The restaurant is spoken of in hushed tones among Spanish food lovers, and by Japanese who make the pilgrimage to dine on the tuna for which the restaurant is renowned. Barbate is within easy driving distance of Zahara de los Atunes, and of Vejer, the area where I was based during this March trip. The town itself is workaday and unremarkable, but it does offer some excellent shopping for conservas (tinned, in this case, seafood) and vacuum packed items like smoked tuna and bottarga. (During the Franco dictatorship, it was known as Barbate de Franco, due to the Generallismo’s preference for spending time there during the warmer months. (In 1998 the name was shortened to “Barbate.”
I enjoyed a brief visit to the small market, and a longer visit to the shop of Gadira nearby; Gadira is among the top names in conservas and the shop sells a spectaular assortment of tuna: Almost very part of the fish has been tinned for sale here. Staff is more than welcoming and a visits offers a prime education into the various tuna cuts, a good preparation for lunch or dinner at EL CAMPERO, located a few blocks away.
Example of the kindness in general of the Anddaluz; I had parked close to the market, and the GADIRA shop, and so arrived at EL CAMPERO with a basket filled to the brim with cans of various tuna parts, and vacuumed packs of bottarga and smoked tuna slices. When I finished lunch and was ready to depart for the walk back to my car, laden with the heavy basket, the staff would not hear of me walking those few blocks with such a hefty basket of treasures. NO!! We will send someone to carry the basket; a lady such as yourself cannot carry such a heavy basket yourself. It is hot outside and you may get lost. And so they did! Happily, I was able to find my rental car, the basket was placed in the trunk, and I was off…to return for a second lunch a few days later.
Now comes the difficult part, trying to post the photos!
The GADIRA shop, near the public market:
Various vacuum packed tuna products; I bought a half dozen of the smoked tuna:
El Campero has both formal dining room(s) and a front bar where I like to sit (high tables). In season one needs to book in advance, and during the almadraba (the tuna run, May and June) the town bursts with visitors. I was not in town at that time but if you are, I believe it is possible to hire a place on a boat to see the activity. Almadraba (note the “Al,” signifying Arab origin; the name itself derives from the Arabic "a place to hit and fight) has taken place for thousands of years since at least Phoenician times, as the fattened tuna swim through the nearby Straits of Gibraltar. Today the actual almadraba system of net fishing takes place along the coast of Cadiz province In Conil de la Frontera, Zahara de los Atunes (Zahara of the tuna), Tarifa, and Barbate.
There are many restaurants where one can sample the treasures of the catch, the most famous of these, of course, is EL CAMPERO.
Inside the bar area of EL CAMPERO, at my favorite table, with my favorite white Rioja:
Part of long menu showing red tuna from the almadraba:
Complimentary tuna lasagna with won ton wrapping:
Tuna sashimi, my favorite dish, posted earlier, I think, but to be sure, here it is; contender for my multi-course “last meal on earth.”
My neighbors at table were having these tuna meatballs with “spicy tomato sauce,” and I just could not miss…it looked so delicious, and it was!
Tuna “Facera,” the gelatinous membrane below the eyes of the fish…incredible flavor…I wish I could remember the sauce; will look at notes and try to elaborate later
The empty plate tells the story:
Salazon de Ijar de atun; waiter cautioned me that this might be too strong-tasting for me, and it was, indeed, not my favorite; it is a cured (salazon) part of the tuna sitting on a bao bun. Happy to sample but the waiter was correct!
And no meal in Cadiz is complete without my favorite: Clams!
These photos were taken during two lunches at the restaurant, both times seated in the front bar area. I hope to return next March!