Friday, 7 November 2014

Dolls, but not as you know them

One of the things I love about writing this blog is that it forces me to seek out any precious glimmers of creativity and passion that otherwise would pass me by. In the past I would never have visited a dressmaker´s studio after briefly chatting in a street market. But writing about Seville gives me the licence to be nosey, to take an extra special interest, to scratch below the surface, and I love it.

This was how I found myself inside Isabela Arias´ studio on the corner of Pasaje Mallol and Calle Moravia. Pasaje Mallol is a fairly unremarkable looking street, but is one that contains a high proportion of Seville´s creative energy, with the artisan rich Corralones of Plaza Pelicano at one end and the various artist workshops lining Pasaje Mallol itself, you can practically feel the creativity in the air as you pass by.


Isabela who works under the name Hisabelia, is a designer with a background in theatre costume design and the dramatic arts. Brought up surrounded by dress making and design, it was a foregone conclusion that she would end up cutting patterns and running up wondrous creations.

But life as ever can take you to places you never imagined and in Isabela´s case motherhood and the challenges of working around bringing up a child have brought new inspiration to her work.

Unsurprisingly as well as her one off creations aimed at adults, she has found great joy in creating super cute outfits for children. When I say cute, I don´t mean in the sickly sweet 1950´s way most parents choose to dress their children here in Seville. Hisabelia´s designs are like mini versions of stuff I´d like to wear, fun dresses in interesting fabrics with an eye for detail that you won´t find on the racks of Zara or Mango for kids.

But that´s not the end of the story. A time spent working from home confined to the kitchen table, Isabela for sake of space moved into the world of miniature fashion, in the form of bespoke dolls wearing exquisitely made outfits that look like they could be straight out of a Tim Burton movie. Each doll has a story to tell from the dastardly moustachioed fox to the slightly grotesque but lovable gonch with the Pinocchio nose. Then there is the Dior style chic mademoiselle, dressed in stripes and nonchalantly wearing a flower in her hair, who I´m sure has had some romantic tryst with the aforementioned fox.


As with all of Isabela´s work, these are individual works of art, and not something to grab off the shelf and discard at a moment´s notice. As she call´s it ´Slow design for happy people´. And as a child, if I had been decked out in Hisabelia designs whilst clutching one of her dolls, I would most certainly have been a happy little person.

Contact Isabela in advance if you want to pass by her studio, but she is definitely delighted to show you her work or talk through any design needs you may have including revamping any old clothes. You can also order online if you´re not based in Seville.

Hisabelia (Isabela) Calle Pasaje Mallol 31
Tel 622 887 461
isabel@hisabelia.com 
http://hisabelia.com/en

Friday, 24 October 2014

Black Sheep and its tasty friends

Here in Seville, I´ve realised I´m an inverted snob. I suspected as much living in London where you had to drag me kicking and screaming to Hooray Henry infested areas such as Chelsea and Fulham. Surely in a city so far from the infamous British class system I´d be happy to hang out with everyone, even if they do have a tendency to wear chinos and Ralph Lauren polo shirts.

But no, my little foible has followed me to deepest Andalucia, where Pijos (the Spanish equivalent of sloans) abound, and elicit the same recoiling effect as their counterparts in Blighty. But the thing is, this overt poshism somewhat limits my experience. Certain areas such as Arenal, become ´no-go´ zones but in the end it´s me who misses out.

Such was the case of tapas bars of the moment ´Ovejas Negras´ and ´Mamarracha´. I´d heard of Ovejas Negras a while back, but its proximity to the Cathedral had ´Watch out there are Pijos about´ ringing in my ears. So, in a cutting my nose to spite my face kind of way, I just decided to stick to what I knew, i.e. the various eating establishments lining the Alameda de Hercules. Until that is a Galician friend who was new in town, and free from such self imposed restrictions suggested checking it out, and in I stepped, scanning the room for the fire exit, in case I was launched into a pijo phobic panic attack.

Sitting, perched on a stool by the bar, I needn´t have worried. Ovejas Negras is smart, but in an exciting, finger on the pulse kind of way, and the food doesn´t disappoint. We ordered the Risottazzo, which is basically a mushroom risotto, but the flavour and texture was far from basic. Risotto outside of Italy can be tricky to pull off, I´ve tasted some bland, gloopy stodge in my time, but the offering at Ovejas Negras was a creamy, mushroom delight with a depth of flavour that turned me into a ´crazy Harry met Sally moaning in public lady´. I also tried the fish and chips, a tastier twist on the British variant, with moist battered cod chunks nestling on a bed of tartar sauce and spiced up, chunky chips.

Ovejas Negras opened in 2011 under the helm of Argentinian Juan Manuel Garcia and his business and life partner, Andaluza Genoveva Torres Ruiz. Together they had worked in an array of international kitchens, including under the chef one loves to hate, Gordon Ramsay in LA. So with a wealth of experience and influences under their belt they have literally taken the mid priced tapas market by storm, bringing pop art, urban interior style, and kick ass service to what was a tired and conservative offering. Most importantly, the food doesn´t suffer, it´s intelligently put together, envelope pushing enough, but not too much to scare the locals and there´s an eclectic mix of clientele who are drawn by the buzzing atmosphere and plaudits from far and wide.
 
But things don´t end there for Juanma and Genoveva. Just along the street they´ve opened Mamarracha, which is currently even more of a hot ticket than Ovejas Negras, boasting a hot coal oven and a vertical garden passing itself as a wall covered with 450 plants. And then there´s La Chunga, down by Triana Bridge, recently celebrated as one of the best breakfast joints in town, so it seems fair to say, thanks to this dynamic partnership, Seville´s gastronomic landscape has been changed for ever




Ovejas Negras, Calle Hernando Colon 8, Tel 955 12 38 11

http://www.ovejasnegrastapas.com/

Mamarracha, Hernando Colon 1, Sevilla, Tel 955 
12 39 11
http://www.mamarracha.es/ 

La Chunga, Calle Arjona 9, Sevilla, Tel 600 34 11 39
https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Chunga-Sevilla/278091462291204








Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Live music in Seville, all you need to know

Seville is a city that unabashedly boasts about its status as simply the best city in the world. I have concrete evidence of this assertion. For the last month I have been asking university students a list of inane questions, one of which was the following: 'If you could choose to live anywhere in the world, where would you live and why?´ To which I would say 80% of those questioned answered, ´Seville, of course´.

In fact English writer Laurie Lee observed in his pre-civil war novel ´As I walked Out One Midsummer Morning´ based on his journey across Spain, that the Sevillanos were ´All part of the city - the adored Seville - to which even the beggars claimed pride of belonging... It was a city of traditional alegria, where gaiety was almost a civic duty, something which rich and poor wore with arrogant finesse simply because the rest of Spain expected it´.

In fact revered institutions such as UNESCO have confirmed the city's standing by numbering a selection of its historic landmarks such as the Cathedral and Alcázar Palace on its world heritage list, as well as classifying the Andalucian capital as one of the  UNESCO Cities of Music.

Fair enough you would think on the music front. After all Sevilla alongside Jerez, is the beating heart of Flamenco, and one would imagine as soon as you step off the airport bus, you must surely be greeted by someone serenading you with a flamenco guitar. But many of the professional musicians who ply their wares around the city, would beg to differ, saying it´s impossible to make a living, mainly due the prohibitive nature of live music legislation in city centre bars and music venues. In fact even in the Flamenco world, long standing Flamenco institutions such as the Peña Torres Macarena have been forced to close by the local council, much to the despair of the Flamenco community.

You see it is impossible to get a live music licence in Seville if you are situated in the city centre. Why? Because almost every music venue has got a neighbour who is at their wit´s end living above, someone equally fed up living opposite, not to mention the ones wearing ear plugs every night who live next door. As a result, live music is done on the hoof, in a low key, need to know basis. Very few places charge on the door, so consequently musicians are playing for next to nothing and venues remain open only until the police call halt to proceedings after one noise complaint too many.

But this doesn´t mean there isn´t a live music scene, you just need to scratch below the surface to find it. In fact some of the most electrically charged gigs of my life have been here in Seville, crammed into tiny spaces with a maximum of 30 people. So today´s post is a homage to the best live music venues in town.

1. La Bicicleteria
I´ve waxed lyrical about this little gem of a bar before, because in all my years on this planet, I´ve never experienced anything like La Bicicleteria. It´s tiny, dark, decorated with odds and sods picked off the street that are somehow thrown together to make a bohemian hideaway from the traditional masses. It´s hard to imagine how you can squeeze any live musicians inside without it bursting at the seams, but somehow each Tuesday night they do, although once the music starts the toilet is out of bounds as the stage lies directly in front of the only loo. I´ve seen some of the most intimate and electric gigs in the bicicleteria, and unlike many live music events in Seville, the music takes precedence with Andres and David, the guys who run it, actually hissing the crowd into quiet attention.

La Bicicleteria, Calle Feria 36, push the door even if it looks shut.
https://www.facebook.com/bicicleteria.sevilla?fref=ts
Live Music Tuesday nights about 11pm

2. Taberna Anima
Another stalwart of the live music and artsy scene is Taberna Anima. From first inspection it´s easy to be fooled into thinking that Anima is just a traditionally tiled, spit and sawdust bar, but its place as a die hard supporter of local musical talent means that every Thursday and Sunday evenings Anima fills to the brim with an international crowd seeking out anything from Jazz to middle eastern music.

Anima Taberna-Galeria, Calle Miguel El Cid 80
https://www.facebook.com/animagaleriataberna?fref=ts
Live music Thursday and Sunday evenings from 9.30pm. Check Facebook for details

3. Peña Flamenca Niño de la Alfalfa
In the wake of the demise of the Peña Torres Macarena, a good bet to see live flamenco with baile is the Peña Niño de la Alfalfa inside the Corralones on Calle Castellar, with performances going on Friday and Saturday nights. Get there early, because it can fill up depending on who's performing.

Peña Flamenca Niño de la Alfalfa, Calle Castellar 52, entry C

https://www.facebook.com/ninodelaalfalfa?fref=ts
Flamenco Friday and Saturday nights from 10pm

4. La Casa Fundida
If you want to go really small and intimate while straying across the other side of the river into Triana Market, then La Casa Fundida could be the adventure for you. Plus you get to eat while you listen to local singer songwriters, with a selection of tapas on offer to delight your taste buds.

La Casa Fundida, Triana Market stand 46a
https://www.facebook.com/pages/La-Casa-Fundida/407875082615583
Check Facebook for details of gigs

5. Malandar
What you call in Spanish ´un clasico´of the live music scene in Seville. Got a bit confusing for a while as it seemed to reincarnate as a gay disco called Luxuria, while retaining the name Malandar for its dates as a concert venue. Malandar plays hosts to touring bands and local favourites such as Dani Mata and el Callejon del Gato who play this Friday 10th October.

Sala Malandar, Avenida Torneo 43
https://www.facebook.com/SalaMalandar?fref=ts

6. Terraza Puerta Catedral
Don´t be put off by the fact that this is a terrace bar nestling on top of tourist boutique apartments. The bird´s eye view of the cathedral and the intimate setting make the concerts very special and worth a visit. On Thursdays its Flamenco, Fridays and Saturdays other live music and Sundays DJs.

Terraza Puerta Catedral, Avenida de Constitución 22, buzz door to be let in
https://www.facebook.com/terraza.puertacatedral?fref=ts

7. Alfakeke
Another case of how many people can you squeeze into a tiny bar without it bursting at the seems, but somehow it seems to work. With Pierre at the helm, Alfakeke has intimate gigs every Saturday evening, starting at a sensible 9pm in order not to rile the neighbours. Music varies from blues, jazz, swing to anything with a tune, and smiles are guaranteed.

Alfakeke, Calle San Vicente 13. Gigs every Saturday night from 9pm
https://www.facebook.com/groups/baralfakeke/?fref=ts

8. Naima
One of the few places that you can see live music, albeit Jazz, most nights of the week is Naima just off the Alameda. I´m not a regular, for no particular reason, but it seems to be a favourite with the jazz loving community.

Naima Cafe Jazz, Calle Trajano 47
https://www.facebook.com/pages/NAIMA-CAFE-JAZZ/120322509833?fref=ts

 9. La Caja Negra
 Another institution of Sevilla nightlife, La Caja Negra has a variety of live music, depending on the night. It regularly plays host to Flamenco often featuring young and upcoming dancers and musicians, but you could equally see anything from from spanish rock to Argentinian singer songwriters. It´s also somewhere to carry on drinking once the nearby Alameda bars have closed.

La Caja Negra, Calle de la Fresa 15, Alameda
https://www.facebook.com/la.c.negra?fref=ts

10. Fun Club
Fun Club is a proper concert venue in the heart of the Alameda, playing host mostly to indie guitar bands, and is a popular hangout with Seville´s student population. If you stay on after the band it turns into a nightclub.

Fun Club, Alameda de Hercules 86
http://funclubsevilla.com/



  

Monday, 6 October 2014

Voy al Chino (I´m going to the Chinese)

The first time I lived in Spain, circa the mid 1990s, ´I´m going to the Chinese´ generally indicated that I was going to the local Chinese eatery to feast on a generic Spanish variant on Chinese cuisine. Mono sodium glutamate in vast quantities was to be expected, as was a mere hint of spice (nothing too much for the delicate palates of the indigenous population) and meat that somehow managed to be both chewy and slimy all at the same time.

Fast forward almost 20 years  and ´voy al chino´ has taken on a whole new connotation. You see almost every shopping street has at least one Chinese shop, bulging at the seems with odds and sods, some useful, but otherwise generally erring on the side of tat. Operating on different opening hours to your average Spanish shop, ie not shutting over lunchtime and the afternoon, the Chinese corner shop has carved out a niche for those last minute needs, you know the kind, when you´re one ´barra de pan´ short or find a fridge worryingly empty of Cruz Campo beer.

´The Chinos´ are lifesavers, and as much a part of the Spanish urban landscape as the Estanco tobacco shop once was. But local feeling can be frosty, and rumours abound about dodgy deals between the Spanish and Chinese government allowing Chinese businesses to open up and operate tax free.

 Ironically, in most Chinese supermarkets you´d be hard pressed to find any Chinese ingredients, apart from in my blog de jour, the ´Hiper Oriente´, found just off Plaza de Duque and in its sister shop near Santa Justa station. These two Aladin´s caves dedicated to Asian cooking specialise in ingredients for Chinese, Japanese, Thai and Indian food, so they´ve pretty much got the whole of Asia covered. They also sell some organic products like grains, rice cakes, cereals, and randomly gigantic bags of PG tips (for any British readers who miss their daily brew).

I find myself gravitating there every few months, coming away with an eclectic bag of delights, many of which have sat untouched in the cupboard for months. But one day I really will make something with the arame seaweed that I thought I couldn´t do without. Unused products aside, Hiper Oriente is Guiri foody heaven, and is perfect for those moments when you´re craving a Thai Green Curry and know that if you don´t make it, no one will.

Hiper Oriente I, Calle Aponte 8 (near Plaza del Duque)
Hiper Oriente II, Avenida Kansas City 1 (between Nervion and Santa Justa)
https://www.facebook.com/hiper.oriente?fref=ts


Friday, 3 October 2014

Style and Content

Being hip and of substance is a tough call to manage. Having lived in London, a city that is continually looking for the cool and the fresh, I arrived in Seville jaded by the exhausting, unquenchable thirst for the cutting edge.

However after months of eating variations on the same theme, which in the case of a vegetarian tends to be spinach with chick peas or pisto accompanied by a tired looking egg, a small part of me began to yearn for a dash of culinary innovation. And as if by magic across the city there began a gradual proliferation of tentative toes was being dipped into the experimental waters of international inspired cuisine, and suddenly almost every restaurant worth its salt had some tuna tataki, salmon tartar or risotto on the menu.


But four years have passed since my feet first landed in Seville and the gastronomic landscape has indeed changed for the better. Case in point being ´No-Lugar´ on Calle Trajano. Owned by the same uber cool artist folk behind Red House Art Cafe, they´ve continued their successful interior design formula, with high-topped chunky wooden tables, designed for communal eating setting the vibe, set off by effortlessly stylish mix-and-match vintage crockery. You see at ´No-Lugar´ the devil is in the detail, and aesthetics are vitally important, even if it looks like it´s been thrown together at the last minute.

Of course it´s all very well dropping a slice of Berlin or Melbourne onto the streets of Seville, but it ain´t much cop if the food doesn´t hit the mark. I tried a decent sized tapas portion of Chickpea Chana Masala, which was beautifully presented complete with gnarled wooden spoon and more importantly extremely tasty. The vegetable stir fry was well executed as was the exotically monikered Maliki, comprising smoked Tofu, piled on red peppers with a Pedro Ximenez sauce. Despite the fact that no animals were harmed in the aforementioned dishes, this isn´t a vegetarian restaurant, there is plenty of meaty dishes again with a foreign flavour such as Chicken Biriyani, Chicken Tika Masala, Meatball Tagine and Ox Hamburgers with wild mushrooms.


 ´No-Lugar´ has been open now for a wee while, but continues to keep up its position of the place to be seen of an evening. The atmosphere at night is buzzing, the waiting staff multi-lingual and on the whole helpful, which in itself is a new trend to hit the eating joints of Seville, where previously client relations veered towards the surly.

This is the second time I´ve ventured inside No-Lugar´s class fronted facade. The first it felt a tad ´style over content´ but I´m pleased I´ve given it a second chance. In a city where ´if it ain't broke, don´t fix it´ modus operandi permeates through life, Seville can sometimes seem like a cultural back water, which is of course is also part of its charm. But it´s interesting to see that it´s the novel and the risk taking establishments such as ´No-Lugar´ that are not only keeping their heads above water, but powering ahead of the rest. And long may it continue.

No-Lugar The Art Company, Calle Trajano 16
https://www.facebook.com/pages/No-lugar-the-art-company/209969699082976

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Gig with a view

So here I am, back in Seville after 2 verdant months in the South of England. As stunning a city as Seville is, I still feel a faint longing for rolling hills and gentle, hushed tones as I step back onto those familiar cobbled streets. But I´m all about the here and the now, which happens to be not at all that bad when I come to think of it. Particularly on warm, September evenings when the streets throb with ebullient life and limbs that are teak brown from a summer spent on Andalusian beaches.

I find my re-entry into Sevillian society is made that much smoother by encountering a few familiar faces, and if they´re friendly familiar faces, more´s the better. So first stop on my ´Operation the Guiri has landed´ was a quick pit stop at Alfakeke for a Friday night pancake care of Pierre´s Crepe making mastery. For anyone far from home, going to Alfakeke gives you an instant sense of belonging. It seems like almost everyone there is from some place else and while everyone seems to know each other, they´re also happy to open their world to someone new.

So with the ´I know what you did last summer´ chats done, and an egg and spinach crepe safely put away, it was a short stroll along Avenida de Constitución with the Friday night promenaders to my final destination, ´Terraza Puerta Catedral´. Positioned directly in front of the Cathedral, these are luxury holiday apartments, boasting a roof top terrace that leaves you eyeballing the gargoyles and communing with the gods. And on Friday and Saturday nights they lay on intimate live music gigs with free entry to the public against a backdrop that is hard to beat.

Last night was a newly svelte Miguelito Bueno, promoting his new album Toc Toc Toc and as ever singing like his life depended on it. Looking around the audience, everyone seemed entranced by Miguel´s visceral performance which had been further spiced up with some new fancy turns by keyboardist Rafael Arregui. It was an interesting contrast between the backdrop of the cathedral representing a timeless and palpably traditional Seville and the irrepressibly irreverent Miguelito and his band. But I´m sure even the ghosts of the cathedral must long for something different to the unrelenting Semana Santa marching bands that echo through the cloisters.


The Terraza Puerta Catedral is without a doubt a welcome addition to what can be a sparse live music scene in Seville. Be prepared for hotel drinks prices though, but I guess a small trade off against what´s got to be one of the best locations in the city.

Terraza Puerta Catedral, Avenida de Constitución 22 (ring buzzer)
cloespace.com/
https://www.facebook.com/terraza.puertacatedral?fref=ts

Alfakeke, Calle Vicente 13 (Friday nights are Crepe night)
https://www.facebook.com/gabachoalfakeke?fref=ts

Miguelito Bueno
https://www.facebook.com/miguelito.bueno?fref=ts










Saturday, 28 June 2014

Keep cool and carry on 2014

It´s been a funny old year weather wise in Seville, literally blowing hot and cold from one week to the next.  But fear not heat lovers, one thing you can guarantee with Seville is that one way or another the infernal summer will be here with no intention of departing until the end of September. So peeps, if you´re planning on being here in July and August, brace yourselves and get ready to sweat.


So here are my top 5 tips on staying cool this summer. It´s a public service announcement really, because if you´re new to the city and ignore my advice, you´re on a one way trip to heat exhaustion and hospital.

1. Become a night owl
Please, please, please put any silly idea of doing anything, be it everyday chores or touristy stuff, out of your pretty heads between the hours of 12pm and 8pm. I know that´s practically a whole day, but that´s just how things roll in these parts. If you head out on to the normally bustling Alameda during these no-man hours, you´ll be greeted by only the hardiest of cerveza drinkers (insert alcoholics here) and maybe some passing tumbleweed. 

Anyone who has any sense (and air conditioning) will conserve their energies until the streets have started to cool down, which can be as late as 9 or 10pm. Long siestas are of course obligatory, which will leave you fresh and ready to enjoy the hopefully cooler summer nights.

The powers that be in the city understand this, and lay on a whole season of cultural events to entertain the folk who for what ever reason haven't abandoned ship and headed off to the beach. The picturesque gardens of the Cartuja monastery play host to 'Nocturama', a series of live concerts featuring up and coming pop, indie and electronic groups from around the country. Starting at 9pm every night and tickets costing from 7 Euros, it's like a mini festival every Thursday and Friday from the end of June until the beginning of September.
http://www.nocturamasevilla.net/

If you want something a little more civilised then check out the 'Noches en los Jardines del Real Alcázar´ which are 75 concerts over 75 nights. The music covers many musical genres from the city´s eponymous Flamenco to Baroque, classical, world music and jazz. The setting is enchanting, and is a chance to visit the stunning gardens while basquing in the melee of exotic aromas such as jasmine and and lady of the night, all again at a very reasonable 6 Euros.http://www.actidea.es/nochesalcazar2014/

The Centro de Iniciativas Culturales de la Universidad de Sevilla (CICUS) also get in on the act with their summer programme of music and open air cinema, which has a cooler, hipster vibe.
http://cicus.us.es/21-grados-en-el-patio-del-cicus/

More open air theatre is available in the enormous courtyard of the atmospheric Diputatión buildings, but make sure to go on Sunday evenings  when films are shown in original version, or face putting up with some dubbing barbarity.
http://www.asomatealpatio.es/

2. River life
In a Seville summer the River Guadalquivir becomes a place where those that haven´t made it to the beach can fool themselves into forgetting that they live in what is affectionately known as the 'frying pan of the world'. Those of you who have followed my blog from the start or who live on Spanish shores will be familiar with the term ´Pijo´, which is roughly translated as preppy or sloany, and from what I can tell a lot of the bars by the river tend to be the natural breeding habitat for this variant of the local population. But don´t let this deter you, there are some stunning spots where you can sip on your ice cold beer or overpriced Mojito, while staring across at the beautifully lit Giralda or Golden Tower. Head to any of the bars on Calle Betis in Triana or if you fancy a bit tropical greenery with your cocktail Puerta de Cuba seems to hit the spot.
http://www.puertodecubasevilla.com/en

Or seek out the very un-pijo riverside joint, Espacio Pescao Crudo further along the river on the Paseo de la O, where there is live music, themed food nights, and not a Ralph Lauren shirt in sight.
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Espacio-Pescao-Crudo/1489159701297780?fref=ts


3. Raise the Roof
I know they say heat rises, but in Seville in summer, life happens on ´Azoteas´ which are the roof terraces. Any hotel worth its salt has one, most apartment buildings do too, as do municipal buildings.

If you´re a tourist you´re in luck, because hopefully if you´ve been prudent enough to check into a hotel with a pool, you´ll be able to lounge around under a sombrilla, while drinking something wet and ice cold. I´ve heard of some locals booking into a hotel if they´re stuck in Seville for the weekend, just so they can join in the poolside activities, because for some reason, elsewhere in Seville, public open air pools are decidedly thin on the ground. But if you don´t happen to be a patron of the hotel, you can still drink in their terrace bars, and the city´s jewel in the crown seems to be the decidedly hip EME hotel, whose roof terrace is within spitting distance of the cathedral. You pay for the privilege in the bar prices, but the EME isn´t the only hotel with a roof terrace in town, you could also try Casa Romana on Calle Trajano, if you want something a little more low key.
http://www.emecatedralhotel.com/
http://www.hotelcasaromana.com/es/?

Many of the city´s cultural activities happen on multitude of roof terraces, such as the annual Entretejas series, which organise live music events, cinema screenings and poetry recitals throughout the summer months. http://entretejas.org/ Or if you just want to have a drink on a roof, head to La Trompeta Verde, which overlooks the much missed Corralones en Calle Castellar, and mixes a Terraza with a more Perro Flauta/ bohemian vibe. https://www.facebook.com/trompeta.verde


4. The Moors weren't stupid you know
Before I came to Seville I had no idea how ingrained in the fabric of the city the Moorish influence was. It was after all part of the Al Andaluz kingdom for 500 years, and the city's architecture remains the most noticable reminder of this time.

The Moors were big on water features, through which they created their own little gardens of paradise, and the gardens of the Royal Alcazar Palace are testament to this. You can spend hours mooching around from one shady corner to the next, reading a book or imagining the city's pre-christian history. If it's too hot to visit during the day, you can check out the night time visits which also include a guided tour, with theatrical enactments representing historical events that happened within the palace walls. http://www.alcazarsevilla.org/

Or, while we're on the topic of water and moorish times, you could head to the Arab Baths. I know this sounds slightly counter intuitive, why on a dehydration inducing, boiling hot day, would you choose to hang out in the some steam baths? But seriously, it's an option to consider, because firstly it's one of the most relaxing places I've ever visited, where everyone pads around talking in hushed tones while immersing themselves in baths of scented water, and more importantly inside you can forget about the hellish heat that awaits you on leaving. http://www.airedesevilla.com/

5. Hang out with the locals
Sometimes though on a hot summer night, rather than being entertained on a terrace, you just want to find a cool breeze and quench your thirst with your cold beveridge of choice. Despite living in Seville for almost 4 years, I´ve only recently ventured into La Pastora, a 50 year old summer terrace bar, nestling against the historic city walls, that provides a welcome respite against the sometimes oppressively hot nights. This is a tourist free zone and there´s ample room in the garden for big groups. The food is local favourites such as fried fish or cold tapas like ensaladilla or patatas aliñadas, just bear in mind that prices are based on weight, so if you have a large tapa, you get a large bill.
Bar La Pastora. C/ Muñoz León, open 8.30pm - 1.30am


So there you have it. With this, you will survive the heat, remain hydrated or should I say lubricated and be culturally enriched. Result!












Sunday, 22 June 2014

Ice Ice baby

Sevillanos are experts in thirst quenching and heat-beating activities. Most prominent on the list is of course steadily imbibing small glasses of Cruz Campo beer, but also during the summer months ice cream eating makes a daring bid for poll position.

Ok, so we´re not in Italy, and while there are some city centre establishments that peddle the lesser quality products such as Carte D´or, there are also a growing number of artisan ice cream joints selling a plethora of flavours to suit the most demanding of palates.

So as a celebration of the first official day of summer (although we actually hit 40 degree mark on the thermometers as far back as early May), here are my top 4 ice cream shops in Seville.

1. Bolas Helados Artes-Sanos

If you´re a Spanish speaker you might notice the play on words here, and their ice creams really do feel like a work of art. They are the kind of heladería (ice cream shop) that vary their flavours according to the season, which for me is a mark of a quality establishment. Right now, it´s fig season and so much to my fig loving delight, they´ve got a delicious fresh fig ice cream, which along with the rest of the flavours is made daily, and is free from any artificial flavours or colourings. They´re smack bang in the tourist area of Santa Cruz, which means they´re kind and patient with tourist types, and there´s a little seating area outside for you to perch your heat exhausted behind and lick away before everything melts.


2. Freskura
Another quality purveyor of iced goods is Italian Heladería Freskura in the Alameda. Slightly hidden away in a cobbled corner, Freskura is another artisan ice cream maker, and if you peer out the back you can see the kitchen where all the action takes place, confirming their promise that their ice creams are made daily and on site. As well as the usual ice cream suspects, they´ve got a whole load of Italian cakes and desserts on offer, so if you´ve already had your first ice cream of the day, you could satisfy your sweet tooth with a homemade Tiramisu or slice of chocolate tart.

3. Heladería Rayas
A Seville institution, Rayas for many years cornered the market in quality ice creams. Conveniently close to the main shopping streets and Plaza Encarnación, its ice creams are luxuriously creamy and mix tradition with innovation. So if you´re right in the heart of the city centre, and find yourself wilting under the heat, then they´re definitely the place to head to.

4. Heladería Villar, Avenida de la Cruz Roja 74, La Macarena
As regular readers will know,  I reside in the working class district La Macarena. So faithful as I am to barrio life, it´s only fitting that my local Heladería should feature. If you want to see real Seville life unfold in front of your eyes, then get yourself one of their delicious ice creams (my current favourite combo is their black cherry with dark chocolate), bagsy yourself a table outside and just people watch. It couldn´t be further from the cool boho vibe of the Alameda or touristy Santa Cruz, but if you wanna see grannies in their finery, teens in the throws of first love and toddlers high on sugar, then this is the place for you.

Bolas Helados arte-sano, Calle Puerta de la Carne 5, Barrio Santa Cruz,
http://www.bolasheladosartesanos.com/

Freskura, Calle Vulcano 4, Alameda
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Freskura/22269175752

Heladería Rayas, Calle Almirante Apodaca, near Plaza Encarnación
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Helader%C3%ADa-Rayas/150914944957009

Heladería Villar, Avenida de la Cruz Roja 74, La Macarena
http://www.heladeriavillar.es/


Monday, 2 June 2014

Jammin´ Triana style

Summer´s here, where horribly hot days are followed by deliciously, balmy evenings. TVs are firmly switched off as every night is an opportunity to loiter around on a street corner, feeling the warm breeze caress bare arms. This is why we live in Seville. These blissful evenings quickly erase the memories of the unbearable daytime heat, like to a mother, a baby´s giggle blank out the excruciating pain of childbirth.

And for a city that´s landlocked and an hour away from a hint of cooling, sea air, the river gives you a tantalising taste of being by water. Triana is where most of the nocturnal riverside action takes place, but somehow, what with being an outrageous extra 15 minutes by bike, our paths very rarely cross.

But yesterday evening, I headed across the river, with the promise of some musicians jamming somewhere, with that somewhere turning out to be slap bang on the river on a ´come as you find me´ terrace belonging to the Espacio Pescao en Crudo (Raw Fish Space). The jam element took a while to turn into full audience participatory flow, with initially a hardcore group of musicians playing reggae, bossanova and latin jazz, but before long there was some rap thrown into the equation, with musicians of all permutations soon coming out of the woodwork.

The vibe was Seville summer at its best, low key, impromptu, with just enough Cruz Campo, Tinto de Verano and canines to keep things entertaining. It was the first jam session organised at what is normally a space for Triana residents to do workshops, yoga etc, but would without a doubt make a welcome addition to the social diary for those endless, hots nights of summer.

Espacio Pescao en Crudo, Paseo de la O 26, Triana
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Espacio-Pescao-Crudo/1489159701297780


Tuesday, 6 May 2014

Let's do brunch darling

This week is Feria. If you happen to head down to the dusty enclave of Los Remedios you´ll be greeted by a scene that has barely changed in one hundred years. Row after row of wooden marquees, bedecked with an assortment of brightly coloured adornments, jostle for prominence as traditional Sevillanas blare out, only occasionally taking a breath for some rumba. Stunningly beautiful and unnaturally svelte women of all ages, poured like melted honey into tightly fitting flamenca dresses, stand nonchalantly, sipping teeny tiny plastic glasses of refreshing but hangover inducing rebujito. Throughout the day until the sun goes down, horses parade along the dirty streets, mounted by traditionally attired men, often with a flamenco dressed female accessory balanced precariously behind. The imagery is surreal, yet manages to conjure up all the stereotypes of Spain in one full sweep.

It´s easy to imagine that Sevilla as a city has stood still in time. From the architecture, to the fashion, to the die hard following of centuries old traditions, it knows how to stick to tried and tested formulas, in an 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' kind of mentality. But as I've often written about here in this blog, if you look closely enough there are incremental changes a foot. They may happen a wee while after other cities in Spain, but they do happen none the less. 

Take for example the concept of brunch. With most places serving tostada and its regular bed fellow, jamon until what would be an Anglo Saxon lunch time, it's not surpising that brunches have been slow to hit the streets of Sevilla. But in the recently opened 'Kok tu Cocina' on Calle San Luis, they are seeking to buck the trend. The main focus of Kok is cooking workshops and tasting sessions (this month you can learn how to make cupcakes, cookies and gazpacho), but every Sunday and public holiday, they open their doors to serve brunch to the more adventurous of the local population.

As culinary classes are the focus, the centre piece of Kok is the huge open plan kitchen, where you can see the cooking action unfold. A table laden with freshly made and ready to eat produce sits enticingly nearby. Brunch consists of 3 courses, the first being freshly squeezed orange juice or whatever is the juice of the day, plus tea or coffee. The second, a huge bowl of fresh fruit, yogurt and muesli or a selection of artisan breads, accompanied by cold meats, cheese and homemade jams. The final course is essentially the egg course, a choice between Eggs Benedict (poached eggs on top of crispy bacon slathered in a Hollandaise sauce) or scrambled eggs and bacon.

Kok had barely been open a month the day I stopped by for brunch, and there was a definite buzz in the air, despite it being a relaxed Sunday morning. You know that something is hitting high on the trendometer by its sizeable hipster quota, and I definitely saw a fair share of skinny jeans and impressive facial hair on show. So it may be worthwhile calling in advance to make sure you get a table or  face rugby tackle an achingly hip Alameda local to the ground.

Price wise, it's a big leap up from the classic tostada and jamon costing between 9 and 15 Euros depending on the courses you partake in. But if you want to ride the nu wave of culinary delights that is slowly hitting Sevilla, then dig deep into your pockets and join the brunch revolution.

Kok Tu Cocina, Calle San Luis 46, Sevilla 609 23 25 98
Brunch from 10am Sunday mornings and public holidays
www.koktucocina.com
https://www.facebook.com/koktucocina