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Spanglish Atrocities - So-called “Spanish Food” in the UK
26 November 2013 @ 11:14

For far too long Spanish food has been in the shadow of its Mediterranean neighbours. The French consider the third-world to start at the southern side of the Pyrenees and the Italians consider Spain a poor relation in anything related to food. Try telling a Frenchman that a Ribera del Duero is better than a Bordeaux or an Italian that Serrano ham is better than Prosciutto and you’ll see what I mean! :-)  One of the main reasons is due to the lack of Spanish emigration in the past, which was where the Italians excelled and consequently insisted on consuming Italian products wherever they settled thus building an international culinary empire difficult to compete with. The Spanish, however, preferred to stay at home, contrary to their ancestors, and the wonders of Spanish cuisine have only recently seen the light in comparison. With millions of tourist landing in Spain each year - 55 million just in the first 10 months of this year - it finally seems to have kicked off in the UK, the tapas revolution is on the way, only what you’re getting isn’t Spanish Tapas but British Spanish-style food, and some things I’ve seen and read are shocking, what more, some brands have no problem labelling their products as food “from the heart of the Spanish home cooking”, are they having a laugh? 

“So-called Spanish food” is invading the UK and being sold under the Spanish flag as traditional Spanish gastronomy when in reality what you are getting are culinary atrocities that have no bearing on traditional Spanish recipes at all. Being a Brit myself and knowing Spanish cuisine I find it quite embarrassing as in the past the British have always accused the Americans of Americanising everything especially the pizza - thin & crispy to deep-pan & greasy. When I see what is being done to Spanish food in the UK I can’t help thinking of that US deep-pan greasy pizza that substituted the Neapolitan stone baked masterpiece. 

Recently I read an interesting article that also confirmed my opinion written by a Spanish blogger living in London called Jorge Ruiz from Guirilandia.comI contacted him, as I really wanted to share some of the photos he had taken while doing the tapas trail of London and he very kindly allowed me to use some of his crime scene evidence and share his findings with you.  

Jorge goes on to say: “The brand Spain is present on the majority of the supermarket shelves today. But on many occasions under the title of ‘Spanish food’ authentic atrocities are sold, pigswill which is not even worthy of being called food, let alone Spanish…” And having seen his photos I must say I agree with him. What is it with chorizo? Why on earth do you find it in every Spanish dish outside of Spain? The same thing happens in France, it astonishes me. Who on earth has ever eaten paella with chorizo, in Spain? If you want to, fine, do it, but don’t call it Paella, call it “rice and chorizo” - a Spanglish recipe that will block your arteries. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is the Mediterranean diet of Spain, it isn’t.


Jorge found a small market next to St. James Church close to Piccadilly where an Italian, believe it or not, was stirring what apparently was paella; only it had peas and what looked like pepperoni or chorizo throughout. Either he has no idea what he’s cooking or the Italians are on the revenge after the recent interest in Spanish food and would rather kill it off once and for all than let the authentic Spanish food get a foot in the market :-)

His next stop was London’s historic Greenwich Market where he stopped off at ‘Hola Paella’ to try what they describe on their website as their “signature paella”. To his surprise and to everyone else’s I would imagine they were cooking frozen prawns, chorizo, mussels, peppers and carrots just before adding their secret ingredient: a large bag of frozen Chinese egg fried rice! They clearly get away with it otherwise they would be out of business, but how can you use the word Paella in the name of your business and then give that rubbish to your customers? 

The supermarkets and food brands, as Jorge discovered, have no shame either. What appears to be Chinese egg fried rice…again, is boxed and packaged as Paella by Vesta (mind you, we know what to expect from these types of products) and carries two stamps: one that declares it’s a ‘new’ recipe with a Spanish guitar on it and the other which is intended to be a seal of authenticity which says “Seville, Spain” with a flamenco dancer on it! Come on..Paella doesn’t even come from Seville, it comes from Valencia. Are the general public really that gullible? Or is it that the food companies know that the general public doesn’t have a clue and figures that the only Spanish city that evokes authenticity in the eyes of the consumer is Seville, so that’s the way to catch them out and fool them into buying the product? 

