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Barbate, sanlucar de barrameda, arcos de la frontera (report)

shipshape | Feb 21, 201602:39 AM

In between Malaga and Seville, we took a couple days to drive around the coast. It was a mixed bag, but there were a couple highlights.

EL CAMPERO (BARBATE)
This will be forever known to us as the Tuna Incident.

We'd made a special stop in Barbate just for lunch having read great things about El Campero's incredible sustainable tuna which is supposed to rival that of Japan in quality. Both the tapas and the restaurant side were still busy at 345pm, which was a great sign in an otherwise sleepy town during off-season. We went with the restaurant's full tuna tasting menu, which seemed like a great deal at 59 euros and a great way to sample all the specialty tuna cuts on offer.

I hate to say that we sincerely regretted the decision. The courses were so large (for a tasting menu of that size) and so many in number that by the end we felt literally sick to our stomachs. We actually had to encourage each other to try to get another bite down with each new course so we didn't embarrass ourselves or offend the kitchen. We nearly fainted when we thought had had all our tuna dishes already, and then the server set down our final, and biggest, tuna course yet. Dessert was truly a respite and even though it was just OK, we sincerely needed it to rid our mouths of the taste of all that tuna.

To be clear, I love seafood and the entire point of this trip to Andalucia was to eat a lot of it, and never in my life have I felt this way. Not only was the portioning and quantity of dishes off, but there were no respites or palate cleansers at all. It's a shame because some bites were really quite good, specifically the tail tartar in the sashimi course, a plate of three different grilled fillets, and a braised cheek dish. My partner thinks the cheek (the final tuna course) might even have been his favorite, but he could barely stomach it at that point in the meal.

Had we not gotten the tuna tasting, there's a chance we could have actually enjoyed the restaurant, but it's honestly hard for us to know for sure. Just a word of warning for anyone considering going out of their way to Barbate!

CASA BIGOTE (SANLUCAR DE BARRAMEDA)
I think during the high season this would probably be a really lively bar with lots of great seafood (which is what we had read about anyway). On the night we went, there were just a few locals at the bar because it was pretty cold out. After the dreaded Tuna Incident earlier in the day, we ate light—just a racion each of langoustines and clams. Both were fine, but I don't think we were seeing the restaurant in its best light.

CASA BALBINO (SANLUCAR DE BARRAMEDA)
Nice lunch consisting of tortillita de camerones (which is what they are most known for), rollitos of langoustine and eggplant, seafood croquettes, bocadillo, and eggplant stuffed with meat. Staff was very friendly.

BAR LA CARCEL (ARCOS DE LA FRONTERA)
This was definitely the sleeper hit of this leg of the trip. We weren't expecting too much as it seemed from TripAdvisor to be a bit of a tourist restaurant, but our hotel owner said it was also her favorite restaurant in town. Our favorite tapas were the pork cheek with apple compote, artichokes with jamon and pumpkin seeds, goat cheese with red pepper jam, and langoustines with zucchini cream. We also got bacon-wrapped langoustines, eggplant with honey and goat cheese, a spinach crepe, and tomato with anchovies. Everything was great and we ate way too much. An unexpected highlight of our trip.

LA CASA GRANDE (ARCOS DE LA FRONTERA)
A terrific and adorable B&B in a beautiful historic building with a breakfast service that was really lovely and plentiful. We'd definitely recommend it.

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