Visiting Spain without trying the traditional cuisine is like visiting Paris without seeing the Eiffel Tower, although admittedly, the Eiffel Tower isn’t anywhere near as tasty. Spaniards are beyond passionate about their food, and that goes for how they eat it too – so if you want to have the best possible dining experience during your Spanish getaway, it helps to know a little about the local dining culture.
Here are a few tips to help you eat like a true Spaniard, at any time of day. Use them everywhere from restaurants to bars, and trust us, your hosts will be very impressed!
Embrace Breakfast Time
If you love breakfast, you’ll adore Spain, because many Spaniards tend to eat breakfast twice! As they’re early risers, Spaniards eat the first meal of the day at around 7.30am – usually something light, like a small cake and a coffee. The second breakfast will be taken at around 10.30am, and often consists of a few tapas dishes, washed down with a glass of beer or wine. What’s that, alcohol at 10.30am? Breakfast has never been so much fun.
Keep Your Hands On the Table
We all know the rule about keeping your elbows off the table, but in Spain it’s considered very rude if your hands disappear from the table altogether. Eating with a hand resting in your lap is a big no-no in Spain, so rest your wrists on the table during your meal to ensure you don’t make the wrong impression.
Love a Late Lunch
As the second breakfast is eaten around mid-morning, Spanish lunchtimes are a little later too, so time your mid-day meal for between 2pm and 2.30pm. If you don’t want to wait for a table, it’s actually advisable to arrive at your chosen restaurant before 2pm as Spaniards usually eat lunch in large groups, and think nothing of occupying the entire restaurant if they have to!
Try the Menu Del Dia
For those of you that don’t have any particular dietary requirements, be adventurous after arriving on flights to Spain and order the ‘menu del dia’, which is the set menu that’s served in many restaurants throughout the week. This will give you the opportunity to sample a few different dishes for one very good price. Coffee, beer or wine and salad are usually included too, making it a great option if you can’t decide what to have.
Say Yes to Bread
Forget the low-carb diet, because Spaniards serve bread with virtually every meal, and it’s too delicious to resist. You’ll notice people using bread to mop up the sauces on their plates, as well as treating it like an additional piece of cutlery – so unless you’re in a very upmarket restaurant, feel free to imitate them.
Don’t Rush Dinner
As eating and drinking go hand-in-hand in Spain, eating dinner (which usually commences at around 8pm) can often become something of a bar crawl. Spaniards often eat a plate of tapas with a drink in one bar, before moving onto the next bar to repeat the process, until they’re full or drunk – or even both! The social nature of dinner means this is the perfect time of day to make friends, so brush up on your Spanish phrases beforehand.