You’ll be spoilt for choice when cruising the tapas bars of Tarifa, a town on Spain’s beautiful Costa de la Luz. To make ordering a little easier, read our selection of the must-try dishes in this trendy surfing destination.
Cádiz province is the tuna capital of Spain, and the bluefin variety (atún rojo) features heavily on most menus in Tarifa. Every year between April and June, the fish are caught off the Cádiz coast using the ancient “Almadraba” method, in which they’re netted as they cross from the Atlantic to the warmer Mediterranean waters to spawn. You’ll pay a little more for this world-class produce, but it’ll be worth it.
Staying with the fish theme (we are in Cádiz, after all), boquerónes, or anchovies, are a hugely popular tapa in Tarifa. These tasty little fish are served in one of two ways: raw, with a vinegar, garlic and olive oil dressing; or fried in a light batter and sprinkled with fresh lemon juice. Either way, they’re incredibly moreish and best accompanied by a cold caña (small beer), or a crisp glass of white white or fino (sherry).
Prominent as fish and seafood is on Tarifa’s menus, there are still some mean meat dishes to try, too. Chicharrón (pork belly) is a Cádiz speciality and makes for a great tapa: the meat is slow-roasted and chopped into bite-size chunks before being crisped-up in a frying pan and garnished with ground cumin and lemon juice. The flavour-packed result is best paired with a glass of good red.
A must-try in any coastal town on the Costa de la Luz is a plate of pescaíto frito (fried fish). Usually available as a tapa or a plato, it’s a delicious combination of fish and seafood that usually features prawns, squid, anchovies and chunks of cod, all of which are deep-fried then doused in salt and lemon juice. Larger portions make for fantastic sharing platters, especially when washed down with ice-cold beer.
Owing to Tarifa’s position at the junction of the Atlantic and Mediterranean oceans, the seafood here is some of the best quality in Spain, so don’t leave without trying the prawns and langoustines. Many tapas bars in the old town do a delicious langoustine salad, while the prawns are best enjoyed flash-fried with garlic, chilli and paprika (gambas al pil pil) or simply garnished with salt and lemon juice.
A must-try for carnivores visiting Tarifa is a fillet of Retinta beef. The meat is from the Retinta breed of cattle that live in the Sierra de Retin near Zahara de los Atunes (a village north of Tarifa that’s also home to one of Spain’s most stunning beaches) and is some of the highest quality in Europe. The animals are bred in vast pastures and graze solely on grass, acorns and herbs, giving their meat a tender texture and rich flavour.
Don’t be fooled by the name: these light seafood snacks are quite unlike the more substantial tortilla de patatas. They’re made from miniscule shrimps, which are mixed with a seasoned batter of chickpea flour, onion and parsley and flash-fried in olive oil. A tasty tapa to enjoy one of one Tarifa’s chilled, bohemian terraces, especially when paired with a caña or fino.