What better way to kick off three weeks in Spain than with a traditional Sevillana Feria Abril? Last Friday night, I headed to The Top Bar and Grill at Warwick International Hotels’ beautiful, and recently refurbished, Gallery Hotel Barcelona, with fellow travel blogger Adrian Ann (of Adrian’s Travel Tales) for a night of classic Spanish dance, incredible city views, and yummy food involving modern takes on some traditional Spanish dishes.
On arrival we were instantly wowed by the atmosphere on the roof terrace, which was festooned with the red and white streamers and paper lanterns typical of the April Fair (aka Seville Fair). We may have been surrounded by fabulous views of Barcelona – beautifully lit up against the night sky – but on that slick and usually fairly neutral-toned roof terrace we were transported to the heart of Seville for a warm and lively spring celebration.
Things got started pretty quickly, with a display of classic Spanish dance – a style similar to the better-known flamenco, but also very different – performed by a solo female dancer accompanied by a live guitarist. The performance was mesmerising; slow and dreamlike, then fast and twirling, with lots of kicking up skirts and super quick spins. Her dress was a slim, mermaid-type black number with red trim which fanned out into a spiral on every twirl to gorgeous effect, and the dancer – who told us later, as she slunk around the party mingling with every single guest, that she’d been dancing for more than 20 years – was incredible.
While we watched, I sipped an ice cold mojito – the perfect tonic for a seriously hard day’s exploring Barcelona – which was made strong and sweet, just how I like it. Yummy cocktails, great company, and amazing entertainment – it was a really special moment and a great welcome back to one of my favourite cities in the world.
Having stayed at the Warwick International Hotel in Brussels (the Royal Windsor Hotel Grand Place – check out my review here), I had pretty high expectations for The Gallery Hotel, and I wasn’t disappointed. The Top Bar and Grill was a sexy and sophisticated outdoor space, right at the heart of the city centre, complete with a well stocked bar, a small pool (perfect for a hot summer day), and those fantastic views.
Being a party – and a Spanish one at that – service was a little on the slow side, but Adrian and I had all night, so we simply sat back and let the good times roll. It was the first time we’d met in person, so we had plenty to chat about while we waited for our food – and it was awesome to finally meet and catch up.
When dinner turned up, it was pretty fantastic. Our shared starter of tempura fried squid, served in a miniature deep fry basket with citric mayonnaise, completely stole the show: the squid was buttery soft and cooked to perfection – absolutely delicious. Our mains weren’t quite up to the same standard, but were still pretty good. Being a bar and grill, rather than a restaurant, the portion sizes were smaller than I’d expected, but having filled up on calamari we were ok.
My Iberian pork skewer, served with chips, spicy chimichurri sauce, and heaps of green chillies for a nice hot kick, was really good. Crispy, fatty pork, which comes from the Iberian Pata Negra – a black acorn-fed pig known for it’s exceptionally tender meat – plus amazing chunky chips, made for a small but tasty meal which I really enjoyed. Adrian opted for a carpaccio of Iberian pork which was probably a little on the small side for an evening meal, but would make a perfect light lunch. The meat was super soft and just a little mushy, almost like a pate, served up with yoghurt, crunchy toasted corn, and “piparra” peppers – slightly spicy, sour peppers from the Basque country which often appear in Spanish tapas dishes. The flavours were great, but the dish just wasn’t quite big enough to really hit the spot – which was more our mistake than The Top’s.
Dinner was great, but the night was all about the Feria Abril. A warm, celebratory atmosphere settled over the roof terrace, and it was lovely to be sat out there on a mild night, soaking up some traditional culture and watching the incredible dancing. The colourful decorations and fun party made for a really special night, which is definitely one of the highlights of my time in Barcelona.