I´m easily confused and more so the older I get. When a waiter reads out a long list of possibilities I can guarantee the only one that sticks is ensaladilla. So more often than not, if I find myself in a state of utter brain freeze, ensaladilla is what I order. And somehow, it´s always a winner as with a cold beer and accompanied by some picos (little breadsticks), I come away feeling full and happy.
Ensaladilla is best described as a kind of cold Spanish comfort food. Generally you´ll find some roughly mashed potatoes, lashings of mayo, boiled carrots, the odd pea, tuna and if you´re really pushing the boat out, a few pink prawns. Haute cuisine it´s not, but a decent beer accompaniament, it is.
So on a balmy May evening, looking for an outside eating alternative to the always heaving terrace of Las Coloniales, I found myself in the shady enclave of Plaza Leandro. Under the heaving bows of an ancient tree were an adhoc collection of metal tables belonging to ´Las Cinco Farolas´ and with just one left, it was ours for the taking.
The owner, who it turns out is Russian, reeled off a long list of tapas and in an instant I felt my the haze descend and before I knew it the words ´ensaladilla´ were coming out of my mouth. The deed was done and I expected nothing more than the usual heap of potato/ tuna mush. But to my surprise this was actually the best ensaladilla I´d eaten in Seville. The clue came from the Russian influence; in many places ensaladilla is also known as Russian Salad, the original reportedly having been created by chef Lucien Olivier in 1860 for his restaurant ´The Hermitage´, a well known restaurant of its day in Moscow. The modern equivalent is now eaten all over the Spanish speaking world and almost certainly bears no resemblance to the Russian original.
But the offering from ´Las Cinco Farolas´ was in a class of its own, the difference being more hard boiled egg than potato giving it a chunky texture rather than the usual formless mush. Personally speaking it was a pure delight, so much so that today I´ve returned with the specific intention of ordering ensaladilla rather than just doing it out of sheer panic. There are also other decent tapas on offer, ranging from the classic spinach and chickpeas to Russian sausages with a dash of proper mustard. And all under the benevolent, leafy shade that beats a Cruz Campo sombrilla anytime.
Las Cinco Farolas, Plaza Leandro 1
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