Known for my love of holidays almost as much as my love of food, I took myself away to sunny Andalusia to celebrate my birthday and Christmas (Jesus basically wanted us to be twins but I beat him to it by two days).
It was one of the most chilled, enjoyable, fun-filled, Vermouth-stained Christmasses I’ve had. Massive props to my top pal Laura, for hosting me at her gorgeous hilltop pad in Vejer de la Frontera and showing me the sights and an overall epic time. We did the usual festive antics – eat, drink, binge watch TV shows, laugh, walk, laugh a bit more – but in our own who needs tradition anyway? way. We’re not total Scrooges though. We listened to a lot of Christmas songs (Mariah & George on repeat, obvs) and recorded deep debates on Home Alone vs. Home Alone 2.
Being Christmas and a holiday we wanted to eat tasty food but limited budgets, two induction hobs and a scarcity of utensils, meant we had to be thrifty in our cooking. Most meals were home-cooked at Laura’s abode where we flexed our absolute kitchen boss muscles. Who knew that a bag of vegetables, some tempura flour and five different spices could be so variable?! We had copious amounts of spinach and mushrooms, potatoes all they ways (so many ways), various fritters – sweetcorn, courgette, sweet potato, paella (of course), dahl (gotta get curry in somehow), red onion rings – which we forgot we’d drunkenly cooked on my birthday then on remembering two days later we couldn’t quite recreate the magic…, smashed chickpeas, smashed avocado, smashed glasses (it was Christmas after all) and I even grew to love Vegemite. Christmas really is a time for magic and unity.
We ate out once in Vejer at a delightful cave-set Michelin Guide restaurant called El Jardin del Califa which is part of a gorgeous hotel that we went for a late night run. For dinner we shared a mezze platter including hummus, bread and salad which was delightfully tasty and filly and an autumnal tagine which was disappointingly salty. In my general excitement I didn’t take any photos (I know, right?) but who needs food photos when you’re still beaming from the gorgeous views?
Vejer is a hilltop oasis with views stretching over mountains in one direction and across the sea in the other. It’s no surprise Laura chose to spend winter here – the temperature was 15-20 in the day, and whilst chilly at night it wasn’t a patch on back home. The town is pretty sleepy in the winter but that’s what adds to it’s charm. Locals going about their business, college students congregating on the grass, the old folks chattering away without a care in the world. It’s the type of place where you don’t really care if time has stood still.
On my birthday we got the bus down to coastal Tarifa where you can SEE Africa and get a boat over to Morocco. That alone is worth the trip, although we didn’t have enough time for the journey over. Not sure if it was the gusty breeze or the bottled Bloody Mary that made us fall about with giggles all day but it sure was a birthday to remember.
Tarifa is hippie central – think yoga, kite surfing and the second home of the rich and not quite famous – so veggie vegan food is right up there. We ate at Chilimosa, one of the best known veggie restaurants in town. Laura experienced seitan for the first time as part of a mouth-watering seitan kebab which led to many a great satan/seitan joke over the holiday and ideas for a mix tape that I can’t wait to hear! We also shared Indonesian gado gado salad, a vegan plate of smoked tofu, falafel, salad and hummus and some other dips and vegetables. Hell yeah to all that!
In between all the boss cooking we did a lot of walking – our 22km round trip on Christmas day was pretty epic – and gasping at the stunning views, the beautiful buildings (sometimes the people too) and admiring the intricate tiles and doors. So many good doors.
At the end of the trip we somehow managed to pack in a good share of the vegan food Seville had to offer in a mere 48 hours. I’d only bothered to research Seville a couple of days before heading out and did my usual of starring vegan-friendly places and cool bars on my map and making a semi-comprehensible list in my notes. Although phrases like ‘good vegan options’ weren’t actually that useful! I blame end of term fatigue…
Our first dinner was at Habanita – hidden away off one of the main streets and packed full of locals which is always a good sign. We indulged in more seitan (Laura had a taste for it now!). This time, it was like a breaded steak served with boiled potatoes, spinach and mushrooms – it’s like they knew what we’d been living off in Vejer! The menu is primarily veggie or vegan with everything clearly marked as either. There was a short, almost after-thought, list of meat and fish options showing that omni places can be balanced in favour of plants. Alongside the seitan we also got cassava in a garlic oil sauce, tomato, garlic and oregano salad and vegan croquettes. All delicious – the cassava in particular, which has inspired me to recreate a similar dish for a tapas feast very soon.
