This simple but hugely flavoursome dish is available as a tapa in most of Jerez’s sherry bars (tabancos). The kidneys – usually those of veal or lamb – are flash fried in garlic, olive oil, onion and sweet pepper, before being doused in water and a little sherry, which gives the sauce a pleasantly acidic kick. Best enjoyed with chunks of crispy bread to soak up the sauce and, of course, a glass of the local Tio Pepe fino (dry white sherry).
Jerez, like every other major city in southern Spain, has put its own stamp on rabo de toro (stewed bull’s tail). The chunks of tail are cooked for at least three hours in water and sherry – in some recipes it’s a dark, sweet oloroso, while others favour a drier version – along with red pepper, onion, celery and garlic (elsewhere in Andalusia red wine replaces the sherry). The resulting meat is so tender that it dissolves in your mouth.
Located as it is just 20km (12 miles) from the stunning Cádiz coastline, Jerez abounds in fresh fish and seafood. Particularly good here are the bluefin tuna, which are netted on their way from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean between February and July. It’s an ancient method of fishing known as “Almadraba”, from the Arabic meaning “a place to strike”. You can marvel at the tuna in its rawest state in the wonderful central market or enjoy it as a main course in the city’s seafood restaurants.
Don’t leave Jerez without propping up the bar in a tabanco while snacking on prawns and sipping dry white sherry. Any bar worth its salt (quite literally) will serve big, juicy prawns (gambas) or langoustines as a tapa or as a sharing platter; often brought in from the Cádiz coast on the morning they were caught, they are grilled (a la plancha), sprinkled with rock salt, drizzled in fresh lemon juice and served with big wedges of bread. The compulsory accompaniment is a glass of chilled Tio Pepe.
Tortillas de Camarones (shrimp fritters) are thought to have originated in the city of Cádiz, which lies a half-hour drive south of Jerez, and use a tiny species of shrimp that’s hard to find outside of Andalusia. The miniscule shellfish are added whole to a batter of wheat flour, chickpea flour, water, onions, and seasoning, which is then fried on both sides in generous amounts of olive oil. These delightful fritters make for a great light snack when sightseeing in Jerez.
Rings of fried calamar (squid) is a popular dish all over Andalusia but, again, is particularly good in Jerez because of the freshness of the seafood. The rings are coated in a light flour batter and deep-fried in olive oil until crispy. They are then simply served with bread – yes, Spaniards like their carbs – and a juicy wedge of lemon with which to garnish them. A glass of cool white wine, an ice-cold beer, or a fino, will elevate them to another level.
Literally “hot garlic”, this cheap and filling country dish used to be eaten by land workers as they harvested grapes for Jerez’s most sought-after export. Breadcrumbs are added to mashed up tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, all of which is then covered with boiling water and (optionally) garnished with slices of chorizo and hard-boiled egg. It’s simple, rustic fare that will keep you going for hours. Don’t try to kiss anyone after eating it, though.
Another must-try tapa when in Jerez is boquerones (anchovies). Fresh from the Cádiz coast, they can be enjoyed raw, in which case they’re coated in a dressing of sherry vinegar (naturally), garlic and olive oil; or else they’re fried in a salted flour batter and drizzled with fresh lime or lemon juice. Although small, the fish are quite meaty and make for a great tapa or light lunch, especially when partnered with white wine or fino.
Pork is a popular meat in Spain, with chunky medallions of tenderloin (lomo or solomillo) featuring on many a tapas menu. In Jerez, this tender cut is cooked in a decadent sauce of oloroso sherry, butter, garlic and onions, and usually served with crispy fries and the obligatory hunks of bread. Lomo al Jerez goes well with a glass of full-bodied red or an oloroso sherry.
You might not be able to eat it, but we couldn’t publish an article on must-try cuisine in Jerez without mentioning the tipple for which the city is famous. The locally made sherries range from dry white fino to dark, sweet Pedro Ximenez (read all about the different types here) and can be enjoyed on their own or with the dishes mentioned above. You may also like to take a tour of Jerez’s best bodegas to learn the secrets of sherry production.