But its not just Vesta the list is endless and even Marks & Spencer play the same tricks as do Lidl and many others.  Spanish Omelette is a classic and copied all over the world but to say that a Chorizo and Piquillo pepper tortilla is from the heart of the Spanish home cooking is a bit much …”tender chicken marinated in a classic Mediterranean style with….chorizo…again and Piquillo peppers… again”…that’s so funny! Who writes this and who chooses those recipes when there are so many authentic recipes available that will knock your socks off. Have they not discovered any other ingredients or do they just buy up 3 or 4 ingredients in bulk and remix them over and over again giving them different names and packaging? 


The tortilla which is vacuum packed in Lidl surprisingly comes with bacon and not chorizo, what a relief! But nonetheless just as unauthentic in spite of the convincing ‘España’ logo and text in Spanish. That said they did have a tortilla with…..yes you guessed it, Piquillo peppers! Jorge swears that they were just as plastic on the inside as they were on the outside. But the following Spanish omelette really takes the biscuit. It was served up in a buffet restaurant in the City, those who understand Spanish omelettes will be just as horrified as I was when I saw the photo. Jorge says he still has nightmares about the white powder that was sprinkled over the top…. need I say more. His final stop was Waitrose, which was stocking a soup and we all know how much we Brits love our soups only this flavour I have never tried before…yes you guessed it Chorizo Soup. It appears that ‘Spanish’ soups are in fashion as the New Covent Garden Soup Co.  offers one too…guess what the flavour? “Spanish Patatas Bravas” with chorizo! - Of course! … there is nothing more Spanish! But in a soup? That’s a first. I’m starting to get the sensation that more chorizo is consumed in the UK than in Spain, in whatever shape or form. 

Jorge also shares another photo, which was sent to him by another Spaniard in London, Álvaro, who had decided to attend his craving for Spanish food by visiting ‘Café España’ in Soho only to be greatly disappointed by being served some ridiculous meatballs in a tinned tomato sauce, not exactly a traditional recipe and certainly not worthy of the brand “Spain”.

You may say I’m being a bit harsh and I am sure that there are some places that serve decent Spanish food or at least try to follow traditional recipes but it seems that the Spanish culinary education that the general British public are receiving is way off track and has no resemblance to real Spanish food.  I just hope that there are real Spanish restaurants out there that can proudly raise the Spanish flag and say this is the real McCoy without having to hide behind Spanglish inventions that quite honestly make me cringe. It’s not difficult to do it properly; in fact I think it’s harder to do what they’re doing. Quality Spanish cuisine has had a tremendous success and led the way internationally over the recent years. Spain now has 171 Michelin-starred restaurants, of which 22 were awarded their first star this year, showing a growing trend. The vast selection of recipes available is enough to keep any chef busy for a lifetime so I sincerely hope that restaurants carrying a Spanish name do the brand ‘Spain’ the justice it deserves. I understand that supermarket chains have to mass produce and move with the trends but that is still no excuse for not producing authentic dishes, there is no need to modify any Spanish dish for the British palate, we enjoy the food when in Spain, so why not give it to us when we are in the UK?


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Like 3


eggcup said:
26 November 2013 @ 15:19

Hi Ian. I find the greatest atrocity is that one is expected to pay for tapas in the UK. I'm used to getting a glass of wine and a tapa for one euro in the Provincia de Granada. If I pop into Malaga I don't mind paying an extra euro on top of the drink price for what is usually a superior tapa compared to the free one in Granada. I don't go near the so-called tapas places in the UK however; they're a rip-off - tiny plates of cheap food for £5 a pop. No way, Jose.

eos_ian said:
27 November 2013 @ 08:59

Hi eggcup I know what you mean! The last time I was in the UK the tapas was terrible. I don't mind paying €1 or €2 for it if it is good quality but never 5 pounds for a plate of rubbish. There is a great tapas bar in Valencia but you have to pay for each tapas but the quality is exceptional and they are quite large. We're not as lucky as those in Andalucia who normally get one free!

olimpia marina said:
30 November 2013 @ 05:18

Thank you for this informationm Needs more investigation and such people should face charges for missleading the media..Needs to be stopped immediatelly.

Nan from Spain said:
30 November 2013 @ 08:02

I agree entirely , i had the experience of a similar paella and when I questioned the vendor was told to ****off! Charming , I boycott everthing that goes under the guise of "authentic Spanish" where it's obviously not amd tell anyone who cares to listen, I'm very proud of the cuisine of my adopted country and very ashamed of UK supermarkets and the like on what they are offering .

bilbo.s said:
30 November 2013 @ 08:59

Just the usual British trait of adulterating everything foreign and then overcharging. Most Brits cannot even pronounce paella or chorizo. I heard Mr Paxman on University Challenge say " KOH-RYE-TSOH " , surely the worst attempt ever.

It's nothing new- look at Italian, Chinese & Indian fare offered in some UK establishments. Dumbing down for the eager masses !

tillymint666 said:
30 November 2013 @ 09:45

We've lived in Andalucia for 7 years now - and we notice that pork is a very popular meat here. Unfortunately - for health reasons - I can't eat pork - so tapas is very limiting - most meat dishes consist of pork - or pork fat is used in the cooking process. However, whilst visiting Almunecar and Salobrena - where tapas is given free with your drink - we found the tapas (chicken) was delicious. We also had a meal at an Andalucian Housewife's home - and she served a typical meal from the area. I tried everything - and although it was beautifully cooked and served - a lot of it was not to my taste. However, when staying with spanish friends in Valencia - the restaurante we visited served mostly pork and fish dishes - squid and octopus - again not really to my taste - but our spanish friends did cook a huge paella for us using mostly chicken - and it was lovely. I don't think I'll ever really embrace 'spanish cuisine' totally - because my tastes (of over 60yrs) are more spanglish - but I'm always willing to try things. Our spanish friends joke with us and say - solo pollo!!!! but at our age - you like what you like and medical conditions often dictate your diet !!!

Lee said:
30 November 2013 @ 11:04

I do agree however, what I do find mortifying is when you get to the top of Spanish village next to a cathedral and restaurents are serving patatas bravas with ketchup on top or frozen croquetas etc. Trust me I don't visit the likes of Benidorm etc.

The tourist squares in Barcelona and the likes are traps for food that just let's down Spanish gastronomy.

You would always expect tourist traps to produce bog standard food but not the top of a typical Spanish Square packed with locals in Andulucia or Granada.

I know there's more to Spanish cooking than bravas or paella but for me its the acid test of a restaurent. Rick Stein says when he recruits a cook, the first thing he does is ask the potential recruit to fry an egg. Simple but if they can't get that right then he doesn't hire them.

So I agree Spanish food in the uk is very poor but I think Spain's tourist traps should get the basics right and lead by example so when a tourist visits they know exactly what the gap is between poor non authentic food and quality food cooked the authentic way.

If anyone comes to Manchester el Ricon is very good. Rafa who used to play football for Stockport many moons ago hires Spanish staff and the menu is dictated by the quality of the food he can source. Quite difficult to find though as it's off a back street.

I must admit my favorite City for tapas is Granada.

Kernaghan said:
30 November 2013 @ 11:38

I have had only 1 paella in Mojacar that was decent, I love the seafood dishes, gazpacho soup, seafood, tortilla, Cuervo stews etc, we avoid British restaurants

jamesensor said:
30 November 2013 @ 11:55

Despite the fact that so many British have visited Spain, it seems difficult to sell Spanish cuisine, even in southern England. Some enterprising Spaniards took over a pub on the A3 south-west of Guildford. The chefs and all the staff were S[panish and the food was good and of excellent value compared to Surrey pubs. But it failed after a couple of years.

A Spanish restaurant also run by a Spaniard in Fulham did well until he moved it into a larger room, when it also failed. The three Tapas bars near Earls Court do very well, because possibly most diners expect it to be cheap. It is not.

A Frenchman who took over a country pub in Oxfordshire, has thrived, but it has the advantage of trade both from Oxford and the Culham international school.

The Portuguese, who have had more restaurants for much longer than the Spaniards, get by by selling plenty of the ubiquitous all-day english breakfasts.

