GRANADA is famed for its tapas as much as the Alhambra. It’s one of Spain’s few remaining cities that maintains the culture of a tapa on the house with whatever drink you order, and that goes for every drink! “Why don’t we all live there?!” I hear you cry. I dunno, but it would make perfect sense, wouldn’t it?
So the city mantra (Ok, only in my head) goes, ‘Tapas, tapas, everywhere, don’t stop till you drop, eat those small snacks till you pop!” (’cause like. they’re free anyway, so go wild.)
There are few things in this world more satisfying than ordering a glass of wine or a cold frothy beer knowing a surprise snack is coming your way. And the tapas in Granada really are impressive. Some are like little works of art. And if they’re more on the traditional side, you know you’re getting excellent ham, cheeses, tortilla or even fideuà. The Granadians have been doing this a long time. They know what’s up.
When my parents were here visiting, of course going for tapas was a great nightly activity of ours. It was gas craic discovering new spots together, stuffing our faces with tiny snacks. Oh, how we laughed. And snacked. And laughed some more. And in turn, I took them to some of my favourites. Of which there are many.
The tapas culture here is fantastic, and they were more than happy (who wouldn’t be?!) but I wanted to shake things up while good ol’ Mom and Pops had a couple of Granada days left. You know yourself. So I felt totally inspired to go on a hunt to find a new experience; something with a twist. That’s where La Oliva comes in.
La Oliva is a pokey little shop in one of the most popular parts of the city, Realejo-San Matías (which isn’t too far from the Alhambra at all.) Within, you’ll discover old school terracotta tile floors, white walls, a wooden beamed ceiling, and shelves filled with local artisan goods; olive oils, wines and jams. Owned and run by Francisco Lillo Roldan, by day it’s very much a shop, but by night, Francisco transforms his little corner shop full of character into a pedagogical tasting experience. However, La Oliva is not a restaurant. Francisco will tell you that himself.
When we arrived we were warmly welcomed by Francisco and his two helpers for the evening. The shop felt cosy and homely, like being invited to an old friend’s house for dinner. There was Spanish guitar music playing in the background, and all the windows were covered with cloths. Once all the guests had arrived the doors were closed; almost like after hours. The whole idea is so you’re not distracted from the experience.
Francisco began with a little introduction about the evening and thanked us for coming along. We started with four different local olive oils which we soaked up generously with thick chunks of bread. Francisco told us that olive oil creates a barrier in the stomach so you absorb alcohol at a slower rate (win-win) and advised us not to fill up on too much bread as 15 courses were coming, accompanied by five wines. Each course would be made from local Andalusian ingredients; primarily from Granada, and from Córdoba, where Francisco is from.
In case you were curious, my favourite olive oil was the last one in the star dish. The Omed Picual. Addictive stuff!
Our first three courses were complemented by a glass of cava. The boiled asparagus spears were really an excuse to try the local organic mayonnaise (made with local olive oil, of course.) The three pâtés we tried were just delicious. Jamón, partridge, and boletus, a type of mushroom that’s very popular here in Spain. The third dish was slivers of salted cod mixed with pomegranate. You couldn’t have a menu of local ingredients without throwing some element of the city’s namesake in there.
The next round of courses were accompanied by a local sherry, Real Tesoro Fino from Jerez. The sherry courses were a lovely mix of stuff – a charcuterie (known as embutido in Spain) of delicious local meats, almonds salted and fried in olive oil, a tomato salad with basil olive oil, and the star of the show for me – local chorizo cooked in sherry. Chorizo a la sidra (chorizo cooked in cider) is my favourite Spanish dish, so this was a nice twist.
The next three dishes were fish dishes, accompanied by a local white wine. One of my favourite dishes of the night was the gambas al ajillo, tossed with spinach. Such a simple dish but bursting with flavour, and so good I gave it a full-size image. A superstar!
The other courses were remojón granadino (a traditional local dish made with orange slices, spring onion, raw cod and olives) and tuna with rosemary and minted peas. The tuna was a little overdone but still tasty.
I don’t want to reveal all the dishes, as the element of surprise is always best! Although it’s safe to say Francisco changes up the dishes quite often, depending on the season, so you get to experience the best of local produce. What I will say is for our meat courses, the red wine accompaniment was my favourite of all the wines, and my favourite dish was the jamón superstar stew pictured above.
The sweet and final courses were served with an interesting dessert wine, Pedro Ximinez Candado, which is made from raisins. If I’m being honest, I was a little disappointed afterwards when I noticed on Tripadvisor that the dessert of dark chocolate ice cream with sea salt and orange infused olive oil was a showstopper for many guests. It sounds it.Unfortunately, that wasn’t on the menu during our time at La Oliva, perhaps it’s reserved for the summer months. Maybe next time I’ll get to try it!
Francisco is actually the kind of guy that if I called ’round looking to try the fancy ice cream, he’d totally oblige. Sure he might even sit and have some with me.
We had such a great night at La Oliva. It was a unique, memorable and above all, relaxing experience. There’s nothing fancy or pretentious about it, it’s simply a night based around simple, fresh and honest food, made using good quality local ingredients that Francisco prepares in the best way possible to bring out the best flavours.
Francisco is an affable guy, engaging and gregarious. His love of Andalusian food comes across in each story he tells and his team are so pleasant and courteous. You’ll be pleased to know that La Oliva cater to all dietary requirements too! If you’re interested, contact Francisco (he speaks English, and French, I believe) to book in advance, especially during high season.
The tasting experience costs €38.50 per person, and it’s cash only. You can also buy the wines and olive oils you try during the tasting evening if you’d like to take some home.
Calle Virgen del Rosario, 9
Phone: +34 958 22 57 54
La Oliva is right in the heart of one of Granada’s best neighbourhoods for bars, so you can continue your night with plenty of places at your disposal. You might want to ask for your drink ‘sin tapa*’ though, as chances are you’ll be full after 15 courses.
(*A absolute sin, asking for ‘sin’. No matter how full you are, you should never refuse tapas!)
♥ ♥ ♥