Finding great places to eat can often be difficult – recommendations are the best, but visiting a new or unfamiliar city can make this a challenge. The main tourist areas are typically crowded with over-priced restaurants serving unimaginative dishes.
The real gems are usually tucked away down quiet streets that only the locals know about and most want to keep the secret to themselves.
Well, I’m going to let you in on a secret on mine – a wonderful recent discovery I made in Andalucía’s capital, Seville last month – a restaurant where you can eat well in elegant yet relaxed surroundings, soaking up the energy and warmth of Seville.
‘Restaurante Manolo León’ is a gastronomic institution for many of the city’s residents, established back in 1994, and for a decade before the name was well known on the Costa de la Luz in Huelva, where it all started.
The Seville restaurant is over two floors of a stunning, 19th century Andalusian property down a discreet cobbled street. Decoration is stylish, elegant but unpretentious – I wish there were more places like this.
Downstairs is a welcoming bar area; Tapas, appetisers, drinks and cocktails can be enjoyed here before taking a table in one of the elegantly decorated dining rooms. In summer one can enjoy the Moorish style patio courtyard, where scented climbers and flowers fill the air with the fragrance of the Mediterranean.
The quality of the food, its presentation and the attention to detail reflects fine dining, but in my mind the warm welcome from the established team and the unfussy, attentive service makes the whole experience relaxed and enjoyable. The place fills up quickly with a great mix of Seville society, and it’s a pleasure to drink and eat in a restaurant full of the energy of people enjoying themselves.
Old favourites share the menu with contemporary interpretations of classic Andalusian dishes, as well as a superb 7 course tasting menu – all are complemented by a well priced wine list that offers diners some of the best wines from wineries across Spain, Europe and beyond. Prices are very fair; for example you can enjoy a fine Ysios Reserva from Rioja for little more than you would pay in wine shop.
Weekends the restaurant is a meeting place for old and new friends and a perfect corner of the city in which to enjoy a relaxing meal or celebration. The kitchen is open to12.30 midnight and the restaurant until 1.30am. The owners, Agustin León & Manolo León, are brothers and they tell me that the different dining rooms are also available for private parties and business events too – and they have also launched a successful catering business.
Across town, the creative and charismatic pair have created an informal bar restaurant, called simply ‘El bar Manolo León’, decorated in the same original and creative way, but with a more rustic feel, featuring artisan pottery, vintage items from the city’s proud bull fighting heritage, and plenty of Andalusian themed pieces.
This is a great venue to enjoy typically Andalusian tapas, salads and hearty meat and fish dishes. There is a superb choice of beers and wines and if you don’t feel like ordering off the wine list, then the house wine, bottled for the bar is very ‘quaffable’.
‘Restaurante Manolo León’
C/ Guadalquivir, 8
Tel: (+34) 954 37 37 35
‘El bar Manolo León’
C/ Juan Pablos, 8
Tel: (+34) 954 23 71 09