approach to these loans to manage their unscheduled and urgent expenses easily but it is risky.The amount through payday loans without faxing can be used to fulfill various urgent or other requirements without having any interference of other lender. The urgent expenses can be anything like pay off shopping expenses, debt consolidation, education purposes, computer repair expenses, car repairs and other personal requirements.You may get some more detail from

  • Rabia says:

    hello there and thanks for your intoimafron a8C Ia1afve certainly picked up something new from right here. I did however expertise a few technical points using this website, since I experienced to reload the site lots of instances previous to I may get it to load properly. I had been wondering if your hosting is OK? Now not that I’m complaining, but sluggish loading circumstances occasions will very frequently affect your placement in google and can harm your high-quality score if advertising and ***********|advertising|advertising|advertising and *********** with Adwords. Well I am adding this RSS to my email and could look out for much extra of your respective fascinating content. Make sure you update this again very soon..

  • Nenita says:

    There are actually quite a lot of paclirutars like that to take into consideration. That may be a great point to deliver up. I supply the thoughts above as general inspiration however clearly there are questions like the one you convey up the place an important thing might be working in trustworthy good faith. I don?t know if best practices have emerged round issues like that, however I am positive that your job is clearly recognized as a good game. Each girls and boys really feel the impact of only a moment’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  • KEVIN says:

    Thank you for sharing surpeb informationsYour web-site is very coolI’m impressed by the details that you have on this siteIt reveals how nicely you understand this subjectBookmarked this website page, will come back for more articlesYou, my friend, ROCK! I found simply the info I already searched everywhere and just couldn’t come acrossWhat an ideal site.

  • Hello. splendid job. I did not expect this. This is a fantastic story. Thanks!



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*


*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>