Sanluqueños may have occasional hassles and worries, but you wouldn’t know it. The mood in the seaside town of Sanlúcar de Barrameda, north of Cádiz, seems to be one of euphoria, alegria. It probably has something to do with the sun and translucent light, and a lot to do with the local manzanilla Sherry. The city, also known for a popular king prawn, the Langostino from Sanlúcarwas named Capital of Gastronomy of Spain 2022.
This will come as no surprise to those who have long flocked to Sanlúcar for long, lazy weekend lunches. The beauty of the city is also uplifting. At its heart is the Plaza de Cabildo, with palm trees and a fountain surrounded by restaurants with tables and umbrellas. At the top of a steep hill, the Barrio Alto has churches (the 14th century Nuestra Señora de la O is austere and powerful), old bars, small palaces with gardens, bodegas behind the white walls of former convents and a solid castle – Castillo de Santiago. A short walk in the other direction are sandy beaches with moored dinghies and the fish restaurants of Bajo de Guia, their tables along the beach of the Guadalquivir estuary offering views of dragged fishing boats by seagulls, and the bulbous ferry lumbering towards the dunes and sand wilderness of the Unesco-listed Doñana Reserve.
The Portuguese Ferdinand Magellan and the unfortunately neglected Basque Juan Sebastián Elcano set out from Sanlucar in 1519 for the first circumnavigation of the globe. Only the latter survived to accomplish it, returning here with only 18 of the original 270 crew, 500 years ago in September.
Manzanilla, the salty, fino-like sherry, is aged exclusively in the cellars of Sanlucar. Visitors can learn about its history at the Manzanilla Interpretation Center; taste it in bodegas, including Delgado Zuleta, the oldest (1744), and Barbadillo, the largest; or inhale its aroma in this casual and elegant restaurant nestled in the bodega Hidalgo La Gitana.
Specializing in classics like meat and fish at the brazier (snapper is €19) and arroces, dry, creamy and fluffy rice dishes (€14 on average) elevated to sublime levels, this is a place to linger. A glass of La Gitana manzanilla on tap costs €2.10; other wines are available.
Fri-Sun 1-4 p.m., 8 p.m.-12 p.m.midnight. mon, wed & Game lunch only, entrebotasrestaurante.es
Waiters trot stacks of lace camarone tortillitas, crisp as cognac, through crowded outdoor tables. The tortillitas are hard to resist, despite all the little eyes. Those who know their almejas (clams) of their naughty (shells) can choose from the raw materials of the glass counter and eat inside, standing in front of a barrel.
The bar, founded in 1939, has a gloomy charm, its history told in the photographs of starlets, matadors, guitarists and sherry barons adorning the walls. A long menu of the best classic fish and seafood tapas (from €2.50) is served on the terrace. As the jamons hanging above the bar suggest, there are also meat options. Save space for ice cream at Helados Toni, a few doors down.
Open every day 12-4:30 p.m., 8 p.m.-12 p.m.midnight, casabalbino.es
Opening as wine despacho selling manzanilla to fishermen in the early 1950s, Bigote added dining rooms and became a showcase for their catch. Dogfish, cuttlefish, anchovies, sea bream, plaice and the famous Sanlúcar sole (acedia) come fried (from €15); snapper, bass, red mullet and a dozen other varieties are served grilled or cooked in salt (around €45 per kg). House specialities: tuna with Pedro Ximenéz sweet sherry (€18), cazuela de huevos a la marinera – egg and langostino stew (€15) – and sea bass eggs in olive oil (€40 per kg). The famous Sanlúcar langostinos are the stars, however. In the old bar, artifacts from the depths hang from the beams as well as fishing accessories, sherry is served straight from the barrel.
To open Mon-Sat 1pm-4pm, 8:30-11:30 p.m., restaurantecasabigote.com
Dona Calma Gastrobar
Three brothers, Gildo, Miguel and José Hidalgo Prat, opened this place five years ago to mix local produce with fusion cuisine to create a new generation of tapas. The shrimp and tuna tacos (€5.90) are a hit, so it looks like their mission has been accomplished. It’s a good place to sample some interesting twists – a salmorejo (cold soup) made with beets, cannelloni of pork cheeks or octopus empanadilla, but also to taste the pure and natural flavors of local tuna in the form of tartare (€14.50), tataki (€14.50) and jamón (€12.50). The setting at the base of a residential block isn’t flashy and balcony seating is limited, but it faces Playa de la Calzada. Veranillo de Santa Ana around the corner (C Manuel Hermosilla, 2) is the family’s second restaurant, offering a range of arroces in a converted cottage.
To open Fri & Sat 12.30pm-4pm, 8.30pm-12pmmidnight, seaGame & Sunday noon only,doñacalma.com
This friendly bar just behind the market specializes in, yes, toast. Manager José (Agui) Aguilar and his team concoct imaginative toppings that shouldn’t work but do – like lemon toast citric with guacamole, chicharrones (scrapings) and lime (€4), or pâté of smoked herring with onion and caramelized sugar (€3.50). More traditional Cadiz tapas are also available, from mojama (air-dried tuna) with local cheese, pork loin, black pudding and orza chorizo (kept in ceramic pots with spices and lard). A good selection of wines, a range of Estrella Galicia beers, a slightly eccentric Moorish facade, and stools for perching outside add to the appeal.
Open Tue.-Sat 12:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m., 8:30 p.m.-12 p.m.midnight. Sunshine lunch only, instagram.com/bartartessos
The atmospheric setting – in the 15th-century Posada del Palacio in Barrio Alto – an alluring patio and modern designer decor, bears similarities to Entrebotas (see above), and indeed, it’s the original, more formal and upscale two Sanluqueño gems led by chef José Luis Tallafigo. Fresh and light food, cooked to perfection, exquisitely presented and innovative, that’s what it’s all about.
Tallafigo works with greenery from navazo, vegetables grown in the brackish marshes of the Guadalquivir estuary, and the flavors are unique and unexpected. As a starter, sea urchin pâté served in its shell (€14) or snow peas with eel and amontillado sherry (€14.20), then butter beans, mantis shrimp and langoustine carpaccio. Carnivores will not miss the suckling pig with cauliflower cream and hazelnut butter (€24). Espejo also serves the most innovative G&T: gin jelly, lemon ice cream and tonic mousse (€6.60).
To open Fri & Sat 1pm-4.30pm, 8pm-12pmmidnight, Sun-Game lunch only, elespejo-sanlucar.es
Where to stay
Hotel Posada de Palacio (double room from just €60) is the original and atmospheric option. The building is fascinating, with its interior courtyards, old tiled floors, balconies and library. Many rooms are large, high-ceilinged, and furnished with antiques. It’s not lavish; the feeling of staying here is sometimes like being the guest of an eccentric and slightly indifferent host, but that’s unique (and convenient for El Espejo).
Hotel Barrameda (double from €49.50 room only) is calming, air conditioned and comfortable with trees in tubs and good service. It may lack local character, but it’s right next to Plaza de Cabildo and there are views of the square from most rooms.