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World Travel Guide > Guides > Europe > Spain

Spain Food and Drink

Spain's eating and drinking culture is one of its greatest attractions, and a very sociable one too, with people rubbing shoulders in tapas bars and cafés. The Spaniards take their food seriously – be it diner-style menus del dia (menus of the day) or elaborate, nouveau cuisine in gourmet restaurants. Food is generally dictated by the seasons and fresh, whichever corner of Spain you go to.

An excellent way to understand different facets of Spanish cuisine is to sample tapas (or pintxos in the Basque Country): small snacks served with drinks in local bars across the country. They can range from gourmet canapés to simple plates of olives, cheeses and cured meats, and may be charged or given free.

Spanish drinks have also brewed up quite a storm worldwide – from the thirst-quenching sangria to bubbly Cava to the sophisticated Rioja wine.

Specialities

Albondigas: Fried Spanish-style meatballs, usually smothered in tomato sauce.
Bacalao al pil: A Basque Country dish of salt cod with a velvety white olive-oil emulsion.
Chorizo: A dried and course pork sausage seasoned with smoked paprika.
Cocido: A fragrant and rich chickpea and meat stew popular in Madrid.
Croquetas: Fried bread-crumbed fritters with a creamy, potato interior.
Gazpacho: A chilled tomato-based, tangy vegetable soup from Andalucía.
Jamón: One of many cured Spanish meats, Jamón is a type of finely sliced cured ham.
Paella: A Valencian rice dish seasoned with saffron and loaded with vegetables and meat (chicken or rabbit).
Pulpo á feira: Tender, boiled lobster seasoned with paprika and salt and drizzled in olive oil.
Tortilla Espaniola: A rich, chunky potato omelette – a staple throughout Spain.

Sherry: A fortified wine available in several styles: Fino and Manzanilla (pale and dry), amontillado (dry, richer in body and darker in colour), Oloroso (medium, full-bodied, fragrant and golden) and sweet sherries such as Pedro Ximénez.
Rioja: Spain's flagship red wine, made from Tempranillo and Garnacha grapes.
Cava: A sparkling wine from Catalonia made using the same method used to produce Champagne.

Things to know

Most restaurants serve a menú del día at lunchtime; this is a three-course meal including drinks that generally costs from €10 to €20 and can be very good value.

Tipping

Although Spanish VAT (IVA) of 10% is included in most menu prices, most people leave some small change behind. In upscale restaurants, tipping 10% is expected.

Drinking age

16 for wine and beer, 18 for spirits.

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