Photos of Barbate, Spain's EL CAMPERO

I am unable to add these to the original post about eating in Cadiz province. I had a long post with captions but the reply would not post. So now attempting to begin a new thread and will focus only on one restaurant, the legendary EL CAMPERO, in the coastal town of Barbate. If I can post these, will add more:

Tuna sashimi at El Campero; best I’ve ever had, including in Tokyo (where I admit I did not have much raw fish, as partner does not eat it) (see pic below)

Now that I see that this posted, I will continue with more details about this restaurant. Little known in the US, it is legendary in Spain and, apparently, among Japanese tuna enthusiasts who make pilgrimages to eat here. The restaurant is known for serving every part of the “atun rojo de la almadraba,” from the brains and the heart to the tail.

I still do not understand why I am unable to add this to the original thread that I began in March 2023. I have soo many good shots of both El Campero and the also the meat temple, LA CASTILLERIA, outside the town of Vejer. I wrote a very long thread, added photos, and when I clicked “reply,” nothing happened. I am obviously a remedial computer student, but all was going so well, and now this… (???)


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!


Beautifully written description of the wonderful experience of dining at El Campero and great photos as well, Erica! We also enjoy much more dining at the bar, as the wait staff there guides us wisely.

While El Campero is little known in the US as you note, it’s a blue fin tuna lovers’ pilgrimage site in Spain as well as for Japanese almadraba fans.

El Campero just won the #125 slot on OAD Opinionated About Dining’s “150 Top European Restaurants for 2023”, announced at this evening’s award ceremony in Madrid.

This year there were many Spain restaurants that made the “Top 150 in Europe” list. I think I counted 43, including our favorite, Etxebarri (at #3). Your recent new Madrid favorite, La Tasquita de Enfrente, also made this list, as well as one of our Asturian favorites, Casa Marcial (#42).

More about the OAD awards later…

I fondly remember the cured tuna belly from a bar in Cadiz–putting this on my list! I have a lovely apartment picked out in Vejer for when we get back to the area.
I know you are fluent, how well would some one with lesser Spanish ability fare? The hubs and I adore crudo, but we would want to be able to select well.

I wouldn’t worry about your Spanish language skills at El Campero, as it now attracts a multi-national clientele.
As Erica notes, many Japanese diners, Germans who live part time in a colony at Conil de la Frontera, and now since it made the OAD’s “best 150 in Europe” list, it will attract more English speaking diners. They do have an English menu, but I haven’t seen it.
El Campero offers an exquisite wine list to boot.

Vejer is my very favorite pueblo blanco in all of Andalucía! It’s just pristine, cosmopolitan, with breathtaking views, an expansive beach at El Palmar, and this highly photogenic town has become a gourmet Mecca. Lots and lots to like in this area!

I would love someday to take the 4-night “Ultimate Almadraba Tour” package at AnnieB’s Kitchen, that includes cooking classes, a visit to the Barbate market, an early morning boat ride to witness the action and a multi-course dinner at El Campero plus Vejer lodging.

For anyone who would like to see this 3,000 year old fishing technique first-hand during the May-April season, Explore La Tierra does organize 1-day boat trips, departing from Vejer and going out to sea in Barbate.

Other local companies also offer this one day experience.

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