Museo Bellver Casa Fabiola

The Museo Bellver (part of the collection of Mariano Bellver and his wife Dolores Mejías) opened in October of 2018 in the Casa Fabiola, opposite the upper end of Calle Mateos Gago on the edge of the old Jewish quarter, and is already something of a favourite. It’s an excellent choice of location, in a late 16th century Casa Palacio built around a typical Sevillano patio with marble columns and floors and decorative tiling, and takes its name from the novel Fabiola, written by Nicholas Wiseman, who was born in the house in 1802 and went on to become the first Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster.

The current building was the result of considerable restructuring while it belonged to the nearby Madre de Dios convent, though earlier it had belonged to the wealthy 14th century Jewish financier and royal minister Simon Leviés. At that time it was immediately behind the wall of the then Jewish Quarter, a short section of which can still be found just up the street.

The collection is housed in the rooms around the courtyard on the ground and first floors, and consists of 567 pieces. About half of these are paintings, but there are also sculptures, figurines, porcelain and ceramics, furniture, clocks, and a domestic chapel altarpiece, mostly from the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries, and it’s well worth spending an hour or two exploring.

The museum has a great atmosphere, small enough to avoid art fatigue, large enough for a good variety of styles and types of art. For me it particularly managed to encapsulate something of the essence of Seville in its paintings of patios and street scenes, and the decorations and furnishings of a typical upper class house, so that I was constantly reminded of the reasons why I made Seville my home, and the things I love here.

The old Seville Artillery Factory

I recently had the opportunity to visit the Royal Artillery Factory in Seville, which was one of the oldest industrial complexes in Spain, with a history going back to the 16th century, before it was finally closed and abandoned in 1991.

The iron foundries that were the precursor of the later artillería were set up on land at the edge of the San Bernardo neighbourhood that already existed outside the eastern wall of the city by the Morel family in 1565. Their work included candelabra for the cathedral and ironwork for the Giralda tower, but after the death of the founder the foundries were sold off, passing eventually into the ownership of the Real Hacienda (Royal Treasury) in 1634.

It beccame the Artillería in 1720, and a new foundry (now called the Old Foundry) was built for the casting of cannon and other military hardware. Expansion continued throughout the 18th century, with additional foundries, workshops and ancillary services, and the modern facade of the building was completed towards the end of the century. In the Napoleonic period the complex was taken over by the French, and the howitzers used in the seige of Cádiz were made here. When the French were forced to retreat much of the original equipment was destroyed, but was subsequently rebuilt during the 19th century, when it became one of Seville’s most important industrial establishments.

Despite more modernisation in the 20th century it gradually became obsolete, and in the 1960s and 70s most of the production was transferred to newer facilities in Alcaá de Guadaíra, and in 1991 it finally closed its doors forever.

Although some renovation work has been done (and is ongoing), most of the buildings are still rather delapidated, and not accessible to the public, but nevertheless one can get a good idea of the large scale industrial architecture of the day, including brick vaulting reminiscent of the bodegas of Jerez in the older parts, and the “Victorian” workshops that surround them (you can get a view of some of them, but can’t actually go into them).

Still, it was fascinating to see something of the city’s industrial heritage, and to remember that history is not all about Cathedrals, Palaces, and other monuments, and that for a majority of the common people life had more to do with this harsher aspect than it did with the grand lifestyles of the aristocracy and the rich.

The House of John Tooth

For those of you have been to Seville the scene in the picture above will be a familiar one (probably including the blue sky and the queue to go into the Alcázar palaces). The location is the original 10th century west wall of the palace complex in the corner of the Plaza Triunfo, alongside the Lion Gate, the “modern” (12th century) entrance, and apart from being big and old and rugged, there doesn’t seem to be anything overtly unusual to be seen.
Take a look at the photo below, however, and something seems to be amiss. “Why,” you may ask, “is there a rather ordinary looking house built against the wall of the castle”? This question was apparently asked by the reigning Spanish king, Alfonso XIII, in 1907, during a visit to Seville (the Alcázar is still an official royal residence, so he was on his way to spend the night there). Now I can’t precisely answer the why part of that question, but I can say that the house belonged to one Juan Diente (John Tooth), a government employee who worked in the grounds of the palace.

The king’s chance remark, however, was to have immediate repercussions. No sooner had the monarch passed beyond sight and hearing through the palace gate, than the mayor issued his instructions. John Tooth, his family and belongings were removed from the house (they were provided accommodation elsewhere, so it could have been worse), the demolition team moved in to pull the building to the ground, and the rubble removed on donkeys. By the time the king emerged from the palace the following day, nothing remained to show where the house of John Tooth had once stood.