There’s sights a-plenty in Seville. Two must sees are Real Alcazar – a labyrinth of palaces and gardens that you won’t believe the number of wows you can make at it (make sure you get there for opening or pre-book tickets as it gets super packed) – and Plaza de Espana where a Moorish-renaissance building (party palace in our words) towers over a lake and covered with more tiles that you’d find down B&Q – half a mile of tiled fountains to be precise! Asides from these sights, just getting lost in the sneaky wee streets is enjoyable enough, seeing how many random courtyards, intricate tile designs and hidden tapas bars can be spied.
Seville is also home to several branches of Amorino Gelato Al Naturale – an ice cream chain that specialises in natural, dairy-free ice creams and sorbets. They actually have branches in London too which I was totally unaware of and then noticed right next to my work once I was back! I had a cup of mango, pistachio and chocolate – why have just one when you can have all your favourite flavours at once? The pistachio was hands down the best ice cream I’ve ever tasted – so nutty and creamy that I was shocked it was dairy-free. I had to resist going for more every time we walked past another branch.
We stayed just round from Organic’s – a vegetarian (mainly vegan) café-cum-store that is owned by the same people as Restaurante Ecovegetariano Gaia and Supermercado Ecológico across town. They do lunch tapas for €2.50 and a 2 course lunch for €7.50. We went for tapas: beetroot salmorejo – a traditional local soup which is full of garlic and given a creamy thickness from blended bread; beetroot hummus – cause their aren’t any double beetroot rules on holiday!; a mini falafel burger on turmeric bread (the bread alone worth having!) with puy lentil salad plus an assortment of croquettes with bulgur salad. All washed down with fresh zingy orange juice, we were revelling in the healthiness of our holiday instead of the usual post-Christmas food coma blues.
After a day of strolling and getting lost in the streest, dinner was at Arte y Sabor, a stylish, chic omni place with a menu of clearly marked veggie and vegan options and just a smattering of meat and fish options. Again, no photos, but trust me when I say it was superb. The menu was only in Spanish or German so we did some guess ordering – easy when vegan options are clearly marked – and ended up sharing lentil salad, mushroom stew, spinach and mushroom croquettes and vegetable tempura. Again, no photos but here’s some tiles and doors instead, including one of my favourite bars that we stopped at. For more delicious doors check out the Doors on Tour instagram.
On the final day, after an explore around town and Plaza de Espana, lunch was a quick pit stop at Coq & Roll Market on a bustling corner ideal for people watching at a small outside table. We both opted for a hummus salad sandwich which was simple but hit the spot. Later, after Laura left I stumbled across vegan hostel Alameda Rock and had more – yup, you guessed it – seitan, this time in a peppery sauce. It was meant to be whisky but I know whisky so I presume he thought I asked for the other seitan dish on the menu. It looked rather greasy but it was actually really nice. I also tried the chickn in spicy sauce – again, not quite as per the menu as it was not a sauce but it was mega tasty. As one of the few 100% vegan places in town it was a sadly a tad disappointing. The pizza bases didn’t look homemade and everything was microwaved but it is good value for money and was busy, showing that there’s a vegan appetite in Seville.
The other fully vegan place is a cute ‘lil bakery called Veganitessen in Mercado del Arenal near the river and conveniently on my route from the hostel to the airport bus. Well, with a slight diversion but I had time to kill and it’s vegan law to ensure you try as much vegan food as possible. I got there just after the kitchen closed so they only had a few counter top items left. Naturally I bought one of each. Don’t judge me – I had spare Euros to get rid of. No other reason. I had the spinach pastry on my delayed flight home and somehow – perhaps from all the other food consumed that day – I managed to resist either sweet pastry and saved them for sharing with Tristan once home the next day. The chocolate palmerito was just, ugh, undesirable. A brilliant way to bring the moreish and beautiful taste of Spain back home.
I’m already planning my next trip so I can check out all the other starred places on the map, and then some. Better get back to SkyScanning…