There is a tag line that adorns the tourist shops that peddle stuffed black bulls, spotted flamenco aprons for all ages and tacky ornate fans, and that is ´Spain is different´. It´s easy to bandy around at the best of times as every day I encounter yet another example of this mostly enchanting uniqueness. Such as the eerie whistling sounds of the elderly knife sharpener who pounds the streets pulling his little cart filled with knife sharpening implements, and that´s without even going down the road of the insanely over-the-top annual locuras of Semana Santa and Feria.
But a uniquely Spanish dining experience that has flummoxed me since living back on these shores is that of the Abeceria. These are basically little bars, where the beers come in Botellines (bottles), the wine in it´s usual receptacle, and the food, well the food comes out of the tins and jars that are available for purchase from behind the bar. And that´s the concept, booze plus tinned goods, served on fashionable sheet of grease proof paper.
What´s strange though is that I lived in Madrid for 2 years in the 1990s, and I literally have no recollection of having ever entered into an Abeceria. Mind you at that time, if there wasn´t a glitter ball, an ear bleeding sound system or strobe lighting, I wasn´t interested. So they might have been all the rage, and I just wouldn´t have noticed (or remembered).
But either way, right now Seville is rocking the whole Abeceria thing, from the old-school spit and sawdust variety, to the more salubrious and upmarket version. While I´m down with the whole spit and sawdust thing, I do err on the side of poncy, so my favourite is ´La Niña Bonita´ on Calle Calatrava. This little gem has been an Abeceria since 1931, and the new owners who re-opened it last year have kept many of the original fittings while giving at nudge into the 21st century. They have an extensive wine list to delight any connoisseur, a delicious cheese and charcuturie selection, some classic tapas such as Salmorejo plus the usual selection of tinned and bottled goods. There is also THE most helpful and enthusiastic Italian guy manning the counter, whose patience always astounds me as I once again I find myself staring blankly at the wine list as I fight the urge to just say ‘una copa de Rioja’.
So on these chilly, February Sevilla evenings, La Niña Bonita is the perfect cosy bolt-hole for a stylish Abeceria experience, plus if your larders are low, you can stock up on luxuary bottled and tinned goods until your heart’s content.
La Niña Bonita, Calle Calatrava 5, Alameda de Hercules, Sevilla