Lunch on a Friday at Venta El Caseron, Los Badalejos : tel. 629886151 – Pedro
Directions on leaving from Dar Cilla, Tarifa:
My suggestion would be to leave at 10 a.m. and go down the hill to the traffic lights, turn right and head along the main street of Tarifa to the end where this road joins the N.340 and turn left in the direction of Cadiz. Shortly after this you see on your right the breakfast bar/shop called WET. It is easy to park here and enjoy a leisurely breakfast in their well appointed garden. Leaving there around 11.15, drive on in the direction of Cadiz. After about 40 minutes you pass signs for Vejer (the white mountain village which I assume you have already visited) and just after the petrol station on your right, you see the turning for Medina Sidonia. You are on the A 396. After about 2 kms you see a sign pointing left to Los Parralejos. Do NOT take this, but remember where this is for later (see further in this article).
About one km further you see a turning right to Benalup (via Las Lomas, and Cantarranas) the A 2228. Take this and drive on to Benalup (where you just may have played golf in the preceding days). It is a very pleasant road, bordered nearly all the way by umbrella pines. At Benalup follow the signs round the roundabout direction to Medina Sidonia. You are now on the CA211. You will pass Venta El Rosario on your right, and therefore know that about one km further round a number of bends you see a lot of trees on your left – drive slowly as the sign for Venta El Casaron on your left is not immediately visible.
There is plenty of parking. Venta El Casaron is only open for lunch on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. We were there on a Friday end May, but my guess is that it will be very full of the local population on Saturdays and Sundays. It will also be pretty hot in the summer months, so I would recommend this outing between mid-September and mid-June.
The owners, Enrique, and Pedro, are quite charming. Enrique speaks very good English, and has relinquished his career as a marine engineer to lead a less stressful life running this small venta. Wise man! Pedro took us out to see his vegetable garden where he had just planted rows of red pepper plants. The huge fig tree offered shade. The small (seedless, he told me) grapes were hanging thick from an overhead trellis. The plum tree was heavy with small fruit . Then Pedro opened a small window in the wall and I could put my hand in and take out a warm, newly laid egg from under the chicken - which I later enjoyed with chips and vegetables (the egg, not the chicken!). He showed me with pride the rest of his chickens, his cow, his horse, his donkey and its baby. A lovely, homely small-holding. He told me the village is very peaceful, far enough away from the coast not to have problems with drugs/drug dealers, and there is no theft.
My friend and I sat at one of small tables with a brightly printed, flowered plastic table cloth and pale blue chairs. Nearby was a very long table obviously ready for a large Spanish family. We ate what he recommended, each plate put in the middle so we could share it. The empanadillas de crema de bacalao (crispy pastry ‘packets’ filled with creamed codfish) were unusual and delicious. The calabecin relleno (stuffed courgettes) were delicious – but of course the most special was the fried egg which had only been laid half an hour earlier. The dessert – empanadilla de manzana, apple tart, was sophisticated, very light pastry casing. The coffee I would give a miss another time. Quite apart from the food, all made from his own garden and farmyard produce, it was the authentic atmosphere with Spanish music (not too loud) and the friendliness of our hosts that made this a very special outing. His young son waited on us at table with a captivating, shy smile. When we left, my friend and I were both given six newly laid eggs. So special.
After lunch we continued on the CA211 until we came to the turning to Vejer, and we were back on our original road. Nearing Vejer you again see the sign (now to your right) for Los Parralejos – this is one of the most delightful small roads that I know, showing you the very best and most typical of the Andalusian countryside. Rolling hills with (end May) newly cut corn, lovely wild flowers in the verges. Last year in June the fields were ablaze with sunflowers – this year (2013) there is not a sunflower too be seen – I do not know whether this is a question of crop rotation, I must find out.
As you are at this very moment reading this blog on my website I am assuming you have booked (or will enjoy to book) your onward stay for 2/3 nights at the really beautifully restored country retreat which is on your right just after a few roadside houses (Los Parralejos). English owned, it is the epitome of elegance, charm and luxury with beautiful gardens, a lovely pool, a shaded porch, and the rooms (suites) are sophisticatedly-simple. They occasionally serve lunch and dinner even if you are not staying there (we can always enquire for you) unless, of course, they are hosting a wedding – what an idyllic location it is for such an event!. If you want to know more, call Maria (620 705 973) or send her an e mail (firstname.lastname@example.org) – she can always book for you , or you can book yourselves. After the simple, authentic Spanish charm of El Caseron, the contrast with the European sophistication of this hotel couldn’t be greater, and it just this contrast which made our day so very special.