History does not record whether the king noticed or remarked upon the change.

Orio Seville Inauguration – A Taste of the Basque Country in Seville

The new Restaurant Orio has been open for a few weeks, but the official inauguration for a select group of press and hospitality professionals was today (October 3), and I was fortunate enough to be invited.

Orio is the second restaurant to be opened in Seville by the Sagardi group (the first is in the Pinello hotel), but is aimed at a more day to day market, incorporating a Basque style pinxo bar (Sagardi was founded in the Basque country) as well as a restaurant featuring Basque cuisine.

The front of the premises is a spacious pinxo bar opening onto Calle Santo Tomas, with a terrace facing the Archivos, and the bar itself on one side, with a very appetising array of Basque style pinxos so typical in Bilbao, but something of a novelty in Seville. We got to try a few as an appetiser, my favourite being the chistorras (small spicy sausages).
Beyond the bar are two dining rooms leading out to a second terrace on Calle Miguel Mañara, with space for around thirty diners. Decoration is minimalist, but with lots of wood, and a big mural of a fisherman.

Lunch was a nine course tasting menu (including dessert), starting with oysters and working through a prawn carpaccio, salad, fish, and roast peppers to the grilled beef finale. The quality was excellent throughout, and it looks like Orio will be a welcome addition to dining out in Seville.

La Goya Presentation

Last night (September 24), we were invited to the presentation of the new look La Goya manzanilla, marking the brand’s centenary year, held on the terrace of the Gourmet Experience in Seville, looking out over the city. It was a nicely low key event, introducing the new look labelling to luminaries of the sherry world, distributors, press and bloggers, with not too many speeches or too much marketing razzle. The result was a pleasant evening meeting up with old friends, enjoying some tasty snacks of jamón, cheese and mojama (cured tuna), and of course, sampling the sherry (which hasn’t changed – still the same excellent sherry it’s always been).

Thanks as always to the organisers (Gourmet Experience and Bodegas Delgado Zuleta) for a great evening.

Semana Santa 2018

A bit late with this, as Seville’s annual religious extravaganza finished ten days ago, but better late than never.

For those who don’t know, Semana Santa (Holy Week) is one of the world’s most important religious festivals, and the celebrations in Seville are probably the biggest and most fervent in Spain, drawing visitors from all over the country and from abroad.

During the course of the week, from Palm Sunday to Easter Sunday, more than forty processions make their way from their home churches and along the sacred way to be blessed in the Cathedral before returning home, some of them taking up to 12 hours for the round trip.

Each procession consists of (usually) two “pasos”, or floats, one with a statue of the Christ, the second with the Virgin, which are carried aloft by teams of men (costaleros) concealed beneath them, that are accompanied by brass bands and the penitentes (the guys with the pointy hoods, which are worn to preserve anonymity), and even for the non religious the overall effect is quite moving, with the statues swaying above the crowds as they make their way along their assigned routes.

Although it has changed a lot over the centuries, with the modern version developing in the 19th century, the roots of the festival go back to the mediaeval guilds and “self-help” religious brotherhoods, and these have long inspired considerable devotions. Some of the statues are of great age and artistic importance, the floats ornate, guilded, and in the case of the Virgins canopied and bedecked with flowers.

Definitely worth experiencing at least once, as there’s nothing quite like it anywhere else.

The Archive of the Indies

Entrance to the Archivo

El Archivo General de Indias (General Archive of the Indies) is the third, and probably least well known, of Seville’s World Heritage monuments, and is located between the other two, the Cathedral and the Royal Palaces, in one of the most impressive of such groupings anywhere in Europe. The Archive itself was created in 1785 by order of Carlos III, to house all the documents related to the exploration and administration of Spain’s overseas possessions, until then housed in several smaller archives that were no longer large enough to hold the volume of paperwork involved. Today, mauch of the Archive is housed in a second building nearby, but is still an important resource for historians studying the Spanish empire period.

Corridor with vaulted roof

The building itself was originally constructed as a Commodities Exchange, the Casa Lonja de Mercaderes, for the merchants trading with the New World. In the years after Columbus discovered the Americas (1492) Seville was awarded a monopoly of the trade, and the 16th century saw a rapid increase in commercial activity in the city. Because of its central location and proximity to the port, much of this activity went on around the Cathedral, particularly the Puerta del Perdón and the Fuente de Hierro (where the Sagrario church is now), causing considerable friction between the ecclesiastical authorities and the merchants. Eventually, in 1572, a purpose built market was commissioned by Felipe II, and was constructed between 1584 and 1598 according to designs drawn up by Juan de Herrera. Later, in 1717, after the silting up of the river had made it impossible for ships to come upriver to Seville, the market was transferred to Cadiz, and the building became a lodging house, until Carlos selected it as the site for the new archive.

