We’ve been visiting this venta – roadside restaurant – on the winding road up to Casares, for over a decade. When we first discovered it, we were living up in the campo near the postcard-perfect white village of Casares. Back then, this little one-room restaurant with its modern, plate glass windows overlooking the Andalucían countryside, was a family-run affair – with the enigmatic and wonderful Jésus (pictured above) at the helm. Local dishes were given the odd modern twist, and each meal would be finished with a tray of pacharán on the house. Slow-roasted meat, fresh fish, homemade chips cooked in olive oil, inventive salads: good, tasty, simple cooking.
It’s been a good few years since we were last at Venta Garcia – due to us moving away from this stunning part of the coast with very heavy hearts. Many of the memories we hold of our wonderful time living in Casares involve (albeit blurry) happy times at Venta Garcia eating great food and drinking carefully-chosen wine with friends and family, meeting new people, and chatting with other ex-pat locals. And always with Jésus charming each and every one of us.
The new-look Venta Garcia has something of the Balearics about it. The newly-refurbished outside space is stunning and very Ibiza – Jésus has a great eye for design and detail. Glassware is of a really great quality, as is the tableware. He loves restaurants and you can tell as soon as you walk into the place. And whilst it’s been given a very modern makeover, the menu still offers really good food at really good prices, including a menu del día for around 13 euros which includes three courses. Bonkersly good value.
With an emphasis on locally reared, grown and shot produce, plus the odd dish he’s ‘borrowed’ from other restaurants he loves, the menu is varied and pretty long – for once, don’t let that put you off. We ate nuggets of locally-caught hake, deep fried in the lightest of tempura-style batters, served with orange segments (pictured above). We weren’t sure how the flavour combinations would work, but they were spot on. Next came a slow-cooked and then grilled shoulder of goat (pictured below) on a bed of the home-cooked chips (those chips!). The meat slid from the bone. For pudding, like a cliché, I opted for the flan – I’ve had it many, many, many times before, and I know how good it is.
This is one of the most popular restaurants in the area (check out Arroyo Hondo and The Forge while you’re up there; reviews coming soon) – and for good reason. Even with the extra seating space outside, you’re going to need to book a table at the weekends, when the ex-pats arrive en-masse from Gibraltar, the coast and nearby ‘Telegraph Valley’. The atmosphere is infectious, the service faultless and the food is damn tasty. It’s pretty much everything you hope for in a local restaurant, with the added benefit of Jésus’s hospitality and styling details.
Venta Garcia, Ctra MA546, Casares
Tel: +34 952 894 191