Tapa Thursdays: The Bar that Never Fails to Impress, La Azotea

I had snagged Lindsay for a rare night out. She strolled into the locale she’d suggested, bright as always and pronounced something to the effect of, “This is the best place I’ve tried lately, and this place is going to be huge.”

And true it was. La Azotea – a venture owned by a Spanish-American couple – has quickly grown from a small place in the Macarena to a four-venue favorite, with a few more concepts in the pipeline.

La Azotea has yet to let me down – not in food, not in service, not in wine list, not in the fact that a few of their waiters at the Mateos Gago location now call me by name, despite only going a few times a year.

Let’s start with the food.

On my first visit, Lindsay and I went a bit crazy, ordering several raciones as if we hadn’t eaten for days. But it all sounded so good and so fresh. The bar boasts ‘alta cocina’ and it delivers, changing the menu seasonly to reflect what’s in season or what showed up at the market that morning. My picks are the cod flanks with almond sauce served on a bed of pesto or the boiled octopus over mashed potatoes.

Like many bars in the city, you’ll find the traditional dishes, though they hint international or sometimes feature a different ingredient – think mackerel lasagna. 

I’m not one to order dessert while dining out, though I’ve made a few exceptions at La Azotea. While they’re famous for their homemade orange blossom ice cream with mint and raspberry, I’ve also had mini french toasts with spiced honey ice cream.

And now that they’ve opened for breakfast at Mateos Gago, no one will judge you for eating eggs for breakfast.

Then there’s the great wine pairings.

The staff is knowledgable about grapes, seasons and how well they’ll go with whatever you’ve picked out to eat. I’d venture to guess that there are 10-15 wines available on any given day, which include rosés and cavas. 

La Azotea also stocks  more of the hard-to-find wines. Garum and Matsu, my current favorites, can always be found behind the bar.

Above all, the personalized service, to me, sets La Azotea apart. The staff takes it time to explain dishes and suggest wines or desserts, they’re attentive to top off your glass or swipe you a few extra olives. I wouldn’t consider myself a local by any means, but I am usually greeted by name.

I sometimes feel that dining out in Seville can be a bit redundant, that even places that have been staples of the food scene have taken a nosedive in service and quality. But if we measure by sevillano standards, each bar in the La Azotea restaurant group is always buzzing and full – a sign that you’ve made it in a city renowned for its multitude of tapas eateries.

If you go: La Azotea boasts three full service restaurants and one abacería. Only their Mateos Gago location is open daily, open all day and even offers breakfast. Rumor has it this could change, so check their website for details.

Are you disappointed in the tapas scene in Spain, or feel like it fails to impress you? Or is there a bar you absolutely love, every single time?

Tapa Thursdays: El Gallinero de Sandra

El Gallinero de Sandra – Sandra’s Chicken Coop – was what I expected to be an over-priced, chicken-heavy restaurant.

Always one to try a new place and follow my group of American chicks around, I went anyway. My girlfriends always know how to find the good places.

Housed on a pedestrian alleyway between Trajano and Amor de Dios streets, the joint is part of a recent surge in gastrobars, boutiques and trendy watering holes that has the Alameda neighborhood, once associated with junkies and the homeless, ranking as one of Seville’s top nightlife barrios.

Sandra herself greeted us and showed us to a table on a breezy terrace fashioned with fresh white linens, hanging lamps and red accents. We took advantage of one of the last balmy nights to dine al fresco, though the open concept bar and dining area reminded me of an upscale farm restaurant.

As Sandra rattled through what was available off the menu, I went into a temporary coma because everything sounded beyond delicious. L took care of the wine – Garum, a favorite of our group of friends – and we toasted to hatching new plans and a new friend.

The menu at El Gallinero changes constantly, and it had more than just chicken – baked fish dishes, revueltos with everything imaginable, a tempting presa ibérica, though few thoroughly vegetarian dishes. We settled on tuna tartar with vegetables, salad with shrimp and curry sauce, pork loin with creamy rice pilaf and the most decadent foie on top of a flatbread and a garden of caramelized onions. So good, in fact, that I stopped taking pictures and just ate. Dishes were reasonably priced, as well, between 8€ and 16€ for a ración.

Washed down with another French wine – El Gallinero has wines from around the world, as well as a few bottled microbrews and regional liquors – we bellied up for dessert. The lemon meringue was reminiscent of key lime pie, and the coulant and creme brûlée heavenly. Our bill came to roughly 28€ per person with a small tip included.

We agreed the place would be perfect for date night – cozy and intimate – though we were a group of four guiri hens clucking about our summers at lightning speed at a place named Chicken Coop.

What’s your favorite place to have a meal in the Alameda? I’ve got an exciting new food project coming up with the backing of Caser Expat Insurance, so stay tuned!

If you go: El Gallinero de Sandra is located on the pedestrian street Pasaje Esperanza Elena Caro near the Plaza del Duque. Expect to pay 8€ for an omelette or fritata, 9€ for a salad and 11€ for a meat or fish dish. Desserts are 5€ and worth every calorie. The restaurant is open from 13:45 a 16:45 y de 20:30 until close, though closed Sunday night and all day on Monday. Reservations are welcome at reservas@elgallinerodesandra.es.


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