Tapas made easy
TEXT: EDDI FIEGEL | PHOTOS © LIZARRAN
If you are travelling to or around Spain, chances are, you are likely to be looking for some top-notch tapas. However, there are times when you may not want to spend hours queuing outside the bar that every tourist in town is flocking to, nor do you want to take your chances with the cosy looking but packed locals’ bar, unsure of what you are going to get.
This is where Lizarran comes in. I first discovered the Basque tapas bar on the cobbled main plaza in Girona, drawn in by a tantalising display of pinchos – the Basquestyle mini open sandwiches, appetisingly displayed on the bar. Atop fresh baguette-style bread, choices included salivating slivers of jamon serrano, smoked salmon, cheese and the Spanish sausage, sobresada. There were also tapas bar classics such as patatas bravas and ensaladilla russa – a delicious, mayonnaise rich, potato salad.
The décor is very much in the style of traditional Spanish bars with a wooden bar and exposed brick walls, and servers regularly emerge from the kitchens bearing trays of freshly prepared, tasty looking hot morsels. Mouth-watering croquettes (croquetas) turn up, either of ham or garlic prawns, vegetable tempura, mushrooms in pastry as well as bite-sized pieces of crispy fried fish, and there is a huge range of other dishes.
There are branches of Lizarran in most cities across Spain and the bars have proved a huge hit with both Spaniards and visitors since the first branch opened in Sitges in 1988. There are now more than 300 branches of Lizarran across Spain as well as in 13 other countries around the world, from America to China and from El Salvador to Georgia.
“We take Spanish cuisine around the world,” says Sara Vega, marketing and communications director for the Comes Group – the parent company which owns Lizarran. “But it’s not just about the food. It’s about the Spanish way of living and eating, of enjoying traditional food in a relaxed and comfortable environment.”
The Comes Group specialises in quality cooking at accessible prices in a variety of styles, and their empire also includes The Counter – for artisan, quality burgers, Pieology – for Californian-style pizzas, and Pasta City, which, as the name suggests, dishes up pasta like they do in Italy.
Back at Lizarran meanwhile, the pinchos and tapas are available all day, and sitting at the bar with some pinchos and a beer: this feels very Spanish indeed.