Words by Amy & Dave Spanton
Images by Dave Spanton
We kicked off our tour of the Sherry region of Spain in Cadiz, which is on the southernmost province on the Iberian peninsula. Founded 3,000 years ago by the Phoenicians, Cádiz is the oldest city in Western Europe. It’s not a popular tourist destination; at first glance, you can see the wear and tear. Paint peels off the walls, and abandoned buildings on the shoreline are in disrepair. It’s a far cry from the pretty streets of Seville and Barcelona.
But what it lacks in sparkle, it makes up for in authenticity, history, and some of our favourite experiences in Spain. It’s also the place to get your seafood fix, with most restaurants heavily stacked with options, and of course, the central market where you can get piled high plates of everything from fresh oysters to mussels and prawns.
Taberna La Manzanilla
C. Feduchy, 19, 11005 Cádiz
If you want an education in sherry, this is the place to come to. We were only here for a few nights, but we visited multiple times and were graciously hosted by Pepe, who has no qualms about telling you what you should be drinking and in what order.
Taberna La Manzanilla, was founded back in the 1930s as the Cádiz outpost of a manzanilla sherry bodega (winery) from Sanlúcar de Barrameda. It really is the perfect place to enjoy a glass of manzanilla, amontillado, or even oloroso and is something akin to a library of sherry. Pepe will guide you through the menu, with sherry served at room temperature directly from the barrels that sit behind the bar. The barrels have never been emptied since the founding of the taberna. The manzanilla and a plate of jamon are the order of the day while Pepe tracks the bill in chalk on the dark wooden bar. Traditionally these sherry wine bars have also sold wine straight from the barrel in bottles to go, and La Manzanilla keeps this tradition alive, with prices listed by the litre.
We were also lucky enough to get a peek inside the secret sherry storage room at the back of the bar, where the family stores some of the oldest and most valuable sherries.
If you want an education in sherry, this is the place to come to. We were only here for a couple of nights, but we visited multiple times and were graciously hosted by Pepe, who has no qualms about telling you what you should be drinking and in what order.
C. Corralón de los Carros, 66, 11002 Cádiz, Spain
Stroll up close to opening time and there are queues every which way to get a seat at this brilliant taverna. On the night we were there, a whole crew from an SBS food tour were taking up half the bar. It really is a must-visit if you want to indulge in the full Spanish bar experience. Highlight dishes include the mojama (salt-cured tuna) and chicharrones (pork rind), all served on sheets of butcher’s paper and washed down with local sherry.
Like so many bars in Europe, the life of Manteca started as a local neighbourhood store. In the 1950s, it was converted into a tapas bar as clients made purchases and hung around to eat and drink in the store. The founder was a bullfighter, so the sport’s memorabilia covers the walls, including pictures of the iconic Pepe El Manteca himself.
Casa Manteca serves delicious papelones and portions of sliced charcuterie or cheese served on pieces of paper used to wrap cheese for sale. On the drinking front, you’re in sherry country, so make sure you have a glass of sherry or a local palomino wine from the extensive selection by the glass.
La Vermuteria Cadiz
Av. Ana de Viya, 19, 11009 Cádiz, Spain
We took the half-hour walk out of town to check out another ‘Vermuteria’, given that our bar is of the same name. Located near the Playa Victoria La Vermutería is a really traditional locals spot serving a traditional selection of tapa. It’s great to see the locals here daily drinking rosso vermouth on ice, a palo cortado sherry of a Cruzcampo beer.
Cádiz Mercado Central de Abastos (The Market in Cadiz)
Absolutely not to be missed, this is Spain’s oldest covered market that dates back to 1838. It’s been updated but the pillared exterior remains. Go there for groceries like fresh fish, meat, vegetables and fruit from the stalls. Or, like we did, shop your way around the ready-to-eat foods stalls showcasing Andalucian (and international) tapas – delicious salads, fresh mussels, fried pork – this place is packed and deserves its excellent reputation. Highlight salad (and something you will find on many menu) is the cold potato salad (Patatas Alinadas) with potato, tuna, Spanish onion and vinaigrette. Delicious and filling.
On the seafood front there is literally everything on offer, but one of the highlights that you don’t often see in Oz, were the Cañaillas which are cooked sea snails that are really popular in Andalucia and a salty little taste sensation.
Like elsewhere in Spain, Cádiz largely shuts down between
3 p.m. and 8 p.m. If you see a restaurant serving food during those dead hours, chances are high that it’s a tourist trap. Avoid it, and hold out until dinner.
For one of the best views of Cádiz, climb to the top of the Torre Tavira, one of the many watchtowers that dot the city.