Tapas

In Australia, we know tapas as smaller sized dishes to share, a practice fast gaining in popularity among diners. But this is the simplest understanding of tapas, which holds little of its true cultural meaning.

In Spain, where they originated, tapas are simply a part of life. Tapas can be eaten any time – day or night, and the term can be used to describe a variety of dishes, such as appetisers, soups, pickles, meat or small sauced dishes. What they hold in common is their essential role: a dish to be eaten in a bar, or more usually in a succession of bars with a drink! Going out to eat tapas is such a big part of the Spanish culture and social scene that there is even a word ‘tapeo’ which means going out before lunch or dinner to mingle with friends for a drink, sharpening the appetite for the main meal ahead by choosing from the tempting tapas on offer in the bars. Unlike our understanding of food and wine pairing, in the case of tapas, it is the food which is an accompaniment to the sips of good wine.

There are several stories about the origins of tapas in Spanish folklore. King Alfonso X, “the wise one”, due to illness, had to take small bites of food with some wine between meals.  Apparently, on one of his journeys, he stopped in the province of Cadiz. It was a gusty day and the innkeeper served him sherry with a slice of ham covering the glass to stop dust and flies from entering the glass. King Alfonso liked the idea, and ordered a tapa or ‘cover’ over his second glass of sherry as well.

Once he recovered from his sickness, the wise king decreed that no wine was to be served in any of the inns unless accompanied by something to eat. Besides keeping the wine clean, Alfonso also thought that eating a little food with wine was also a good idea, because it soaked up the alcohol. Eating tapas became common practice with farmers and workers to tide them over the long break between meals. The tradition of the tapa spread throughout Spain, and continues right up to the present day. Although tapas vary from region to region, some common practices apply: they are eaten to accompany wine as patrons move from bar to bar; they are eaten without cutlery, the diner always standing up, not seated.

As Frank Camorra in his book Movida muses, “dining is not a passive consumer activity”, at least not in Spain! The sense of movement and interaction is captured well in this joyful description of eating tapas:

“The art of tapeo is like a…game, as it pleases the five senses by means of the multifarious smells, the friendly pats on the back, the sight of beauty on the streets. It induces states of inspiration and delight, it gives rise to witty banter on trivial topics and the interchange of snippets of juicy gossip…The tapeo is a[n]… art which takes the form of a route; a path paved with chance meetings and random conversations.” Alicia Rios (1987), quoted in The Penguin Companion to Food by Alan Davidson, p.939.

Many other countries have adopted tapas, serving them in many different ways. None, however, have taken the Spanish elegance or ritual of tapas with the food. Y.V. Fadón comments:

“The tapeo would be, without a doubt, the best fast food formula if it did not require time and a break long enough to practice, with Spanish elegance, the art of eating on foot.” (http://www.arrakis.es/~jols/tapas/)

How true this is! Personally, despite how long it may take, I’d rather have tapas and witty conversation than burgers from the golden arches any day!

Want to learn more about tapas? Take a quick video Tapas tour of Madrid with Julia Dimon, or read ‘How to know if you’re actually eating tapas‘ by Jason Wire. Great fun!

 

A ‘Tapas’ selection of Gold Coast Tapas! (in alphabetical order)

Bistro Lamp (Japanese), 3021-3039 Gold Coast Highway, Surfers Paradise

Cocotte (Japanese French fusion), 361 Robina Parkway, Robina (check venue for tapas nights)

Etsu, 2440 Gold Coast Highway, Mermaid Beach

Hank, Broadbeach Mall

Not Tonight, Nerang St., Southport

Social Eating House, Oracle Blvd., Broadbeach

Sparrow Eating House, 2/32 Lavarack Road, Nobby Beach

The Wine Barrel, 8/59 Railway Street, Mudgeeraba

Tonic on Chirn, 37 Musgrave Ave, Chirn Park

Yuzu Lounge, (Japanese) 2A, 82 Marine Parade, Southport, Queensland 4215

Pablo Pablo, (Spanish) 5th Avenue, Palm Beach

Broadbeach Chirn Park Coolangatta Dinner Feature articles French Greek Indian Japanese Location Lunch Main course $15 or less Main course $15 to $25 Mermaid Waters Mudgeeraba Restaurants Robina Southport Spanish Surfers Paradise Tapas Varsity Lakes , , , , , , , , , ,

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2 Reviews

  1. born2eat, 5 years ago

    Watch out for James Brady’s (ex Vue de Monde & Poseidon) new venture, Samphire Bites, opening on Chevron Island in May 2012. It sounds spectacular! Expect tapas-sized exquisite food, matched with cocktails or boutique wines. Yum! Can’t wait!

       -   Reply
  2. Amanda Tanner, 5 years ago

    The Hub has a new tapa and dinner menu with some awesome cocktails to match. Full wine and beer matching coming in the next few weeks, these guys have it going on and getting busier by the week!!! Very impressive little hang out!

       -   Reply

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