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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 azahar-sevilla.com

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.

Velázquez | Murillo |Sevilla

This year is the 400th anniversary of the birth of Bartolome Murillo, probably Sevilla’s most famous painter, and has been officially declared the Year of Murillo. As part of the commemorations the Fundación Focus-Abengoa, in collaboration with the Prado Museum, London’s National Gallery, and others, has organised a very special exhibition comparing the work of Murillo and Sevilla’s other most famous painter, Diego Velázquez.

velazquez murilloThe two painters, born in Seville a generation apart (Velazquez in 1599 and Murillo in 1617), and having their formative influences there, nevertheless had quite different career trajectories, Velazquez leaving Seville to work at the Spanish court in Madrid in 1623, while Murillo spent his entire working life in Seville. It’s not known whether the two ever actually met in person (though they must have been aware of each others’ work), but while there is no record of a meeting, it’s not impossible as Murillo visited Madrid on several occasions, although art experts think that there was only limited reciprocal influence.

santa rufinaSanta Rufina by Murillo (left) and Velázquez (right)

However, it’s clear from the 19 paintings in the exhibition, 10 by Murillo and 9 by Velázquez, that there were common influences in the cultural world of Sevilla in the 17th century. This shows itself in both the choice (or commissioning) of subjects, especially in religious subjects pertaining to Sevilla such as the Saints Justa and Rufina and the Immaculate Conception, as well as of Saint Peter and the Adoration of the Magi, and the highly naturalistic style of the scenes of everyday life.

day to day lifeEveryday scenes by Velázquez (left) and Murillo (right)

It’s also appropriate that the exhibition is being hosted in the Venerables Hospital, a building that is of the early 17th century, and which has both a historical and current associations with the two painters. Around mid-January the exhibition, which continues until February 28th, surpassed the 50,000 visitor mark.

Velásquez | Murillo | Sevilla
Hospital de los Vernerables
Plaza de los Venerables 8
Open 10.00 – 18.00 (last entrance at 17.30)
General Admission: 8 euros
Free Admission Tuesday 14.00 – 18.00

Pando jamón cutting class

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Hams awaiting the cutter’s knife

In Spain, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a spot of jamón, so it was appropriate that I kicked off the festive month with a jamón cutting class at Pando’s restaurant in San Eloy. This seems set to become an important venue for gastronomical education events, and the jamón cutting class was the second time I’ve been there recently.

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Victor in action

The event itself was good fun, and attended by many local food bloggers and writers. After a bit of theory, we were treated to a demonstration by professional ham cutter Victor Fernández (yep, in Spain it’s a real profession), and of course we later got to sample the results of his labours.

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The finished plate. Care to join me?

All in all it was an enjoyable evening, and while I’m not likely to be doing any ham cutting myself, it was still interesting to learn more about this art and its secrets.

Semana del Arroz

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It seems that this is the season of Jornadas Gastronómicas in Seville (and nothing wrong with that, of course, especially if I’m invited for a free sample). This week (November 21-27) it’s the XX Edition of Las Jornadas Gastronómicas con Más Tradición – specifically La Semana del Arroz (Rice Week) – at the Taberna del Alabardero.

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The event was held in the central patio, normally in use as a restaurant as part of a complex that includes a café, bar, boutique hotel (just 7 rooms), and a catering and hospitality school, with the cooking of a range of rice dishes, including classic paella Valenciano and an arroz negro among others, under the watchful eye of master chef Juan Tamarit.

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For those eager to learn the secrets of cooking perfect rice like this there’s a three day school (November 22-24) running at the school in tandem with Rice Week.

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Seville | Sagardi – XII Jornadas Gastronómicas del Buey

Date: November 14th
Location: Hotel Palacio Pinello, Seville
Event: The inauguration of the menu for the Sagardi Restaurant Group’s XII Jornadas Gastronómicas del Buey

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Beef – before cooking

I was one of about 50 fortunates invited to this celebration of Basque cooking, organised by company founder Iñaki Lopez de Viñaspre and master butcher Imanol Jaca, and a menu arranged around the charcoal grilled txuleton steaks of mature Galician beef cold-room aged for 3-4 weeks. It proved to be an event worth waiting for. The setting was pleasant, the company friendly, and the service great. But of course it was the food that we’d come here for.

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Bresaola

We started with a little taster of bresaola, a thinly sliced salted and air dried beef that was really delicious, followed by an entree of alubia nueva de tolosa con sus sacramentos. This Basque speciality is a rich dark bean stew served with morcilla, and it was easy to see why this rather rare dish is so highly-prized.

Then the beef. Thick slabs of medium rare grilled meat that were both tasty and tender, and as much of it as you could eat. The side dish of fresh pimientos cooked over a wood fire was a perfect complement.

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Beef – after cooking

Afterwards came cheese – a Montaña Aralar sheep’s cheese – walnuts, and some rich dark chocolate truffles to finish, making a great finish to an excellent meal.

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Cheese

Many thanks then to Grupo Sagardi for organising the event, and our hosts Hotel Palacio Pinello. For those wanting to try the menu it’s available until December 11th.