The grand staircase

As we see it today the building is an impressive example of Italian influenced Renaissance arcitecture with a regular and balanced geometry, around a large internal marble floored courtyard. One of its finest features is the grand staircase, added in the late 18th century as part of the conversion programme. The gardens in front of the main entrance are much later, being added in 1928 as part of the creation of what is now the Avenida de la Constitución in preparation for the Spanish – American expo of 1929.

Fountain in the gardens


Premier Sherry Cocktail Bar in Seville

A new and welcome addition to the world of sherry in Seville, the Premier Sherry & Cocktail Bar had its official opening on October 19th, with a special master class tasting to showcase some of its brands. The sherry cocktail bar is the sixth establishment in the Premium chain, which was founded in 2010 by brothers Martín and Enrique Maíllo, and has until now specialised in spirits – rum, gin, whisky and vodka, together with a range of tonic waters. The sherry bar is therefore something of a new departure, but aims to maintain the high standards of the group in events, service and quality of product.

In most respects the ambiance is what you might expect of a cocktail bar, with concealed blue light at the junction of walls and ceiling shining through the glassware and serried ranks of interestingly coloured bottles lining the shelves. It’s relatively small size and hints of exposed brickwork give it a subtle sense of intimacy that is quite appropriate to the nature of sherry. The unique element of the decoration, though, are the diagrams along the side wall, designed by José Peñascal, detailing the various grape and sherry production processes, and how they result in the different styles of sherry.

Aside from offering great wines and cocktails, the Premier Sherry Cocktail Bar also gives private tastings, in both Spanish and English, by appointment only. The space can also be booked for private events.

The opening day tasting was interesting and lots of fun, with as good an attendance as the venue really allowed, and was headed by sherry ambassador Pepe Ferrer. An excellent range of sherries from the Consejo Regulador was accompanied by delicious snack pairings.

Many thanks to Cristina Botija and Desirée Ramos of Premium for organising the event, which I hope will be the first of many.

sherry ambassador Pepe Ferrer

pouring palo cortado

the sherry production wall

Pepe Ferrer, Enrique Mallío, Martín Mallío, José Peñascal

Photos Courtesy of

Premier Sherry Cocktail Bar
Jaen 1
Tel +34 955 133 032
3.00 pm – 2.00 am (4 am weekends)

Viña Galvana 2017

This week I was invited to a private tasting for this year’s edition of Bodegas Delgado Zuleta’s D.O Cádiz white wine Viña Galvana. Delgado Zuleta is of course best known for its sherries (it’s said to be the oldest bodega in the marco de Jerez), especially Manzanilla La Goya, but also produces local white wines.

The 2017 Viña Galvana (85% Palomino Fino and 15% Muscat) is a fresh, light wine with a bright pale gold colour and a touch of fruitiness, and pairs well with fish and seafood. Perfect for the summer weather. The label pays tribute to one of Sanlucar’s most popular events, the annual horse races on the beach which take place every August. The cata was presented by Jorge Pascual, the Director-General of Delgado Zuleta and enologist José Antonio Sánchez Pazo, with promotion by @ProbandoGastro.

The event was hosted by Cinta Romero and her team at La Cochera del Abuelo, who also provided a light post-cata lunch. Thanks to everyone who helped organise this very pleasant event.

New Menu Tasting – El Bacalao

El Bacalao, which currently has two restaurants in Seville (one in Plaza Ponce de Leon, the other in Calle Tarifa), has been a fixture in the world of gastronomy in the city for as long as anyone can remember. Recently they introduced a new menu, which was presented to the public via several tasting menu meals for bloggers and “gastronomy influencers” (which apparently includes me), so Wednesday last I took up my invitation and presented myself for lunch at the El Bacalao in Plaza Ponce de Leon, along with fourteen other guests.

The meal was served in the functions room behind the restaurant, and took the form of a tasting of thirteen menu items – four starters, seven main courses and two desserts, with either manzanilla sherry or white wine (even in small portions that’s a lot of food, but one has to be thorough).

As one might expect given the name of the restaurant, bacalao (salt cod) figured prominently in the menu, from the signature bacalao al ajo confitado, through pavias and croquetas to an excellent tartare. Other personal favourites included a lovely fresh spinach salad and the milhojas de cola de toro (oxtail). Many thanks to everyone at El Bacalao for making it such an enjoyable afternoon.