While the slow food movement originated in Europe, many dining venues in Spain, which in the 1970s and ’80s suffered from the explosive growth of industrialized farming and fishing, haven’t quite caught on. Not that the food is bad, mind you, but the stuff served in restaurants doesn’t often fit the slow-food mandate of being carefully prepared according to local traditions or use top-quality local ingredients. So we were delighted when a friend recommended we try ConTenedor (literally, “with fork”), a vibrant, bustling slow-food restaurant tucked into a block of the youthful, hip, alterna La Alameda neighborhood just a few blocks from the heart of downtown Seville.
ConTenedor—said to be a favorite of Spanish celebrity tennis god Rafael Nadal, as well as countless local young professionals—eschews the Old World tile and white tablecloths of many traditional Andalusian restaurants. Instead, its casual, eclectic interior design features mismatched tables and chairs, a cork wall along one side, colorful artwork, exposed ductwork, and whimsical mobiles. The menu, which changes daily, according to what’s at its peak of freshness at the local markets and farms, is presented in alternating colors on a large chalkboard. The friendly wait staff prop it up against the wall beside your table and helpfully translate, if your Spanish is rusty, or answer any questions before you place your order. They’ll also help advise you on choosing a wine from a very unusual, boutique-populated list.
Service in many Spanish restaurants can be . . . a bit too relaxed, but we found it to be prompt and mostly attentive at ConTenedor. Though the crispy rice with duck is considered ConTenedor’s signature dish, we opted for a variation featuring a terrine of vegetable with the crispy rice, as well as a curried stew with bacalao. Both were exceptional—fresh and flavorful, and served in hearty but not gut-busting portions. Which, serendipitiously, left plenty of room for dessert. We finished off one of the best meals of our trip with a dense, rich chocolate-hazelnut pie with a graham cracker crust and raspberry sauce and ice cream (the raspberry sauce was a bit overpowering, but the ice cream much more delicate), and a heavenly lavender ice cream that struck the perfect balance between aroma, sweetness, and herbal flavor.
We’re pretty sure you can’t go wrong no matter what you choose at ConTenedor, so put it on your must-try list if you’re headed to Seville. And make sure you get there before 10:00 p.m., or you’re likely to miss out on a table.