When you’re used to going to a restaurant and ordering a starter, mains and possibly a pudding, it can feel a bit daunting being presented with a tapas menu.
That is until you become familiar with how things are done in a tapas bar, and you are ordering a mix of delicious dishes like a pro.
What is tapas?
In Spain, tapas dishes are traditionally snacks or appetisers served before a main meal. Several dishes are placed on a table to share between the diners, so everyone can try a little bit of everything.
They can be a small plate (otherwise known as pinchos), such as a bowl of olives.
Alternatively, they could be as big as a plate of paella, depending on your appetite and what meal you order afterwards. Larger tapas dishes are traditionally called raciones, so don’t let the different names confuse you!
These days, people look forward to trying a variety of tapas dishes so much that many skip their main meal altogether, choosing to have a greater selection of smaller plates instead.
How many tapas should you order?
One thing that typically confuses diners when they come to order some tapas dishes is how many they should get.
If they are opting for a bigger meal afterwards, one or two each is typically enough. However, if you want to go to town on plates of patatas bravas, Iberico hams and chorizo cooked in a red wine sauce, you could order two or three dishes each.
So, if you’re on a date, you could go for around six plates between the two of you, while a group of four people could order eight to 12.
What if I am still hungry?
The good thing about tapas is if you think you’ll need more, you can always order extras throughout the night, so you’ll never feel unsatisfied when you come to a tapas bar.
Another thing to remember is that tapas plates might not all come at the same time, but as they are picky dishes it is perfectly fine to start on the ones that have been served first.
This is great if you’re already feeling peckish when you sit down, as you won’t have to wait till everything arrives before you can tuck in.
What types of tapas should you order?
What tapas you choose will really come down to personal preferences and dietary restrictions. However, it is a good idea to try a variety of dishes, such as vegetarian, meat and seafood ones.
A plate of goat cheese is a delicious vegetarian tapas to try, as are padron peppers, Spanish omelettes, cheese croquettes, and mushrooms in a garlic and white wine sauce.
Meat dishes typically include spiced sausage, grilled lamb chops and black pudding.
Spain is also well-known for its delicious seafood tapas, so don’t miss out on gambas al pil pil (prawns in a garlic and chilli sauce) or puntillitas (fried baby squid).
Do I order pudding?
As you can certainly fill up when eating several tapas dishes, you might not have room for dessert. However, if you can’t resist something sweet after your meal, there are plenty of scrumptious Spanish puddings to choose from.
Tarta de Santiago is a deliciously moreish almond cake, while churros con chocolate (cylindrical doughnuts dipped in a chocolate sauce) is considered one of Spain’s best sweet treats.