Tuck in to Europe’s tastiest weekends
Don’t stick to the set menu of established gastro-breaks this summer – follow our writers to the a classic foodie town…
Spain: Vejer de la Frontera
By rights, the cobbled alleys of Vejer de la Frontera should be empty, the corpulent inhabitants unable to leave their beds without the aid of a crane. Yet here they are, the young ones svelte and stylish, the oldies twinkly of eye and sprightly of foot, all thronging the restaurants and tapas bars of the most food-obsessed little town in Andalusia.
Vejer (say it ba-hair, clearing your throat on the h) is a whitewashed Moorish village perched on a crest five miles from the Atlantic. In the past decade, it has accumulated an unlikely concentration of spectacularly good eating places, with an influx of innovators doing extraordinary things.
Go trad for breakfast, though, at Morillo (Calle Nuestra Señora de la Oliva 4), an unreconstructed working- men’s caff. Order a tostada (80p) — a slice of toast supplied with olive oil and fresh puréed tomato — and cortado coffee, or make like the locals and knock back an aguardiente. They’ll tell you spirits in the morning are needed for good digestion. They believe it, too.
If you’re here to learn to cook Vejer-style, you’ll now head off for your one-day course with Annie B (£95, or stay for four nights from £550, B&B, including three classes and one dinner; 00 34-620 560649, anniebspain.com). For the rest of us, some shopping.
Drop by the Pasteleria Galvan bakery (Calle Altozano 1; 956 450158) for the town’s speciality, tortas vejeriegas — somewhere between a cake and a biscuit, they’re firm, subtle, moreish and suitcase-friendly. As is the chorizo at Carniceria Paco Melero (Calle Juan Relinque 22; 956 450304).
For lunch, head to the seaside. El Palmar is a laid-back resort strung out along a vast golden beach, dotted with restaurants and bars. It’s hard to have a bad meal, but the ortigas fritas, or deep-fried sea anemones, at Francisco Alferez, on the beach road (956 232861; £4 for a filling half-plate) stand out. Crunch in and savour the explosion of seasidey goo.
Back for a siesta. You’ll need it: Vejer’s dozens of tapas bars and restaurants await. For the rest, I’d recommend the tuna tartare with miso salad, mango, ice cream and wasabi (£14) at the posh La Vera Cruz (956 451683, restaurantelaveracruz.es), all slippery texture and sparkling flavours; the Moroccan-with-a-twist in a romantic town garden at El Jardin del Califa (956 447730, jardin.lacasadelcalifa.com; mains from £11); and the old-school La Bodeguita (Calle Marques de Tamaron; 956 451582), as much for the live music and matey vibe as the succulent pork cheek on couscous, which costs £2.
With everything, drink sherry. The varieties are complex, and Vejeriegas will bang on about them all evening. The finos are good, the olorosos better, the creams vile — this is all you need to know.
Stay at the labyrinthine Hotel La Casa del Califa (956 447730, lacasadelcalifa.com; doubles from £60, B&B), woven together from eight ancient houses. Or try the tiny, stylish Escondrijo (956 447438, escondrijo.com; doubles from £92, B&B), in a courtyard house dating from Moorish days. Fly to Gibraltar, 60 miles away, from Gatwick or Liverpool, with EasyJet (0843 104 5000, easyjet.co.uk), Monarch (0871 940 5040, monarch.co.uk) or BA (0844 493 0787, ba.com). Europcar (0871 384 1087, europcar.co.uk) has three days’ car hire from £92. Stephen Bleach.
Stephen Bleach travelled as a guest of Annie B and EasyJet and stayed at Hotel La Casa del Califa