More than just snacks, tapas means literally ‘to cover’, referring to the original placing of bread, cheese or ham on a sherry glass to keep out flies. Another story is that the first tapas was actually ordered by the intrepid King Alfonso XIII, who wanted something to keep sand out of his sherry on a windy day. Thus, the tapas restaurant was born.

Origin of tapas restaurants

The only tapas-specific word in the Spanish dictionary is actually ‘tapear’, meaning ‘to eat tapas’. Within Spain, though, there will be talk about the ‘tapeo’ – the unique local and lively art of teasing a burgeoning appetite in a tapas restaurant. As Spaniards eat dinner as late as 11pm, an appetiser – or three – is the perfect after-work treat to fill the long hours between meals. Tapas are also known in parts of northern Spain as ‘pinchos’, but this just means tooth-pick – the ingenious method for keeping the bread and the toppings together.

Tricks of the tapas restaurant

In the 17th century, another benefit of serving food with an alcoholic drink was to stop sailors from returning to work too drunk – it was even passed as a law. “Invented in an age less obsessed with productivity, the tapa is a trick for spinning out your drinks without getting drunk,” a journalist for the Madrid daily El Pais explained. Also true is that many traditional tapas are salty or spicy – like chorizo sausage and salted fish or ham. This made patrons even more keen to return to the tapas restaurant’s bar for another thirst-quenching drink. And in Castile-La Mancha, it is even said that serving tapas with pungent mature cheeses would hide the taste of sherry that had gone off.

The tapas experience

We may enjoy an entire evening in Sydney’s Wine and Tapas Bar, but in Seville there are thousands of tapas bars. All conveniently located close to one another, the done thing is to spend hour upon hour hopping from one to the next, sampling their specialty tapas with a sherry before moving on. The emphasis is on sharing the experience with friends over long and lively conversation, as multiple dishes or ‘racions’ are ordered and freely shared. In that way, tapas is rarely eaten at home or in restaurants – it is an experience all of its own. To try it for yourself call the Sevardi Wine and Tapas Bar on (02) 9980 1150 to make your booking.