An introduction to the gastronomical delights of Vejer de la Frontera
Sometimes you need to call on the expert knowledge of a local to be able to fully explore and absorb the true nature of somewhere. This time we’re introducing you to Annie, originally from Scotland but now firmly part of her adopted community of Vejer de la Frontera – so much so that she was awarded honorary citizenship of the town by its mayor. Annie runs Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen from her beautiful home in the town, offering cooking classes, sherry tours and culinary trips. We asked her to share some of her thoughts on making the most of this foodie Mecca, her favourite dishes and places to eat in and around Vejer de la Frontera.
Where to buy the best local produce near Vejer de la Frontera
Welcome to delicious Vejer and all its fabulous local fresh fish, seafood, fruits, vegetables and meats. But often overlooked is the wonderful array of preserved food of which this area is a master. To the uninitiated (me when I first arrived here) these unknown jars, tins and packets may seem quite daunting but once you start tasting, you can easily become hooked.
Prior to refrigeration, people here were preserving food using salt, air, olive oil and pork fat. A selection of these embutidos, salzones y conservas can easily be combined to produce one of the most memorable feasts ever.
Early on during your visit, I recommend you head to the Mercado de Abastos in Barbate (above). One of the only undeveloped mercados in the area. There you will find some of the best fish, fruit & vegetables in the province. For fish it’s open Tuesday – Saturday 8.30 – 14.00. For fruit & vegetables, Monday – Saturday 8.30 – 14.00.
Driving around to find parking can be tricky so just chill, you eventually will. Enjoy wandering around the mercado. Maybe pick up some fab looking tomatoes, parsley, lemon, blanched almonds & some garlic. There’s a great bread stall at the entrance to the market.
Head out of the market and along to the wonderful preserved tuna shop HERPAC on Calle Ancha. This is where you can buy things like Mojama (air dried tuna), Atun en Manteca Iberica (tuna preserved in Iberian pork fat), Mermelada de Espárragos (asparagus jam) and one definite recommendation of Don Bocarte Anchoas de Cantabrico (preserved anchovies from the north of Spain). They also stock some of the best quality tinned tuna in the world so snap some up for a tuna salad. They offer tins of different cuts of both yellow and blue fin tuna. Buy small tins of each and enjoy a tuna tasting.
Back in Vejer, head to Carnaceria Paco Melero, the butcher at Calle Juan Relinque. Try the Queso Payoyo, our wonderful local goats cheese – the semi curado or curado if you prefer stronger. His home-made salami (salchichon iberico) is amazing and I love the olives he sells like mojo picon or verdial partida.
Finally head up to Calle Alta on Calle Manuel Torres where you can buy your Manzanilla. They stock both La Gitana & La Guita. I love both. They also have fabulous local reds such as Garum and Etu. Also my favourite local white, Entrechuelos, fresh white unoaked Chardonnay.
Some of my favourite places to eat in Vejer de la Frontera
If you love food, Vejer is a perfect destination for you. For some time now it has been gaining the reputation of being THE foodie town on Costa de la Luz for both national and international travellers. There are an exceptional number of eateries and bars. Almost all are owner run and the standards are extremely high. This is a selection of some of my favourites.
For Morroccan and Iberian pork
El Jardín del Califa, (above) remains one of the most popular restaurants in Vejer and has been wowing everyone for years now. Reservations are essential. From June onwards, if you haven’t booked a table you’ll struggle to get in. During the evenings and weekends their BBQ list offers more local dishes such as Secreto Ibérico which, although not Moroccan, is a must. A superb wine list features noteworthy local wines from the province of Cadiz. I love the one Moroccan red wine on their list – Domaine Larroque. Next door to the main entrance is Califa Express which is my stop for takeaways of hummus, babaganoush and falafel.
El Jardín open every day and evening all summer. No BBQ at lunchtime Mon-Fri. Califa Express open everyday from Easter till Nov from 12.30-20.00.
Califavejer.com; +34 956 451 706. Plaza d’España
For Almadraba caught Blue Fin Tuna (atun rojo)
In the shadow of the church is Casa Varo, where Juan and his family run this popular dining spot with the support of Roberto in the kitchen. His Carpaccio de Atún de Almadraba (local tuna available all year round from a specialist supplier in Barbate) might just be one of the finest things you will eat in Vejer. From the Albóndigas de Chocos (cuttlefish balls), to fine cuts of Iberian pork via a slice or two of local Payoyo goat’s cheese, there’s almost nothing in here that I don’t love. This is one of the few places in town I recommend to eat the local Retinto entrecôte and solomillo. The wine selection’s also one of the best in Vejer.
Closed Tuesdays / Open every other day and evening from 12.30. Closed mid November – Easter
Casavaro.com; +34 956 447 734. Calle Ntra. Sra. de la Oliva, 9,
For local ingredients with a modern twist
At Corredera 55, everything is served in a stylish interior or great outdoor terrace, under the watchful eye of Ellie. A superbly creative menu using mostly locally sourced produce. I love their fabulous fish dishes, pork cheeks with cauliflower puree, beetroot risotto, oxtail croquetas and what has to be the best selection of desserts in Vejer.
Open every day and evening
Califavejer.com +34 956 451 848 Corredera 55
For great selection of Sherry, food and exceptional views
La Juderia boasts one of the best outdoor terraces in town with views across to Morocco. Mario is a Sherry nut and has the best selection of Sherry by the glass. His wine list is purely Andalucian. You can also buy wine to take away. His rice dishes are spectacular. As are his tuna with ajo blanco and tuna bao buns. But his goats cheese cheesecake with honey has to be the best dessert in Vejer.
Calle Juderia 3a, Tel 956 907 471/637 024 974
El Mercado San Francisco is a great little gourmet market that has been a huge local success since opening its doors in December 2013. A food market during the day and tapas hall at night with a selection of stalls such as Sushi Time offering fabulous sushi, tataki and sashimi using the local Almadraba caught tuna as well as homemade dumplings and miso soup. Carniceria Guillermo offers amazing carpaccio of local Retinto beef. Sliced from frozen and garnished with grated parmesan, olive oil, salt and lemon – this locally reared beef will melt in your mouth like butter. Pizzas and tacos are on offer too. A well stocked wine bar offers you plenty of local vinos to accompany. Buzzing all year round, this is a local hangout.
Plaza San Francisco; Open all year around 11.00-16.00 And then again 20.00 – 01.00.
But at the end of the day nothing beats being shown around by an expert so take a look at what’s on offer with Annie at her Annie B’s Spanish Kitchen.