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The Joy of Tapas: Hosting an Elegant Spanish Small Plate Party

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16 May 2023

Reading Time: 4 minutes

If you’re not flying over to Spain this year, then it’s easy enough to bring a slice of it into our own living rooms. Tapas is a quintessential part of Spanish cuisine, and the next hot topic of your social calendar. If you’re looking for a sophisticated and chic way to entertain friends and family, hosting a tapas party may be just the thing. The small plates of Spanish cuisine are perfect for sharing and provide a wide variety of flavours and textures that will tantalise the taste buds. 

The History of Tapas 

First, let’s talk about what tapas are and how they originated. Tapas are small plates of food that are commonly served in bars and restaurants throughout Spain. They can range from simple dishes like marinated olives and almonds to more elaborate creations like grilled octopus and Spanish-style meatballs. The tradition of tapas is thought to have originated in the south of Spain, where bar owners would place small plates of food on top of drinks to keep the flies away. Over time, the tradition evolved into a social practice, with friends and family sharing small plates of food while enjoying a drink.

Bringing Tapas Home

Now, let’s dive into the details of hosting a tapas party. The first step is to plan your menu. You’ll want to choose a variety of dishes that showcase different flavours and textures. Start with some simple dishes like garlic shrimp or roasted red peppers, then move on to heartier options like chorizo in red wine or patatas bravas (potatoes with spicy tomato sauce). Make sure to include some vegetarian options like grilled asparagus or stuffed mushrooms.


Presentation is key when it comes to serving tapas. Use small, elegant plates and bowls to showcase each dish. Arrange them in a visually appealing way, with contrasting colors and textures. You can also label each dish with a small card or tag to help guests identify what they’re eating. Consider incorporating some Spanish-themed decorations like colorful textiles or rustic pottery to add to the ambiance.


When it comes to drinks, Spanish wines are an obvious choice, but don’t be afraid to mix it up with some Spanish-style cocktails like a classic gin and tonic or a sherry cobbler. Sangria is also a refreshing and fruity option that pairs well with many tapas dishes.


Ambiance is an important factor for any party, and a tapas party is no exception. Set the mood with dim lighting and candles to create a warm, intimate setting. Some of my favourite music is Spanish Street Sounds on Spotify – this creates a wonderful ambiance. 

Here are my three favourite tapas menu items: 

Gambas al Ajillo (Garlic Shrimp)

  • Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat
  • Add peeled and deveined shrimp and cook until lightly browned and cooked through
  • Add minced garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook until fragrant
  • Squeeze lemon juice over the shrimp and sprinkle with chopped parsley
  • Serve with crusty bread for dipping in the garlicky oil

Albóndigas (Spanish Meatballs)

  • Mix together ground beef or pork with breadcrumbs, an egg, minced garlic, and chopped parsley
  • Roll into small meatballs and brown them in olive oil in a skillet
  • Remove the meatballs from the skillet and set aside
  • Add diced onions, garlic, and bell peppers to the skillet and sauté until tender
  • Add a can of crushed tomatoes, a splash of red wine, and season with salt, pepper, and paprika
  • Return the meatballs to the skillet and simmer until the sauce has thickened and the meatballs are cooked through
  • Serve hot, garnished with more chopped parsley.

Croquetas de Jamón (Ham Croquettes)

  • Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat
  • Add flour and whisk until it forms a paste
  • Gradually add milk and whisk until the mixture thickens
  • Stir in diced ham and grated cheese
  • Chill the mixture, then form into small croquettes
  • Roll the croquettes in breadcrumbs and fry until golden brown
  • Serve hot, garnished with lemon wedges

Tapas are a perfect choice for a sophisticated and elegant party. With the selection of small plates, an elegant presentation and refined atmosphere, you’ll be providing your guests with a memorable and unique experience that they’ll be talking about for weeks to come.

Related article: From Garden to Table: Elevating Your Dining Experience with Seasonal Ingredients

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