Food and Drink
Spanish food - The Spanish have never acquired the international reputation for haute cuisine enjoyed by bordering France and most overseas visitors never actually sample a taste of the real Spain. To savour the truly wonderful world of Spanish food it's essential that you venture beyond the seaside tourist traps and follow the example of the Spaniards. Food is far more than just a meal time in Spain - eating out is a way of life in Spain with meal times a relaxed and social occasion - a time to share with friends and family.
No matter where you are in Spain you'll get tastier food for far less money if you eat where the Spanish eat and follow them along to the street markets too which is where you will find fresh and high quality local produce at very reasonable prices.
Food in Andalucia - The Costa del Sol is famed for its grilled sardines, barbecued on the beach in the summer months and lots of other fresh fish. Andalucia brought us Gazpacho (chilled tomato soup) and the delightful habit of serving tapas with every drink. Traditionally a tapa, which means cover in Spanish, was served free with a drink and maybe some dried ham, manchego cheese or tortilla. The snack was placed on the small plate used to cover the drink to keep away flies. In most tourist centres these days you have to pay for your tapas but they are still served free in many inland areas of Andalucia and elsewhere around the country. Some restaurants are now starting to offer deals on food such as order a drink and receive a free Tapas or set menus at specific times of the day for very good prices.
Restaurants in Spain - In a country where eating out is a way of life the quality of restaurant food has to be good, but Spanish cuisine is rarely pretentious. Spain is full of excellent Spanish restaurants in all regions. You won't need a guide to find the right restaurant. Just look for the one that's full of Spanish people and you can't go wrong.
Feel free to ask any of us at Chestertons affinity for suggestions of where to eat or drink as we will be more than happy to introduce you to any of the fantastic local bars or restaurants!
Food Shopping - In southern Spain food shopping is very different from the rest of Europe. There's none of the ready meals or pre-prepared vegetables you'll be use to in the UK and this is simply because most of the food you will find in a supermarket will have been grown or produced here.
There are several daily markets available in most major towns where you will be able to purchase fresh fish or locally grown vegetables at very reasonable prices though you will still need to visit a supermarket for certain items.
Food shopping is a lot cheaper here than in most other European countries too. You can compare some UK prices with a local Spanish supermarket www.mercadona.es (they also offer a home delivery service)
Most supermarkets on the Costa del Sol will stock products you will be used to in the UK and other countries. We have also started to see some UK supermarkets open up in Spain, in particular Marks and Spencer and Iceland, and failing that you could always drive over to Gibraltar where you will find a Morrisons supermarket.
A typical day's menu - Breakfast in Spain tends to consist of something very simple, maybe some fresh bread spread with some garlic and then some fresh tomato puree and possibly some ham, Cafe con leche (espresso coffee with steamed milk) or some freshly squeezed orange juice. Those who do not drink coffee may have a cup of thick rich Spanish hot chocolate and churros (a light, crisp sort of doughnut) with chocolate.
Lunch is by far the most important meal of the day in Spain, starting at around 1 or 2pm this will last for anything up to two hours and as such is a very social occasion. Most cafes and restaurants serve a set menu of the day (menu del dia) which will consist of three courses for about €7.50 including wine, water and coffee! Most will have their siesta after lunch and you will find most businesses stay closed until early evening and then re-open until around 7 or 8pm. Very different from your ham and cheese sandwich at lunchtime in the UK!
If you are still feeling hungry then early evening is when you will eat Tapas, which you will find served in bars and restaurants all over Spain. Tapas can consist of pretty much anything from olives or meatballs to Chorizo or calamari. These are served in small portions and will normally be enjoyed with a glass of wine.
Dinner, following such a large lunch and some Tapas, tends to be a small meal and you will also eat much later than you are used to (from around 9pm). Don't be surprised to be in an empty restaurant at 10pm as most don't start to fill up until around midnight. At weekends, holidays or during the hot summer months it is not unusual for a Spanish family to continue eating and drinking in local cafes until 3 or 4am!