The first thing to know about eating in Tarifa is that mealtimes here are later than anywhere else. Breakfast finishes at midday, lunch is from two till five and dinner doesn’t really begin till ten. When coming to Tarifa adjust your body clock, drop down a gear and prepare to spoil your stomach.
As with everything else in Tarifa, the choice of restaurants is varied. From traditional Spanish fare to French nouvelle cuisine, from beachfront to old town hideaway, from loud and busy bar to candlelit corner table, whatever your mood, Tarifa will serve up the best dish in an appropriate ambience.
Remember that although Tarifa has a uniquely cosmopolitan feel, you are in the heart of Andalucia, so there are many typical Spanish tapas bars and bodegas. These will be packed with locals most evenings and for good reason; the food is quality. If you want to taste the local flavours, pick any tapas bar around the old town, squeeze in and make a selection.
Despite the number of quality restaurants, some do stand out, such as Vaca Loca situated in the heart of the old town just off Calle San Francisco. The menu here is for meat-lovers and everything is prepared ‘a la plancha’ Argentinean style. Succulent steaks, juicy pork and flavoured chicken are all flame grilled and served on a chopping board with chips and salad piled high.
Meals here are made with hungry surfers in mind. The service is fast and the prices are friendly. Seating is outside all year round and Vaca Loca is always busy. You may have to wait for a table but it’s well worth it. Especially worthy of a mention is the Iberico Secreto, which means secret pork, but this is one dish that definitely shouldn’t be kept a secret because it’s delicious.
If you feel like something a bit more upmarket, head to La Paz on the far side of the old town. The menu here is a mix of international and experimental blends. The chef concentrates on quality rather than quantity. Although there are large tables outside, noticeable due to their bright blue colour, inside the atmosphere is distinctly exclusive. The owner also likes to promote local artists and original works of art adorns the interior stonewalls.
Perhaps it’s a special occasion that demands a restaurant where you can really feel spoilt. If so then the Hurricane Hotel is your only option. The dining area here, with tables placed outside and around the hotel pool, is straight out of a fairytale. Surrounded by tall hedges, just tall enough to provide total privacy but not so tall that they block out the stars. And with the sea waves crashing gently below, you might be tempted to a moonlight stroll on the beach after desert.
Also on the N340 is 100% Fun. The lush garden out front gives the place is fun Hawaiian feel which totally compliments the Mexican food fare. The restaurant here is spacious and perfect for large groups to chow down on nachos with dips, tortillas and chile con carne. 100% Fun is also popular for live music so chances are you’ll get to watch a great samba band after your meal.
If you fancy Spanish and beside the beach, then the best option is the restaurant at Torre de la Pena. Paella, swordfish and pork chops are the house specialities here while the service and décor are typically Andalucian, with one glaring addition, the sea. This restaurant sits on a pier right by the water’s side and seating is provided both in and outside.
Back in town, La Bodega near the local town hall serves specialities from all over Spain and in the summertime you can expect to be entertained by a Flamenco show. Or if you want to sample some typical Moroccan dishes, head to Suk and enjoy fluffy couscous or tasty Tagine.
With this variety of tastes on offer in Tarifa, the only thing you’ll hunger for is more!