Of course, nowhere in Britain can you get two courses for €11 as you do in Andalucia.

bilbo.s said:
30 November 2013 @ 12:14

11€ for 2 courses? On Sunday I had 3 courses plus salad, with wine for 9.35€ in a beautiful restaurant with damask table cloths in Bubión in the high Alpujarra. We have been here many times and the food is excellent with friendly service.

David H said:
30 November 2013 @ 14:06

The problem is that many a British consumer of 'Spanish' food has only experienced holiday food that has been 'dumbed-down' by restaurants and bars in Spanish resorts. They are not going to experience authentic Spanish food because you almost have to compete for attention in Spanish surroundings and not know precisely what you have ordered.
So, what is the British food producer/seller supposed to do? They have a chance if they promote 'Spanish' offerings with familiar names and contents.
If they risk becoming 'educators' by selling authentic dishes they could fail spectacularly, so they don't. Simples.

bilbo.s said:
30 November 2013 @ 14:32

Maybe vast amounts of Brits have no taste for haute cuisine, in a country where such epicurean delights as chicken tikka masala pizzas sell well.

I recall a tv programme many years ago, when Knorr were asked why their UK marketed soups were inferior in quality and variety to those in mainland Europe. They replied that UK customers would not appreciate the finer soups.

eggcup said:
30 November 2013 @ 14:42

My husband just said: 'I don't know what damask is, but it sounds lovely!'
I must say that it isn't hard to get meals in the UK for the equivalent of 9 euros, as many pubs and restaurants have great deals, you can get groupon vouchers etc. But my favourite is our weekly deal of two fish and a large chips from the chippy around the corner (shared between four of us so we don't get obese) for £7.90.That's feeding four for 9 euros with the best food on the planet!

SandrainAlgorfa said:
30 November 2013 @ 15:20

I tried paella in a pub in the UK last month and wished I hadn't. The rice was fine, but there were peas in it - and chorizo! The worst thing though was not having the wedge of lemon to squeeze over it. I asked for some, and got a funny look - and a thin slice of lemon that was intended to go in a drink, not to season a paella!

bilbo.s said:
30 November 2013 @ 15:35

I agree that there are some reasonable deals to be found in UK, but I think one would be pushed to find 4 courses with wine/beer for the equivalent of 9€. The wine in UK usually hikes up the price considerably.

A carry-out from the chipper is hardly an apt comparison, unless they supply the damask of course.

I have never been bold ( or imprudent) enough to order paella in UK, although I have made several at home there. I refret to say that I have had it in Spain, made with long-grain rice - sacrilege !

Al Andalus. said:
30 November 2013 @ 20:20

In Bolton two years ago we were presented with frozen Swedish meatballs in tomato sauce passed off as albondigas and also potato wedges with a bit of onion and green pepper that were supposed to be potatas a la pobre. We even had to order our tapas with the appropriate number on the menu as in a Chinese chippy. Needless to say we never went back as we prefer the food in the Spanish owned restaurants in the villages around our small town in Almeria.

stephanieclaire said:
01 December 2013 @ 09:50

Living in Murcia, I have not been overly impressed by the local cuisine, especially the winter dish,'mijas' which is comprised of CHORIZO, oil and flour, whacked around a pan until it forms greasy fried balls: quite disgusting.

con jamon spain said:
01 December 2013 @ 09:56

We can confirm that the chap who chucks all the ingredients into a pan at Hola Paella in Greenwich does indeed use frozen ingredients in their 'paella'.

Interesting about chorizo in paella. We didn't know it was wrong to use it and believed paella to be a dish where pretty much anything, within reason, could be used? Agree however, we haven't come across it in Spain yet.

Seem to recall years ago that it was 'wrong' to use chicken in paella and that it should be rabbit - but that was clearly not the case.

The much-loved Moro cookbook from 2001 has such a recipe using chorizo but it is aimed at an English-speaking audience. The writers/cooks - Sam and Sam Clark - state that they travelled extensively to, quote: 'make food taste of where it comes from and not seem cooked by an Anglo-Saxon'. Perhaps you need to have a word.

eos_ian said:
01 December 2013 @ 10:15

Thanks everybody for taking the time to read my post and leave a comment.
Stephanieclaire - I think you are referring to Migas aren't you? And in Murcia they prepare it differently to the rest of Spain where it . Is made with bread. Originally It was a typical dish to pull together all the left overs in times of poverty. High in calories etc to keep energy high etc. To make migas well . It takes a long time so many restaurants/bars will cut corners compromising the result. I must admit I haven't tried it with flour but with bread and it is very popular in Castilla La Mancha where shepherds used to eat it every winter.
My mother in law made killer migas and they weren't greasy at all. Then again you may be referring to something else.

Con Jamon spain - you might want to read my article on Paella, how the Valencians make it. It should clear up many doubts.

Thanks for reading! :-)

bilbo.s said:
01 December 2013 @ 14:10

The mijas (sic) so described certainly sounds on the disgusting side. I have only had migas here in Andalucía and it is always made with breadcrumbs, and most commonly served with sardines. El Bar Terrible in Castell de Ferro seems to serve little else as tapas. I know places where it is only offered on Sundays, as an alternative to paella, which supports Ian's statement that it takes time to cook properly. It reminds me a little of skirly from NE Scotland, which is made with oatmeal and onions and commonly served alongside mince'n'tatties or chicken.

Christine said:
01 December 2013 @ 22:06

stephanieclaire, I assure you what you had was not mijas.

bilbo.s said:
01 December 2013 @ 22:49

Christine, Do you mean it was neither mijas nor migas?

piccavey said:
07 December 2013 @ 16:24

I have been to Rafas restaurant in Manchester (quite a while ago) proper Spanish food. I have also been to La Tasca (tapas chain) when it first opened in UK. I spoke (in Spanish) to one of the waitresses there who was no impressed either about all the short cuts taken and quality of ingredients.
They were serving bruschetta as Pan con tomate....

I have lived in Spain for 15 years and love the local food in Andalusia where I am now. I have to admit eating in the UK when I am there (2 wks per year) is no longer enjoyable.
The good thing is that if I make a tortilla de patatas from scratch back home everyone is v.impressed..

Ryan said:
16 December 2013 @ 11:21

Hi all, we visit our place in Granada province 6/7 times a year and until recently I would have agreed about not having chorizo in tortilla, as the main varieties are usually con or sin cebolla. However, last week in an Almunecar shop, I saw ready made tortilla WITH chorizo - it was packaged only in Spanish and not an English word on it. Either it's not as unheard of as we thought, or we're teaching them bad habits, either way, maybe we should just go with the flow. I wish I'd taken a photo now.

I never buy much Spanish food in the uk, but you can get the same ali olli in Morrisons as I get in our local supermercado, and this week Aldi were selling a leg of jamon Serrano plus knife for £39 - did anyone get one.

We have to travel a few miles to the outskirts of Leeds when in the UK for anything like authentic Spanish food - El Bareto. I like it because the staff are Spanish, and they even have Spanish TV on in the bar - plus it's crowded and noisy, just like our local bar in Spain. I like some dishes but not others, but that's the same when we're in Spain, the same dishes vary from place to place and we've had both disgusting and fantastic food in the same town.

Having had countless paellas in Spain mostly fantastic (but once it looked like they used paprika instead of saffron) my advice would be to avoid paella in the UK if you don't want to be disappointed. The only exception I can remember was when they were doing a outdoor Spanish tourist promotional day in Leeds city centre. It was one of those huge ones ten feet across and was spot on. they also gave out glossy booklets of less tousity areas of spain and consequently we're doing a road trip around Spain next year, taking in Galicia, Asturia etc etc and really looking forward to it.

Julian De La Mancha and Proud adopted London son said:
11 August 2015 @ 12:39

Actually there are many good tapas places and Spanish restaurants in London now. Moaning about not getting a proper Paella. The worst paella's I've had was in Valencia. So what? Plenty of terrible Spanish grub all over Spain. As for the chap claiming the Brits no nothing of Haute Causine, what a load of bollocks. As if Migas and Paella is Haute Cuisine. If there are terrible places, simple. Don't go. There are lots of wonderful Spanish eateries now, especially in the capital. Want one suggestion? El Ganso in Broadway Market, Hackney. Try it. And no, I dont work there or own the place.

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