VEJER - THE DINING ROOM OF THE COSTA DE LA LUZ
by Annie Manson
Eateries in village of Vejer
One of the most unexpected thrills of Vejer for a first time visitor is the huge number of eateries hidden away in the beautiful Pueblo Blanco. Then a further surprise is that it is almost impossible to eat badly in this gastronomic paradise. Vejer doesn't rely just on summer tourists - there are the regular visitors. If the food isn't good, the restaurant will close.
One would be forgiven for the thought of twin towning Vejer in Cádiz, Spain with Ludlow in Shropshire, UK. Both are out of the way places, off the gourmet map. But interestingly, both have a plethora of spectacularly good eating places which makes Vejer a fab weekend getaway for the food minded.
What has made Vejer this very special little foodie Meca? People would come here anyway because of Vejer's bewitching charm and the proximity to some of the best beaches in the world. However, the culinary adventure in town is such an incredibly easy and happy experience for visitors. Vejer is surrounded by some of the best ingredients in the world. For example, Sherry, fish and salt.
The Vejer restaurant scene is totally in tune with these ingredients. Just about every bar and restaurant offers Jamón, sliced in front of you - a copa of Sherry in one hand and a sliver of divine Jamón wrapped around a pico in the other. Then there's yummy chocos, tuna and boquerones. The vegetable gardens of Conil, offering the very best lettuces and tomatoes you could possibly wish for. The prized Cerdo Iberico being offered simply - Presa a la plancha for example - with nothing apart from salt and a squeeze of freshly picked lemon added to detract from the natural flavour if this unique acorn infused pork. The exceptional Retinto beef too. These ingredients make their way into the hands of skilled chefs here, many of whom have absorbed their skills in their family kitchen. Almost all restaurants and bars here are family run. Chefs who believe that less is more and that the perfection of such wonderful local ingredients should be allowed to speak for themselves.
Dining in Vejer can be one long tapas crawl. It really is possible to have dinner by popping into your favourite place for your favourite dish. And then onto the next, for another. There are too many great places in town to suggest a route. Here are my suggestions but you will need a few days to complete the course
Garimba Sur (+34 956 455 302) on Plaza de España offers delicious local food when you look beyond the Bresse pigeon & Wagyu beef which now appear on their menu. The decor is striking - stunning wooden fixtures and brightly painted old Andaluz tiles. It even offers >Vermouth (typical drink of Madrid) as well as a great wine list. A fabulous stop for Arroz Negro. However, don't expect to sit here and enjoy an early evening drink whilst wistfully overlooking the Plaza de España. Tables during summer are for diners only.
Open every day & evening during summer months from 12.30.
Closed November-mid February.
Next door is one of the longest standing restaurants in town. Owned by motorcycling fanatic Pedro, Restaurante Trafalgar (+34 956 447 638) with great local food including the best Rabo de Toro (oxtail) I have ever tasted. Check out their spectacular Revuelto de Morcilla (scrambled eggs with black pudding).
Next door is their baby Trafalgar Tapas. A tapa of outstanding Atun Rojo Escabeche. Alongside a copa of ice cold Fino, it doesn't get much better than this.
Both open every day & evening from 13.00 for majority of the year.
Closed from mid December-February.
Next door to which is Bar Peneque (+34 956 450 209). I love this place for simple tapas of Atun Encebollada. Chocosfritos too are always perfection. A great place to sit under the orange trees sipping on your coffee or copa. It's great for breakfast too.
Closed Sundays all year round except August.
Open every other day & evening from 06.00 for a great local breakfast.
On the other side of the street shines the jewel of Vejer, El Jardín del Califa (+34 956 451 706) It remains one of the most popular and consistently fabulous dining spots in town. Reservations are essential. From June onwards, if you don't have a reservation, you just need to will someone to cancel. Their Moroccan inspired kitchen and BBQ consistently produces wonderful delights. The traditional Meze platter is delicious and hasn't changed for years and if it did - I'd be complaining for sure to owners James & Regli. During the evenings and weekends, their BBQ list offers Secreto Iberico which, although not Moroccan, is a must. On their wine list you will find the house wine Cortijo de Jara - a fab local red from Jerez. Next door to the main entrance is Califa Express which is often frequented by me for takeaways of my favourite hummus, babaganoush & falafel.
El Jardín open for lunch 13.00 to 16.00 and for dinner from 19.30 to 23.00 every day. / Closed for 4 weeks in Jan & Feb. Califa Express open every day from Easter till Nov from 12.00-20.00.