19 OCT
Regional Spanish Delights at Abantal, Seville

When my son got married three years ago, I received an email from a friend of mine saying “Congratulations, you have now joined the club of the most hated women in the world, – mothers in law.”  I have often thought about that, and have realized that I am very, very, fortunate to not be a member of that club, and indeed I count my daughter-in-law Margaret as one of my best friends.

This past week she and I (without our husbands) took a short two-day holiday to Seville, where neither of us had ever been.  We had done our homework and stayed in a small boutique hotel right next to the famous Cathedral called the EME Catedral Hotel, which was very welcoming and lovely.

We did the usual tourist things, like going to see the Plaza de Toros where the famous bull fights take place, the Plaza de Espana with its fabulous gardens, and, of course, spent a long time viewing the world’s third largest cathedral with its myriad of splendor displayed throughout its huge space.

The highpoint of our trip, however, was our dinner on Saturday night at Abantal, the only Michelin-starred restaurant in Seville.  It is located in a small, out-of-the-way street, about 10 minutes from our hotel, and you would never know when you approach it what gastronomic delights await inside.


The décor is simple and sleek, and the seven tables are far enough apart so that you could have a very private conversation, which is such a rarity these days.  In addition, we noted with some glee the absence of blaring music, which so often detracts from good conversation and fabulous food.

The simple and sleek décor of Abantal in Seville, Spain.

And fabulous it was – we chose the seven-course tasting menu with the wine pairing, and seemed to find that whenever we thought we had had enough another wonderful surprise appeared.  When the first course arrived, we thought it was a cocktail – however, we were pleasantly surprised to find the pink and frothy liquid served in a martini glass was actually a refreshing watermelon soup.

The next course, dazzling to behold, consisted of finely minced raw baby shrimp in a perfect rectangle, enhanced by an umami emulsion of seaweed.  Number three was a red tuna tartare with roasted gazpacho and sherry vinegar ice cream.  Each of these ingredients would be very good on their own, but combined on one plate they were a symphony.

The signature dish, one beautiful and impressively large red prawn, was served with perfectly seasoned sautéed rice and aioli, and it did not disappoint.  We also indulged in succulent Norway lobster, complemented by savory almond cream and bittersweet peach.

Abantal takes traditional Andalucian cooking to new heights, with its truly standout Iberian pork shoulder served pink with truffled pumpkin cream, mushroom, lime and grapefruit.

Sugared strawberries and tomato in basil syrup - a show-stopper

Dessert, my favorite course, can often feel like an afterthought in some gourmet restaurants, but it was clearly an important part of this meal, and Abantal presented us with two show-stoppers.  The first was their sugared strawberries and tomato in basil syrup balanced with bite-sized pieces of sponge cake.  This was really a light, pre-dessert, to cleanse our palates in preparation for the next dessert and absolute star of the show, a basil ice cream with one of the lightest and most delicious meringues I have ever tasted.

This creative contemporary cooking was further enhanced by the friendly and thoughtful staff, and by our short chat with the talented chef-owner, Julio Fernández Quintero, whose steady and practiced hand was evident in each offering.

The wines were equally thoughtful – starting with delicious French champagne, but quickly moving to Gran Caus Rose Cosecha Propia D.0. Cava.  The other wines were equally delicious, but we both enjoyed the champagne most.

All in all, it was a perfect blend of southern regional cuisine modernized for 2016 in a way that kept the tradition but at the same time catapulted the dinner to the heights of contemporary culinary art.