Zahara de los Atunes is a tiny village on the southernmost stretch of the Costa de la Luz of the Cádiz province. If you can find it, then you will also find the most beautiful beaches you can imagine, bathed in the sun and cooled by the breeze. In the municipal center Barbate the most valuable fish in the world is still caught, a great deal of it will catch the next plane to gourmet sushi restaurants in Tokyo, but thanks to higher forces that some of it stays here and enriches the local bars and restaurants. If Hemingway were still alive he would probably have participated both in the catching and the eating.
You get chopsticks if you like
La Taberna de el Campero is a branch of restaurant El Campero of Barbate and found right in the small center of Zahara del Atunes. Here chef Julio Vázquez lets the tuna fish, or Atún Rojo Salvaje de Almadraba (to call him by his full name) play the main role. The interior is in aquarium blue colours, table cloths have tuna motifs, and on the menu that’s written on the wall there are tuna dishes, traditional and original, such as Tartar de Atún Rojo (where they use the ‘cola blanca’, the lower part of the tail, in front of the fin), Surtido de Crudos de Atún Rojo (tuna sashimi, tartar and tataki), Lasaña Fría de Atún (cold tuna lasagne) and Albóndiga de Atún (Spanish meatball, made with tuna), just to name a few. Two people, two nights, we were able to see the tuna from many sides and taste types of tuna fish meat we didn’t know existed.
(Here is a clip from the facebook page where you can see their own sushi specialist Jun prepare an interpretation of a Japanese dish.)
Big surprise, they have a special focus on natural wines!, and that must be the main reason that we came back. The selection was not very big, only one page. But it was ecclectic, and the rest of the wine list wasn’t bad either. Among the whites were La Mar Salada, from Nieva in the Segovia part of Rueda, and almost local wines such as Lagar de Ambrosio from Olvera in the Cádiz mountains. I have written about Rafa Bernabé here in an earlier post. Here is a wine from one of his collegues from Alicante, Bodegas La Encina (from the village of the same name, bordering La Mancha). This is a fresh and delicious un-oaked white called El Juncar from varieties forcallat blanca, tortosina and macabeo and now in the 2014 vintage. This is a good, healthy and naturally made alternative to Castillo de San Diego and other VT Cádiz wines from the sherry houses more likely to be found here.
El Juncar, white natural wine
And among the reds were Casar de Valdaiga, oak-aged mencía from Bierzo, Duende, a syrah from Granada, Pésico, a wine from the unlikely area of Cangas de Narcea (Asturias), made from the still more unlikely grape varieties of albarín tinto, carrasquín, red verdejo (!) and mencía. All of these were only sold in whole bottles, so we had to be very selective (we can hope that people will find out that these wines are more than merely funny names from funny places, so that the restaurant can find it worthwhile to serve them by the glass next time). One of our whole bottle reds was Viña Almate (Alfredo Maestro), a tempranillo roble from the banks of the river Duratón that runs into the town of Peñafiel (in the heart of Ribera del Duero). I have been an admirer of this wine since I tasted it together with its maker a few months ago. It has a very direct, fruity, flowery and spicy character, and it’s mouthfilling and with a seductive acid freshness.
Viña Almate, red natural wine
Zahara de los Atunes is a small oasis along the coast of the light. Yes, it’s small, but you have Tarifa and Morocco within reach, so is Cádiz, the sherry district and Sevilla. But you have also interesting historic places such as the Cabo de Trafalgar, the town of Medina Sidinia, reminiscants of the romans… Atlantis may have been here, certainly Tartessos. And apart from the obvious advantages of the beaches and the sunsets, places like the Taberna de el Campero make it even worth to stay in the village for a while.
Sunset in Zahara de los Atunes