PRESS SECTION - The Daily Telegraph - Hot Nights In Seville

Author: Marcus Scriven

The Andalusian city offers a range of great hotels and now is the best time to visit them, says Marcus Scriven.

“Pepito de gambas!” the barman yells to someone behind him, spins a bottle of fino from a refrigerated chest, fills a glass, chalks 1.50 onto the bar, sweeps up an empty plate and re-engages in the three conversations claiming his attention. It’s 10.30 on a Thursday evening in Seville. Young and old cluster in bars, smiling, talking and sampling tapas. There is no hurry. There never is in Santa Cruz, the city’s old Jewish quarter, a place of enclosed balconies, imperious pediments, baroque churches and hidden palaces; and where pavements taper into invisibility as the streets kink first one way then the next.

A decade ago, when Santa Cruz district seemed to be slowly crumbling into dilapidation, victim of rent controls and the Code Napoleon (ensuring the repeated division of property with successive generations), Gonzálo del Rio, whose great-great grandfather founded the González Byass sherry dynasty, sensed an opportunity. After inspecting 47 houses in Santa Cruz, he found one which he thought would make the perfect small hotel. It would serve guests a serious breakfast and allow them to help themselves to drinks from an honesty bar but would not offer lunch or dinner, which could be taken at any of the scores of restaurants yards way. The formula is now much copied so these days there is abundant choice.

Casa 7 Hotel

Floors and stairs of white Spanish marble, spot-lit alcoves, silence; there are no televisions, clock radios or mini-bars at Hotel Casa 7, Gonzálo del Rio’s hotel, two of whose six classically furnished rooms open onto a strip of terrace, with a view of the Giralda, the cathedral’s 319ft high Moorish tower. Inside, it’s Dorothy L. Sawyers territory – somewhere Lord Peter Wimsey would surely stay – with claw-foot mahogany dining chairs, a French long-case clock, an heraldic banner or two and lift doors artfully disguised beneath murals of 18th century servants. The sitting room – bureaus, Bergére chairs, gilt framed oils – is crowded with black and white shots of Juan Carlos, the Duke of Edinburgh, and somebody called Miguel Portillo, photographed at the González Byass bodega in Jerez. Breakfast materialises in the dining room; scrambled eggs and bacon, limitless toast, fresh coffee and freshly squeezed orange juice are served by Luis, Hotel Casa 7’s white-gloved, Bolivian butler.

Calle Virgenes (0034 95 422 1581) ( B&B from €177.