Night Visit to Venerables Hospital

It seems that 2016 is to be the Summer of the Night Visit in Seville, as a number of important historic buildings open their doors as darkness falls for unique experiences in some of Seville’s special places. I’m planning on doing several of these, and last Tuesday was the first, a night visit to the Hospital de los Venerables Sacerdotes, in the heart of the Barrio Santa Cruz. The visit, conducted by our guide Sergio Raya, was to be partly by “candlelight” (battery-powered) to better recreate the atmosphere of the hospital’s early days.

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Central Patio

Those early days were in the 17th century, a time of both great wealth for some, great poverty for many, scarred by general economic decline and repeated outbreaks of plague. The relief of hardship fell partly on the church, but mainly on the religious brotherhoods (hermandades) that are now better known for their role in the Semana Santa celebrations. One of these was responsible for founding the forerunner of los Venerables in what is now the Calle de Jesus de Gran Poder in 1627. It moved to Calle Amparo in 1659, and in 1675, while under the direction of Justino de Neve y Chavas, it was granted some land and houses on its present site in the heart of the Santa Cruz by Don Pedro Manuel Colón y Portugal (a descendant of Christopher Colón/Columbus), Conde de Gelves and Duque de Vergara. Building work took twenty years to complete, with Neve himself dying in 1685, but in 1698 the Hospital was formally blessed by the Archbishop of Seville.

The hospital is laid out in two stories around a central patio-courtyard, one of the most unusual in Seville as the central area is below the level of the surrounding colonnaded gallery, and the circular fountain is sunk still lower. Although visually pleasing, the primary reason for the unusual design was apparently the problem of drainage.

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Church and High Altar

Our first stop was the Hospital’s most important building, the Church (tending to men’s souls being more important than tending to their bodies). Although not large, the Church is densely furnished and decorated, with works by Valdés Leal, Juan de Oviedo, and others making it one of Spain’s most important Barroque church interiors. The symbolism of the paintings and sculptures was intended to reinforce the idea of the centrality of the Church and Clergy in the moral life of the nation and the source of all moral authority.

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Ceiling of the sacristy

From the Church we went on through the sacristy, which has a remarkable painted ceiling intended to make the room appear much higher than it is, to the sacristy patio, one of the areas of the complex not normally open to the public. This was in fact where the hospital’s first patients were housed before the completion of the building. At one end is “the back door” which gives access to Calle Consuelo, and at the other a door leading into another small patio with a fascinating history of its own. This was once the Corral de Comedias (a type of small theatre, similar in artistic and social function to the contemporary Globe Theatre of Shakespeare) de Doña Elvira, in its day (1578-1632) the most popular in Seville. It took its name from Doña Elvira de Ayala (born 1377), whose Palace was in the nearby Doña Elvira Square, the theatre being in the palace gardens. Theatrical luminaries of the day whose works were performed here include Tirso de Molina, Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega.

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Patio of Corral de Comedias

Next stop was the hospital ward on the lower floor (there was another on the floor above), a large open room with a high ceiling supported by a row of arches down the centre. The patients’ beds would have been arranged along the walls on either side, a model common to hospitals almost until modern times. From there we went up the main stairway with its ornate cupola with the Papal tiara and Saint Peter’s keys to the upper gallery. On the side next to the church a door leads to a screened balcony inside the church. Further on is the library, created in 1981, and housed in the original refectory, from the far end of which a narrow stairway leads up to our final stop, the Torre Mirador (watchtower), which has a mudejar style ceiling and views over the Santa Cruz, which looks very different from this height.

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Cupola of main stairway with Papal tiara and keys.

Thanks are due to both Focus Abengoa and Engranajes Culturales for the organisation of this fascinating tour, and more about other night tours and cultural experiences can be found here.

Sherry on Top

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Sherry on Top is a summer season of events organised by the Consejo Regulador de los Vinos de Jerez and the Asociación de Hoteles de Sevilla y Provincia that will showcase both sherry wines and the rooftop terraces of the hotels of Seville, with catas (tastings), exclusive sherry based cocktails and live music.

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Last night saw the first of the series, on the terrace of the Hotel Inglaterra in the Plaza Nueva, a popular spot both for its comfort and its excellent views of the cathedral, and it was something of a privilege to have an official invitation to attend as part of an audience that included such luminaries as Beltrán Domecq and other well known figures.

The sherry tasting, led by Pepe Ferrer and Carmen Aumesquet, included a Fino, an Oloroso, and a sherry cocktail, and live music was by Los Quiero, who specialise in music from the sixties and seventies. Nice to hear one or two old favourites from the days of my youth.

With perfect weather for sitting out of doors this was a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and I hope to be going to more of these events through the summer.

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The Reales Alcazares of Seville

The Reales Alcazares, or Royal Palaces, of Seville is the oldest working palace complex in Europe (that is, it’s still an official royal residence, though actually infrequently with the royals in residence), and one of the most important heritage monuments in Spain. Not surprisingly, then, it’s at the top of many people’s “Things to see in Seville” list, especially since it became the locale for the filming of the Water Gardens of Dorne sequences in the hugely popular Game of Thrones TV series.

