Friends of ours live very close to where we were to dine for this month’s article, so we arranged to call in on them for a pre-dinner drink. We left a glass or two of a very nice red wine later and walked through the Barrio del Carmen’s flooded streets under the cover of a huge (loaned) umbrella to El Olivo. Now, El Olivo is tiny – there are two tables indoors the rest is a terrace that surrounds an old and very large olive tree. Inside was full and the people sitting eating looked in no hurry to leave, so we arranged to return the next evening at the same time.

We arrived (with our friends from the Friday night) to find the terrace greatly reduced and heaving – the manager found us a little corner to wait until a real table came free, and explained that there were processions all morning which passed through the middle of the terrace, so the police had insisted they remove table until late afternoon. A table came free quite quickly and we sat and asked for wine and a selection of their best tapas.

A bottle of Hacienda Zorita arrived, a smooth red Arribes del Duero crianza 2013 and very soon the food started to arrive. First up were Calamares a la Romana (deep fried rings of squid) and Pescadito frito (whitebait – but slightly larger) – both were excellent. Next came champiñones (whole mushrooms) which were so hot and freshly cooked that we all burnt our mouths! They were, once they had cooled down, delicious! Next came pinchos morunos con pimientos de padrón (grilled spiced pork kebabs, served with little green chilis, famous for being quite mild and sweet with the odd one fiery and hot). The meat was tender and very tasty and the peppers mild and sweet! All these dishes were served on wooden platters to share.

It was a beautiful sunny day and every few minutes another group of Falleras and Falleros, paraded through the terrace with their banners and ribbons showing the prizes already won for singing and fancy dress etc. The terrace continued to be full with people waiting for tables and a constant stream of tourists and falleros passing by. The kitchen here is minute and we all marvelled at how they were able to keep up with the orders with very little waiting.

The owners of El Olivo are Eva and Carlos – Eva came over to our table and chatted about the bar and hoped we were having a good time. Then it was time for more food, little crunchy battered pieces of Cazon (the waiter told us it was tiburon, which is shark, but it is also known as dogfish and is a typical Andalusian dish), this was followed by Chopitos (also known as chiperones – baby squid deep fried in batter) one of my personal favourites in the world of tapas, and these were great. Our final tapa was Riñones a la plancha (griddled kidneys served on a bed of grilled peppers) really nice and a great final dish to a very satisfying meal.

El Olivo has been a really popular tapas bar for over five years, it’s a great place to sit and eat well while you enjoy the winter sun and in the summer it’s great to sit under parasols. You can just stop by for a drink or eat great tapas all day and into the night – the kitchen stays open throughout their opening hours. There’s always a lively atmosphere and it’s popular not just with tourists but locals too.

Carlos is Andalusian hence the kidneys and dogfish and chiperones being called chopitos. Eva and I chatted after we had finished eating about opening hours and about the bar in general. Both she and Carlos went to great pains to emphasise that everything at El Olivo was cooked from fresh basic ingredients – no frozen pre-cooked dishes of foods. She asked me what I thought of the Valencian tomato they serve – we didn’t have any, I replied. Oh no, you were supposed to have them! They’re among the top three tomatoes in Valencia! Next time, I said. And we certainly will return.

Tim Birch

El Olivo
Plaza del Arbol 4
Tel:96 345 0975

Wines 2.20€ – 2.80 € a glass
15€ – 20€ a bottle
Local Vermouths a speciality

All Tapas dishes are 6.00€-7.50€
Anchovies and Smoked Sardines are 2.50€ each

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