Sampling La Bulla

Here’s a piece of advice: go to places where you know the chef.

Kike’s been prodding me to go to both Oveja Negra and his friend Jesús’s bar, La Bulla, for ages. For someone who staunchly refuses to go to the city center for the crowds and traffic, I was happy to oblige him. La Bulla is the center’s answer to La Pura Tasca, a gastrobar worthy of a mention. At La Pura Tasca, I was the neighbor down the street who was always given a morsel or two as I passed by.

Now it was Kike’s turn to wow me.

When we called to speak with  one of the waiters, he told us to pass by around 10pm. In reading the reviews online, I was a little skeptical about a place with “overpriced tapas at half the size” and poor service. Scrolling for one semi-positive review took a few clicks of the mouse, but Kike had his mind made up.

Good thing he knows the chef.

After our traditional pre-dinner beer, we strolled past swanky tapas places that line C/ Arfe. La Bulla is on Dos de Mayo, wedged between the bullring and the Maestranza theatre, just steps away from the river. The neighborhood, El Arenal, has become preppylandia, thanks to its cocktail bars and upscale dining options, as well as age-old abacerías and ultramarinos, and this dining mentality that given La Bulla it’s much-talked about reputation.

A coworker had told me that the place had a NYC-like vibe due to the exposed pipes, mismatched picnic tables and mod chairs. I marveled at the red-doored ice chest, similar to one we have at home in America. There was a quiet buzz amongst the clientele.

¡Buenas, Cat! I had been admiring four antique mirrors on the wall when I discovered that not only was the chef a dear friend of Kike’s from childhood, but so was the waiter. David had run a successful chiringuito in their village of San Nicolás del Puerto and was now explaining apple compte reductions to eager eaters. Beaming, I sat purposely with my back to the chalkboard menu.

There was no question about it for me: I wanted whatever was good and came recommended by the staff. I sat in a comfortable red chair, a color theme echoed throughout the restaurant’s cavernous interior. metallic greys and silvers meshed seamlessly with fire engine red.

Our first dish came served in a soda fountain glass. “Prawn in tempura with an apple-orange foam, topped with sesame seeds…” David recited the same speech he’d just given at the next table with an amusing voice, even switching to English for me. By this time, I’d already swatted Kike’s hand away to take a photo of it and its partner in crime, a so-named golosina de La Bulla. At the end of a long pincho came a juicy medallion of chorizo fried in tempura with a touch of the salsas. I greedily fished the whole-grain bread (where do that get that stuff in this town, anyway?!) out to sop up the juice.

Flashing a thumbs up at Jesús, I said, My compliments to the chef! The tastes were traditionally Spanish with a twist, just as Jesús is Spanish with an American twist. His father, Diego, runs a campsite and rustic restaurant in San Nicolás. After studying and working at the renowned Taberna de Alabardero in Sevilla, Jesús went to Washington to learn techniques and work alongside some of America’s best chefs, and this is evident in his cooking.

Our chef sent a bruschetta our way next, paired with a fried fish, again in tempura with the creamy apple sauce. David announced that the bruschetta was carpaccio de salmón with steamed bits of octopus and a plum cherry. I tend to not like salmon, but the texture between the thin carpaccio and the coarse sea salta made the morsel tangy and sweet all at once. The merluza next to it was crispy but bland, comparatively, and helped me prepare for the next dish, which was one of the most inventive I’ve seen in Seville.

David served us another soda glass with what looked like cinnamon ice cream. ¨Foie gras in a foam cream with raisins and candied fruit,” he announced, setting the pack of regañá, a flat, crispy bread, in front of me. My eyes widened, never having eaten anything like it before. The blend of tangy and sweet was overpowering, balanced by the regañá. While foie is not something I eat on a regular basis, Kike and I fought like kids for the last morsels, scooping what we could onto the bread.

“This is like Seville’s version of El Bulli,” Kike said, mouth full. Spanish cuisine was put on the map by Fernan Adrià, whose creative genius turned earthy, simple Spanish cooking into an inventive palate. Just last year, his restaurant – considered one of the best in the world – closed so that Adrià could open a food studies school. I don’t care whose version of El Bulli it was – La Bulla was exceeding my expectations.

Jesús put his hands on the wide bar next to us. “Fish or meat?” Feeling already full, we agreed on the fish and got the surprise oft he night: David cooked us a creamy parmesan risotto while Jesús set out to prepare our fish. To my delight, it was one of my favorites – octopus, which rested on a bed of au gratin potatoes and was covered with a light saffron sauce. Good enough, in fact, that Kike even talked with his mouth full to give his complements.

Struggling with the last morsels of both dishes, Kike announced he needed a smoke. “Pssssst” I whispered to David, “bring me that desert tablet!” Like La Pura Tasca, the desert came in minis, looking like sliders, and were served on a wooden cutting board. Instead, he brought two dessert wines which were less calorific and even better on my full tummy.

I’ll just settle for next time – after all, I know the guy who runs the joint.

La Bulla     Calle Dos de Mayo, 28     954 219 262

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About Cat Gaa

As a beef-loving Chicago girl living among pigs, bullfighters, and a whole lotta canis, Cat Gaa writes about expat life in Seville, Spain. When not cavorting with adorable Spanish grandpas or struggling with Spanish prepositions, she wrangles babies at an English Language Academy and freelances with other publications, like Rough Guides and The Spain Scoop.

Comments

  1. La Bulla sounds wonderful, I can’t wait to go there! You can get really good multigrain bread in most supermarkets these days, but Lidl’s is especially tasty. Ferran Adria does have an outpost here in fact, in the Hacienda Benazuza in Sanlucar Mayor – the chef trained with him and the dishes are all ones served at El Bulli the previous “season”. I’ve eaten there – on expenses for a guide – 24-course tasting menu. An amazing experience. Not sure if it’s still open, as rumours are rife.

  2. Rena Dunne says:

    Great review Cat. I’ve been there a few times and really love it, but your review has made me want to go back. How did I miss the foie?????!!!!!!!!

  3. I agree that it was a good thing your friend knows the chef as “overpriced tapas at half the size” and “poor service” has been my experience there, at least ever since the Puratasca gang pulled out of the operation a few months after opening Labulla. What was fun and quirky to start off with became pretentious and humourless, in my opinion, and as always I resent being charged 1€ per person for bread that is brought to the table without being ordered.

    The menu is basically a copy of Puratasca, including the desserts (are they still by Manu Jara?), with nothing overly inventive. Having said that, the food isn’t bad, just another attempt at “gastrobar cuisine” that tries to be clever and ends up being more style than substance. The El Bulli of Sevilla? Not only not on the same page, but not even in the same book.

    I’m enjoying your restaurant reviews, by the way, though we clearly have different tastes. But that’s what makes the world go round. Nice photos!

    • I had commented on Facebook that I do like Pura Tasca better, shawn. My opinion is, indeed, biased, which is why I wanted to put it out in the open!

      Given the others in the bar, I knew the place was a bit over my head in terms of cozy and inviting, though I found the design striking. We could, of course, joke around with the waiters and the chef because we know them, but I really enjoy places like Bodeguita Romero or La Habanita because the employees seem to be more about the individual experience than a place like La Bulla. While I admit to being a fan of Spanish cuisine, it’s just sometimes nice to be somewhere that’s, well, different!!

      I’ve talked to Lauren in Madrid about your food tour, so out of curiosity, what are your favorite places?

      And many thanks for your opinion. Totally welcome and sounds on-par! You’re the queen when it comes to places here, so it’s good to have the differing opinion.

  4. Looks delish! Especially that rice dish.

  5. Yum! Knowing the chef is always great. I second Fiona on Lidl’s whole grain bread– it is pretty decent! El Puerto de Santa María has a world renowned restaurant in the style of El Bulli although really seafood focused. It’s called Aponiente and I haven’t been there (it’s pricey!) but it is on my list.

  6. Michelle says:

    Amazing article! Reading it brought me right back to the time I went….you’re descriptive writing is perfect!

  7. La Bulla does look great. I never made it to El Bulli, but hopefully will get a chance to try this resto in the near future!

  8. Cat – I just had to come up with a spot to take a visiting professor for tapas and thanks to your blog we just had a lovely meal at La Bulla. Who’s the tall guy to your left in the pic? Because he was our waiter and he’s a true gem – attentive, knowledgeable and KIND. That’s I think what I love the most about this place. Next time you see him, please tell him that for me. xox

    • How about that! The guy is called David, and he’s a good friend of my boyfriend’s from their childhood. Completely agreed on what you say about him, but my opinion is completely biased there! Glad youhad a nice time, because sometimes places like thisone can be hit or miss.

  9. I will tell him myself next time I’m there! :) Thanks!

  10. Sounds very intriguing. Will be sure to check it out when next in the area.

  11. What a great experience! Chorizo fried in tempura? Pulpo over au gratin potatoes? I was hooked from the beginning of your tale.

    Ps. That last picture is a winner !

  12. Can’t wait to go there!

  13. Si os gusta este tipo de tapas, tengo un blog especializado en tapas de este estilo de los bares de Sevilla. Visitadlo y disfrutad con algunas de las mejores tapas de Sevilla: http://detapasporsevillayotrascosillas.blogspot.com.es/2012/10/popurri-de-tapas.html

    • Sunshine and Siestas says:

      Me gusta todo tipo de tapas, Ricardo! Mirare a tu blog, ya que me gustara seguro. Pasate otra vez por aqui los jueves, que explico las tapas mas típicas. Saludos.

Trackbacks

  1. […] of Everything Everywhere and one of my guest bloggers, Sandra of Seville Traveller, for tapas at La Bulla. As I cut through Santa Cruz’s narrow streets, the few street lights illuminating ancient […]

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