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Entrance to the Mudejar Palace

In the present day there are two palaces, the more famous Mudejar Palace built by Pedro I, “The Cruel”, in the 14th century, and the Gothic Palace originally built by Alfonso X, “The Wise”, at the end of the 13th century, but substantially rebuilt following damage caused by the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. Behind these are the gardens, with both small formal gardens close to the palaces, and larger gardens in both formal and informal styles beyond them.

The first palace on the site was built in 913 by the city governor for the Córdoba caliphate. The palace is long gone, but the walls of the enclosure are still there – they’re the rather forbidding walls you see in the Plaza del Triunfo and Plaza de la Alianza. In the later Moorish periods there was a positive frenzy of building and rebuilding, of which little now remains except the Patio de Yeso. Most of the palaces were levelled to create the space for the Christian period palaces.

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Patio de la Montería

Entrance to the complex is from the Plaza del Triunfo through the Lion gate, an outer courtyard, and a section of old Moorish wall, into the Patio de Montería, the spacious paved courtyard in front of the Mudejar Palace. The name (literally the courtyard of mounting) comes from the fact that this is where the court would assemble to go hunting.

The building to the right, with the windowed gallery on the first floor, was originally part of the Casa de la Contratación, founded in 1503 to control all aspects of the trade with the Indies, and includes the Hall of the Admiral and the Audience Hall, which are hung with paintings and tapestries, and a room with an internationally important collection of fans.

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Courtyard Garden

In the corner of the courtyard between this and the palace are the stairs that lead up to the modern day Royal Apartments, where the Audience Chamber and Pedro I’s bedroom are the highlights. Entrance for the guided tours is extra, and because of the limited capacity you should try to book ahead.

The main attraction, though, is undoubtedly the Mudejar Palace of Pedro I, built in the 1360s, and considered one of the best examples of late Moorish architecture in Spain (although commissioned in the Christian period, many of the craftsmen and artists who created its spectacular tiles and intricate ceilings were Moorish “Mudejars”, either those who remained in Seville after its conquest by Ferdinand III, but some provided by the Muslim Emir of Granada).

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Patio de las Doncellas

If you turn left at the entrance a passageway brings you almost at once to the central courtyard, the Patio de las Doncellas or Courtyard of the Maidens, named for the legend that the former Moorish rulers had exacted a tribute of Christian maidens for their harems. A long rectangular pool is flanked by sunken gardens (part of the original layout only revealed relatively recently after several centuries concealed beneath a later marble floor) and covered colonnades of pillars and arches to provide shade from the summer sun. It would be easy to rest here for a while in the peace and quiet (when it’s not too busy!), but we must pass on to the far end of the courtyard and the spectacular Hall of Ambassadors, once Pedro’s throne room, with its domed ceiling representing the universe and the stars.

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Mezzanine and upper Gallery, Patio of the Dolls

Around these public areas of the palace are arranged the royal quarters, including the Patio of the Dolls (the mezzanine and upper gallery were added in the 19th century for Isabela II, and include decorations brought from the Alhambra), and the Prince’s Room. The rooms facing the gardens have windows partly masked by vegetation, and are often bathed in an almost surreal greenish glow.

From the corner of the Patio de las Doncellas a stairway leads up to the halls of Carlos V, which are actually the remodelled upper rooms of the old Gothic Palace. Here you can find a number of magnificent tapestries of historical scenes, and windows overlooking the gardens which will be instantly recognisable to all Game of Thrones fans. The Patio de las Cruces was once the upper part of the courtyard of one of the Moorish palaces, but the ground floor was later filled in. The original was planted with orange trees whose fruit could be plucked from the galleries of the upper level.

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Baths of Doña Maria de Padilla

Behind the palaces are the gardens. Closest to the palace are the smaller formal gardens with fountains and pools. From one of these a passage under the Gothic palace takes you to the Baths of Doña Maria de Padilla (used to store rainwater for the gardens), which are one of my favourite places in the entire complex. The vaulted ceilings, muted sounds and filtered light create a unique, almost other-worldly atmosphere. Nearby is the famous Pool of Mercury, with its water spout coming from the roof of the palace, and its sleek carp swimming in the depths. Alongside is the Gallery of Grotesques, a renaissance period feature created from the wall of one of the earliest Moorish palace enclosures. The gardens on the other side are 19th and 20th century creations, but none the worse for that, and a great view of them, especially the Poets Garden, can be had from the upper walkway of the Grotesques. Other things to watch out for are the Carlos V Pavilion, the Lion Pavilion, and the Maze.

The way out of the Palace is through the apeadero (where visitors would alight from their carriages) to the Patio de las Banderas (the courtyard of the flags, the reception point for ambassadors). Resist the temptation to go straight back to the cathedral and instead turn right and right again into the Calle de la Juderia. It’s the start of a whole new adventure….