Cádiz is a province right next door to Málaga, traditionally associated with wide dune beaches and famous surf spots like Tarifa. However, an equally important role in the area is played by the blue fin tuna, its ancient traditions, and the fact that this is the best tuna you will probably ever taste in your life.
Article by Anastasia Sukhanov
Situated on the pass before the Strait of Gibraltar, Cádiz is on the path of the tuna’s seasonal pilgrimage – the species prefer the balmy Mediterranean to harsh Atlantic waters for mating. For over 3,000 years, ever since the Phoenicians occupied these territories, passing shoals of tuna have been met with almadrabas, mazes of nets that are strategically placed to intercept the route of the tuna. This process is very important to the culture of the region, but it is also sustainable and highly regulated to ensure that smaller fish are not landed as well.
Tuna sourced because of seasonal almadraba fishing is of such high quality that the Japanese, the world’s largest tuna connoisseurs, are big fans. Around 80% of the tuna procured in Cádiz is exported to Japan – ready to be turned into sushi and other Asian delicacies. The remaining 20% is up for grabs at the many local restaurants, see our selection of the best below.
If you’re driving from Marbella, Tarifa should be the first stop on your tuna exploration route. For quality coffee, great breakfast, a selection of water sportswear and the who’s who of the local scene, head to Tarifa Power House Café. After exploring Tarifa’s old town, a long afternoon swim and kite-surf spotting, stroll down to Café del Mar Beach, an unpretentious spot that serves exquisite tuna dishes. Related to the party mecca of Tarifa’s main Café del Mar, the “beach” edition offers a contrasting ambience of softer music, outside seating and family (and dog!) friendliness. For a soft introduction, order their tuna-sprinkled gazpacho and tuna tataki. Perfect for a hot summer day!
ZAHARA DE LOS ATUNES
About a 40-minute drive from Tarifa, Zahara de los Atunes is the place where, back in Phoenician and Roman times, tuna caught elsewhere on the coast was processed and salted. The town is full of shops that sell a myriad of tuna-related T-shirt designs, local artists’ visual take on marine life, hand-made shell jewellery and many other souvenirs. For lunch or dinner, stop at Taberna TrasteO. Decorated as a very traditional Spanish tavern full of trinkets and old posters, TrasteO offers a menu that fuses local and Asian flavours in a perfect ode to tuna and fresh seafood in general. Accompanied by a great selection of craft beer and local wine, it’s easy to enjoy everything on it – from salmorejo to seafood tacos. Pro tip: finish if off with a mint sorbet that tastes like an entire field of mint stuffed into a bowl – it will instantly wake you up and get you ready for volume 2 of beach time!
Way before Franco made this town popular by spending several summer vacations there, Barbate was a strategic point for the ancient Roman fishing industry, its port serving as the main almadraba boat fathering point. Now, it’s home to El Campero, a restaurant with a Michelin recommendation status that is worth the wait – bookings should be made a month or two in advance, depending on the season. Although it offers casual outdoor seating and a large menu of seafood tapas and salads, it’s all about the tasting menu (make sure to select “indoor seating” when booking online). Served over a course of several hours are thirteen tuna dishes paired with wines of the region, guaranteed to send you into tuna heaven and gently bring you back with a light desert.
Book your tuna adventure now! https://www.restauranteelcampero.es
CAÑOS DE MECA
Finally, Caños de Meca, just east of the stunning Cape of Trafalgar lighthouse. Little known fact that sends us to London and the history of Trafalgar Square’s name: the 1805 naval Battle of Trafalgar, in which the Royal Navy commanded by Admiral Nelson defeated Napoleon’s combined Spanish and French fleet, took place just off the cape. It is worth staying around the lighthouse to explore the chiringuitos and watch the sun set right into the sea. However, the town itself is full of authentic restaurants, particularly La Breña, essentially a gastronomic hotel and La Pequeña Lulú both of which offer local cuisine.
ALMADRABA TUNA FESTIVAL
Another great way to experience the tuna traditions of Cádiz is by attending the annual Almadraba Tuna Festival, held in all the fishing villages in May and June. Timed to coincide with the natural tuna pilgrimage, it’s a full on experience: from witnessing the almadraba traps being set up and hearing fisherman banter to tasting the catch of the hour.