Posted by: travelrat | October 15, 2007


TapasLa Carihuela

Madrid 29th September 2007

Vaughantown programmes usually start with tapas on Saturday night. Unfortunately, this time, I was late getting into Madrid, and the tapas had almost gone. But, there was still some wine left.

It’s difficult, if not impossible, to translate the word tapas concisely into English. Originally, the word meant ‘lids’, and was assigned to the pieces of bread or slices of cheese or ham that came with drinks, to place over your glass in order to ensure it wasn’t contaminated by insects, leaves, bird droppings, etc. landing in it when consumed outside.

As time went on, the pieces of bread became little open sandwiches, and nowadays, the term has come to mean any little snacks served with a drink. It’s even given rise to a verb … tapear … to partake of tapas.

There are some who say the practice came about as the result of the command of a King … one of the Alfonsos, I think … who, concerned at instances of drunkenness among his army, decreed that no alcoholic liquor should be served unless food was also provided.

Tapas serve a multitude of purposes. Maybe they demonstrate the hospitality of the bar owner, or just encourage a thirst in order to sell more beer or wine; maybe they’re eaten to fill the gap until dinner time … like most Mediterranean countries, the Spaniards dine late. Or, they could demonstrate the quality of the food, so the customer may return to eat more substantially later. Or, maybe a bit of all four!

But, there’s a multitude of other places to take tapas. We found an excellent on at Chamffix, in the town of Carriòn de los Condes. Although I do wish Alberto had told me about the pigs’ ear before I’d eaten a piece.

On return to Madrid, I was able to check out some I’d already made acquaintance with on previous occasions.

El Quinto Vino, in Calle Hernani is always crowded. I fought my way to the bar, and exhausted two thirds of my Spanish by saying ‘Una cerveza, por favor!’ Usually, I try to avoid too great a press of people in bars, but this was different. Anywhere else, I would dismiss the décor as ‘too Spanish’ or ‘too touristy’. But here, the mass of pictures, bits of wine boxes, photographs and souvenirs on the walls, with every spare bit of space taken up by bottles of all kinds seems just right.

Just down the road is La Carihuela, which I like for its superb exterior tilework. The beer and the tapas aren’t bad, either. They brought me a sort of Cornish pasty, about the size of a 50p. piece.

I ended my tour at Pipo: El Viño del Mundo, which is also where I had my dinner. A platter of ham, cheese and tomatoes, and definitely a situation calling for the much-maligned phrase book. But, not for talking. You just need it to translate the items on the menu, then point to what you require.

More information at:,… IF you can read Spanish. Otherwise, try a look around


30th April 2009

I’ve just finished listening to a Rick Steves podcast, in which he interviewed Spanish tour guide Federico Garcia Baroso who said there are three kinds of tapas.

There’s the ‘aperitivo’; the little free nibble that comes with your drink … the ‘tapa’ proper, a sort of bar snack, which you usually pay for and the ‘ration’ (I’m not sure if I have the spelling right … it’s pronounced ‘rath-i-own’) which is a more substantial serving.

I’ll be sure to check these out next time I’m in Spain!

The podcast is at, and is called ‘Spain and the Spring Festivals’

29th July 2009

It’s ‘racionne’ … according to



  1. […] travelrat wrote a fantastic post today on “Tapas”Here’s ONLY a quick extract… maybe they’re eaten to fill the gap until dinner time … like most Mediterranean countries, the Spaniards dine late. Or, they could demonstrate the quality of the food, so the customer may return to eat more substantially later. … […]

  2. Tapas really is wonderful. They used to have a fabulous tapas bar in Oxford St. in Sydney which has since closed down. It’s such a shame because the food was utterly delicious; much nicer than the Italian equivalent of antipasto.

  3. Hi, Selma!

    Those good people at WordPress Support got the issues sorted out and I’m back!

    However, I thought antipasto was a kind of hors d’oeuvre served before a meal … the nearest thing to tapas is served in some parts of Italy and called ‘ciccetti’ … the main difference is in Italy, you pay for the snacks!

  4. You are right of course, Keith. But either way, I much prefer tapas….

  5. […] and Cigars Enjoy excellent Spanish and Argentine wines, and wonderful habanos, along with delicious tapas. Location: Mercer Lounge, Prolongación Paseo de Montejo, next to La Parrilla Time: 8:00 PM Friday […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: