The last holiday we took before the pandemic was a little last minute trip to Andalucía in southern Spain to try and get some winter sun and have something to look forward to after Christmas. As is quite unusual for us, we actually hit on a beautiful week where the weather was damn near perfect. We’d gotten our cheap flights, booked some cheap out of season accommodation, and now all we needed was to score us some free tapas.
Not as easy as it might sounds, as it turns out. Tapas has never been my favourite cuisine to be honest. My only experience of it has been chain restaurant La Tasca, which I was informed by an ex-employee that all their tapas comes in frozen. That aside, it always just left me hungry and wanting bag of chips on the way home.
It is of course what Spain is famous for though so I was keen to try some of the more authentic stuff. Problem is, everywhere we went, was super touristy and the famous free stuff was harder to come by than we imagined.
Our first stop was Marbella; where the first place we stopped at had tapas, which was absolutely delicious, and made with really high quality fresh ingredients. It wasn’t free though. It wasn’t expensive, a couple of euros each, but that soon builds up if you don’t keep an eye on what you’re eating.
The rest of Marbella and Puerto Banus were largely the same, we weren’t offered any free tapas anywhere; and you know me, it wasn’t like we were short of opportunities to stop and have a drink. There were plenty of tapas offers around; you just had to pay for them. That said, because it’s tourist central, the tapas you do pay for is competitive and one of the restaurants we went to in Marbella had a great offer of 6 tapas for €10, with loads to choose from, so we got that twice and it did us for an evening meal.
We travelled on to Ronda and felt much the same here too, although because it was away from the more popular coastline, prices were cheaper still. As an aside, Spain is one of the cheapest places we’ve found for wine. Normally when we’re away, my wine is a good couple of €’s more than Dave’s local beer, but in Southern Spain, local wine and local beer were pretty much the same price.
Anyway, it wasn’t until we got to Granada that we actually got some free Tapas; a lovely little café which overlooked a park and as we ordered our drinks, got a generous portion of paella to share. As luck would have it, after we ordered our second drink, we were told the kitchen was closed so no more tapas for us. That’s that Newman luck I was talking you about!
That evening we went out to a local Spanish restaurant which got amazing reviews on Trip Advisor and was a short walk from our apartment. They offered free Tapas too, but only if you were happy to stand at the bar. The seating was reserved for paying customers. We decided to have a seat and order a platter, which was a smorgasbord of Spanish delights, and very reasonably priced since we were sharing.
After a long day walking around ever since of the Alhambra, we found a café in the sunshine to have a few drinks. We weren’t initially given any food, but after we ordered our second drink and a bit of cheeky banter with the waiter (blondes are a novelty over there it seems) we did get a plate of olives. I have a feeling that’s being the waiter was flirting with me though, rather than something they offered as standard. Still, I’ll take it!
That was pretty much the extent of our Tapas experience in Spain, certainly when it came to the free stuff. Our last stop; Malaga was a free tapas wasteland. So what advice can I give for anyone looking for some freebies? Well, a couple of things:
- Scope out what people are eating in the bars and restaurants (in a non creepy way); bars will make all their tapas in batch, so if you see people chowing down on a small plate, grab a seat and order your first first pronto
- If the tapas is free they will bring it to you automatically without you having to ask, that’s how you know it’s free.
- If they ask you if you want any, it’s safe to assume that it’s not free.
- If you do find somewhere which offers free tapas, it’s best to stay put. Your first round is likely to be olives or even peanuts. The longer you stay and the more drinks you order, the better the tapas will get.
- Don’t look at the food menu before you’ve ordered and received your first drink. Waiters are unlikely to waste the tapas on you if they think you’re just going to order food anyway.
Best place for tapas is San Sebastian – they’re not free but they’re fantastic and two or three is like a meal in itself. Free tapas are only certain parts of Spain, in the west in Extremadura (cities of Caceres or Badajoz…) you’ll get free tapas with every drink you order but it’ll only be crisps or olives or bits of chorizo, you might get lucky and manage to end up with a bit of potato salad.