When it comes to food, some words are synonymous with one another: Italy – Pasta and Pizza, UK – Fish & Chips; India – Curry and without hesitation, Spain – Tapas and paella. Ask anyone for the best place to try tapas in Benidorm and undoubtedly you will hear two words – Tapas Alley! Tapas Alley is located in the heart of Benidorm Old Town, directly off the main pedestrianized walking street- Passeig de la Carretera, on Calle Santo Domingo, although you will hardly ever hear it being referred to by that name.
Tapas Alley in the Old Town
If you are fed up with pie & chips and fancy a taste of real Spain then I suggest that you head to Tapas Alley – so called because the entire street is made up of tapas bars, where you can sample some top quality Spanish gastronomy. The Aurerra Group of eateries are the most established name on the street and have 7 different restaurants to cater for all tastes. There is a constant stream of visitors, both locals and tourists throughout the day, but it gets particularly busy in the evenings.
Tapas & Pinchos - the difference
Tapas has evolved over the years and varies depending on region. In Tapas Alley the selection is vast to say the least and most are so beautifully presented that they look like little works of art. The British normally associate the word tapas with all the little snacks, but officially they are categorized as either tapas or pinchos, as explained to me by Ina of the Grupo Aurrera. Traditionally pinchos are slices of bread with things on top and served cold. Tapas come in little terracotta dishes, which can be hot or cold but need to be eaten with a folk. Probably like most people I called everything tapas!
Aurerra Group - 7 different restaurants
"La Taperia Aurerra" located half way along Tapas Alley has a modern contemporary interior and specializes in rice dishes, although there is also a vast selection of creative and artistic pincho combinations to chose from. Head chef Miguel has taken part in many International rice competitions and the restaurant won first prize in the Tapas & Pinchos competition last year. There is a fabulous private function room available upstairs overlooking Tapas Alley, which can hold up to 50 people - an ideal place for a party or celebration. Its very modern and swish - not what you would expect from a "traditional" tapas bar!
"Aurerra", in the little passage way at the top end with a blue fascia, is a busy pinchos and tapas bar which has been established for over 23 years. The pinchos are prepared twice daily otherwise the bread dries out and they also offer a vast selection of hot and cold tapas dishes, with each one labeled in English so that you know what they are. There are some fantastic combinations such as lettuce and crab wrap, gratinated goats cheese, tomato, ham and aubergine as well as the expected tortilla, squid, garlic prawns and albondias - meatballs. You can walk along the counter and point to whatever you fancy saying "un poco de esto" – which means a little of this if you want to get into the Spanish spirit, but they all speak English!
Even Pizza in Tapas Alley!
The newly extended and renovated uber chic "Braseria Aurerra" specialize in meats cooked over a wood flamed bbq – you can smell the waft of the steak sizzling as you walk past while "Pizzeria Avanti", just off Tapas Alley specialize in pizza and pasta – because not everyone wants Spanish food! The pizzas are baked in a real wood burner and as you enter the restaurant you walk over a glass floor, underneath which all the logs are stored for the pizza oven! "El Bodegon Aurerra" has a stone facade and occupies a corner location with wooden tables and benches outside, predominantly serving a variety of tapas, pinchos and sliced hams & cheeses.
"Tabernita de Sur" is a small intimate bar opposite the Queens hotel which serve Andalucian style tapas but if you want top end a la Carte quality dining then you should try "Sidreria Aurerra". Located below street level, the tables have starched white tablecloths and specialize in Basque cuisine - this is certainly somewhere to consider for that special meal out. Each of the restaurants in the group are so different, both in food offered and personality but all have one thing in common – guaranteed quality and great friendly service. Tapas Alley should definitely be on every visitors tick list when coming to Benidorm. Don´t be put off if you walk past a tapas bar and see lots of screwed up serviettes on the floor - that is actually an indication that it is a good and popular place!
History of Tapas
But do you know the history of how tapas originated? The word "tapas" is derived from the Spanish verb taper - meaning "to cover". According to legend, the tapas tradition began when King Alfonso X recovered from an illness by drinking wine with small dishes between meals. After regaining his health he ordered that taverns would not be allowed to serve wine unless it was accompanied by a small snack or "tapa". The original tapas were slices of bread or meat which sherry drinkers in Andalucian taverns used to cover their glasses between sips to prevent fruit flies from hovering over the sweet sherry. The meat used was normally ham or chorizo - which being very salty encouraged more drinking .... even back then the proprietors weren't daft - and so began the tradition of serving a variety of snacks which in turn increased alcohol sales!
So now you know all about Tapas and Pinchos, even if you are staying down in the Rincon de Loix on an All Inclusive basis, it is worth the effort to come and experience a little bit of traditional Spain, right here in Benidorm!