Spain used to be a vegetarian's nightmare with all those hanging hams and meaty tapas. Vegetarians had no option but to constantly opt for ensaladilla Rusa (the Russan-Spanish potato salad usually served as a tapa), tortilla (Spanish omelette), or the famous main course of huevos con patatas fritos (egg and chips), with the occasional greasy green pepper on the side.
If you were lucky there were seasonal or regional treats like setas (oyster mushrooms) fried with garlic, gazpacho, one of Andalucia's most famous culinary exports but usually only served here during the summer months, or if in Catalonia, pan con tomate, a delicious toast with fresh Spanish tomatoes, olive oil and garlic.
Often though, eating out in Andalucia and in Spain in general has been restrictive and depressing for vegetarians, enough to drive them back home to their own kitchens. Non-meat eaters were the definite minority in Andalucia.
The good news is that there is a gradual increase in the number of young Spaniards opting for a vegetarian diet and so, while the percentage is still low when compared to many other places in the world, the demand for meat-free menus is here - and growing!
Vegetarian Restaurants in Andalucia
El Vegetariano de la Alcazabilla, Pozo del Rey 5. (tel: 95 221 4858; 1-4pm, 9-11.30pm). Welcoming stylish décor with lots of sunny yellow paintwork and walls hung with rustic farm implements and a pleasing variety of pictures. The menu is extensive with some interesting specialities like seitan pie and particularly tasty soy burgers. Menú del día (Menu of the day), 8.50 euros.
Restaurante Vegetariano El Legado Celestial, Calle Medelin 3. (tel: 95 235 1521; 1-4.30pm, 8-11.00pm, closed Monday evening). This restaurant is tucked away down a side street but is a real find and serves Chinese vegetarian food. The décor is less garish than most Chinese restaurants here and the cuisine is varied and tasty with an eat-all-you-can buffet at lunchtime or starters and main course for just 8 euros.
Elemi Vegetarian Bistro, Ed Puertosol Local 2b, opposite the bullring & near to the Marina of Estepona.
Vegetalia, Calle Santa Isabel 8, Los Boliches. (tel: 95 258 6031: 12.30 - 4.00pm, closed Sunday, Finnish owned and tastefully decorated with large colourful paintings, dried flowers and warm lighting. The menu has international flair with hummus, pasta dishes, tofu kebabs and oriental style stir-frys and the lunchtime buffet is good value and varied at 8.75 euro.
Restaurante Paprika, Cuesta de Abarqueros 3. (tel: 95 880 4785: 1-4pm, 8-11.30pm). Vegetarian fusion restaurant with food made using high quality ingredients. Great service, nice location. A must for vegetarian travellers.
Almanara, Alameda de Hercules 85, Seville. Tel 95 437 2897: 1.30-4pm, 8pm- midnight. Closed on Tuesdays. Young and trendy restaurant in a fashionable area of Seville. Spanish vegetarian cuisine with a lively decor and good atmosphere. Speciality dish: tempura vegetables. Menu of the day Monday to Friday, 3 courses, 9 euros.
Chilimosa, Calle Peso 6, Puerta de Jerez, Casco Antiguo Tarifa Càdiz.
12.30-15.30pm, 19.00-23.00pm in winter, 12.30-00.00am in summer. Laidback, Tarifa-style take-away restaurant located just inside the Medina gate with delicious veggie cuisine and a selection of Asian dishes. Speciality: veggie lasagna with soya bolognese and brown rice with veggies. Very reasonable prices.