Restaurants we keep going back to

When we first moved to Andalucia we lived in Tarifa, a small fishing town located right at the southernmost tip of Spain where the mellow Med meets the roaring Atlantic and Europe literally comes nose to nose with Africa across the Straits of Gibraltar. It was the affection we had for this town itself which really brought us to Spain – we have been coming here for the last ten years – but a lack of affordable rental houses eventually drove us east and inland. We go back a lot though, as much as we can, and always leave feeling rejuvenated and rubbing our bellies.


There are tons of things to do in Tarifa which I hope to get to in future posts but on short nipping-back-for-the-weekend trips we only get to indulge the basics – soaking up as much beach time as we can and, por supuesto, eating.


Tarifa is a great place to eat out. It’s a bit pricier than your average Andalucian town but the quality and choice are miles ahead.

Tarifa’s really a unique spot. Due to the windy climate, it has been attracting an international hippy crowd of surfers (and more recently kitesurfers) since the 70s, many of whom have settled down and started businesses here. The wind also deters the bake-on-the-beach-for-a-week type tourist who tend to stick to the calmer beaches of the Costa del Sol.


It’s also got a real Moroccan feel, no surprise with Tangiers only 35 minutes across the Straits on the ferry. There’s a huge variety of restaurants, tapas bars, chiringuitos, cafes, take-out bocadillo shops and bakeries covering traditional Spanish and Moroccan cuisine as well as French, Argentinian, Italian and Indian amongst others. The great thing is that along with all the old reliables there’s always somewhere new to try out. I must have eaten out a hundred or more times in Tarifa at this stage and I still feel like I’ve only scraped the surface.

You know, although this post is about recommending restaurants in Tarifa, there’s a lot to be said for ignoring mine and everyone else’s recommendations and just heading out in to the night following your nose. It’s way more fun happening upon a culinary gem all on your own. A good rule of thumb is to look out for wherever the locals are eating. Also ignore anywhere with pictures on the menu, although there aren’t many of these type places in Tarifa. And don’t get caught out with the Spanish meal timetable – breakfast finishes at midday, lunch is from 2pm to 4 and dinner doesn’t really take off until 10pm (although restaurants start opening for dinner about 8pm).

But if you really want a little nudge in the right direction, here’s my unmissables. Prepare to spoil your stomach. Buen proveche!

The best of Tarifa restaurants (so far…)

los melli

Los Melli

Calle Guzman El Bueno, 16
This used to be easily the best tapas bar in town. Until Bar El Otro Melli opened on Plaza Saint Martin. Los Melli in Spanish means “the twins”. The non-identical twin brothers running Los Melli either had a massive falling out or decided they were on to such a good thing that they should open another place. Who knows… either way the happy result is that there are now two of these wonderful eateries to choose from.

Bar el otro Melli

Despite doubling their capacity, both places still manage to be full pretty much permanently in high season and it can be hard to get a table. It’s worth the wait though. Or you can always order and stand at the bar.

I hate to gush but everything I’ve ever ordered here has been superb. Actually no, one time I had a prawns pil pil that was a little dry and overcooked. Barring those prawns, it’s been 100% satisfaction for as long as I’ve been going there. At Los Melli I love the revueltos (eggs scrambled with ham and green beans), albondigas and patatas bravas. And at Bar El Otro Melli I’ll always order their very simple and very fresh house salad of tuna, tomatoes, onion, corn and lettuce, accompanied by either the divine solomillo de cerdo (pork fillet), the pimientos rellenos (red peppers filled with a bolognese sauce) or pulpo (octopus) a la gallega. Or something else.

Try anything. Try everything. Don’t miss this.

Currently ranked #15 of 114 restaurants in Tarifa on Tripadvisor

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

An ca curro

An ca Curro

Calle Moreno de Mora, 5

What I love about this place is its intimacy. The interior is very narrow with no tables, just high stools up to a wooden bar so in-depth discussions are inevitable. What I love even more though is their solomillo de cerdo (pork fillet). I first tasted this Spanish speciailty at ‘An ca Curro’ and I’ve never topped it elsewhere for quality. The owner takes his cerdo seriously – he’s from a famous Spanish family known for breeding Iberican black pigs. However el toro (the bull) rules at this establishment. Every inch of what there is of available space is adorned with toro-analia, from faded black-and-white photos and posters of historic bullfights to the obligatory stuffed head over the bar.

The other thing I always order is their signature tomato and roquefort salad and a bottle of the vino tinto de la casa (house red), which is so good and cheap that there’s no need to look any further. In summer, they put a few barrels and high stools out on the street and although it attracts a touristy crowd, you still feel like you’ve wandered off the beaten path. During the winter you’ll likely be the only out-of-towner in the place, so can benefit from the owner’s good humoured sociability and try and figure out what that glint in his eye is all about.

Currently ranked #15 of 114 restaurants in Tarifa on Tripadvisor

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

La Trattoria

La Trattoria

Paseo De La Alameda

A proper Italian restaurant, this is the second best place in Tarifa for pizza (after ‘Perbacca’). The Primavera or Gustosa are my personal favourites but they’re all excellent. The only time I’ve ever strayed from the pizza menu was for the slow oven cooked leg of lamb, which was divine – falling off the bone and almost intoxicatingly aromatic.

For starters there’s a delicious prawn and avocado salad with garlic oil and a good selection of deserts, the tiramisu being the standout choice; the chocolate mousse is fab too. If you’re a large party or have ordered more than a main course they’ll generally drop down limoncellos on the house after your meal. Always busy with on-the-ball waiters and a buzzy atmosphere.

Currently ranked #21 of 114 restaurants in Tarifa on Tripadvisor

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

vaca loca-600

Vaca Loca

Calle Cervantes, 6

When in Tarifa I try to take advantage of the huge variety and quality of fresh fish. However when it’s the flesh of a dead animal I’m craving this is the first place that now springs to mind. This place is for carnivores only and everything is prepared a la plancha Argentinean style. They serve beef, pork and chicken and that’s all mains – no starters, no postres, no messing.

We ate here for the first time on a trip to Tarifa two summers ago, and went back twice more in the five days we were there. Quite simply every morsel of food was delicious. Between us we ordered pretty much everything on the menu and there was 100% satisfaction all round.

I had the fillet steak. It can be difficult to get a good beef steak in this part of Spain (lack of grass) so when I do order it, it’s with low expectations. They went through the roof though when I saw the wooden platter heading towards me, with two generous cuts of succulent meat, tender, juicy and perfectly cooked with crispy homemade chips piled high and a proper tasty crunchy salad with creamy honey and mustard dressing. Smiling munching faces also on those who ordered the lamb chops, chicken fillets and the secreto iberico. Estupendo!

Currently ranked #6 of 114 restaurants in Tarifa on Tripadvisor

. . . . . . . . . . . . .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *