Let's be honest: we like hustle and bustle. The good weather and tradition of cultural blending mean that the people of Murcia like going out, meeting people and enjoying a lively atmosphere. One of those meeting places are the bars, where you can enjoy a virtually endless variety of tapas.
Having a few beers while you chat about everything or nothing at all at the counter or on the sunny terrace of one of these temples of gastronomy is a pleasure. But add a few typical tapas from the Region and we're talking pure delight.
Flavours of sea, field and countryside combine and are scaled down to reach your mouth in a couple of bites. But be sure to have a napkin to hand and, if you're still hungry, say to the waiter:
"Otra ronda - Another round, please!"
Reading the menu at a Murcian bar or restaurant can be disconcerting to say the least for those from elsewhere, although, it must be said, deliciously disconcerting. You could subject your waiter to a thorough interrogation, go "eenie, meenie, miney, moe...", or use our handy foodies' glossary; but don't worry, whatever you choose, it's sure to be a great choice.
WHAT CAN I EAT?
01 Berenjenas a la crema. This creamy dish that will melt in your mouth is definitely the "crème de la crème". Béchamel sauce, ham, prawns and aubergines.
02 Caballitos. Prawns in batter skewered on a toothpick. Squeeze a little lemon juice on them and you'll be taken for a local.
03 Ensalada cantonal. A smoked fish salad typical in Cartagena in which fish preserved using this ancient (and tasty) technique is the main ingredient. Salmon, cod and pomfret, with capers, onion and olive oil.
04 Ensalada murciana. Known in some parts as "mojete", this is the perfect combination between fresh and preserved, farm, field and sea. Peeled tomatoes from a can, hard-boiled egg, spring onions, olives and tuna. Ideal for summer.
05 Habas crudas con bonito. It's surprising and yet commonplace to see the people of Murcia shelling uncooked broad beans at the counter of a bar as if they were a rosary. Accompanied by salted tuna, the pleasure is double. Give it a try; tasty and entertaining.
06 Marinera. One of our Region's flagships. Russian salad on a bread-stick ring topped with an anchovy. If you prefer it without the anchovy, it's known as a "bicicleta". The trick is to eat it without destroying the whole thing.
07 Matrimonio. A love story between a salted and a pickled anchovy. All the flavour of the sea in a single mouthful.
08 Michirones. Beans served piping hot in an earthenware dish with paprika, pancetta, ham bone and chorizo... a great warmer-upper!
09 Patatas con ajo. As simple as it is tasty. A boiled or roast potato accompanied by a spoonful of "ajo", as alioli or garlic mayonnaise is known around here.
10 Perdices. Although the name says partridges, don't be fooled. These "garden birds" are quite simply lettuce hearts cut into halves or quarters and dressed with oil, vinegar, salt or a little paprika. A delicious surprise!
11 Pipirrana. Also made in other regions, but nowhere like ours: lettuce, tomato, peppers, cucumber and the essential company of tinned sardines or cod.
12 Pisto murciano. Made with fried peppers and aubergine with tomato. Eat it alone or with a piece of Spanish tortilla. Absolutely scrumptious!
13 Pulpo. Our octopuses are truly multi-faceted. One day they could be starring in a salad, the next solo, cooked on the grill. But if there is one dish in which this cephalopod really shines, it is baked octopus. A real award-winner!
14 Queso fresco plancha. Dieting is no excuse. Even the most figure-conscious can enjoy this tapa of grilled fresh cheese. Eating it on toasted bread with some tomato or "sobrasada" is optional.
15 Tomate "partío". Tomato cut into segments and seasoned. It can also be served with olives, capers, caper stems, anchovies in vinegar or tuna. In other words, with all the trimmings.
16 Tortillas. Omelette in many forms - with tiny fish on the coast or with broad beans or spring garlic just about anywhere in the Region - proof that as well as being tasty, eggs go with everything.
17 Verduras a la plancha. A rainbow of flavours from the market gardens of Murcia. Relish a colourful selection of our finest market vegetables cooked on the griddle. Flavour is not at odds with health; in this case they go together like love and marriage.
18 Zarangollo. Courgettes, onions and eggs scrambled up with olive oil. Eggs and veg come together with one common aim: to bring enjoyment to your taste buds.