When in Cadiz – no fuss rules!
I have a confession – For many years, I had heard about, read about and had seen with my own eyes, the popularity of the fish and seafood “Marisqueria/Freidura” eateries in Cadiz province. I learnt that fried fish is the speciality of Cadiz, but even so, it took me a long time to venture into one….
At this point, I must say that it’s difficult to think of a British equivalent. (I’m not even certain they exist in other regions of Spain – I have certainly not encountered one).
The Marisqueria/Freidura is usually to be found in coastal areas and serves fresh seafood (generally simply boiled/steamed) and deep fried fish/seafood of many varieties. No fuss, seems to be the general rule. No individual printed menus. Instead, they are generally written on a white board, with prices/availability depending on the catch of the day. There is little concern for décor and furnishings. Coffee or dessert is rarely served and generally, they only serve local wine, ice cold Cruzcampo beer and Manzanilla sherry to drink (what more could you possibly want?)
So, the reason that I stayed away (too long) from the favourite food of my adopted province was because I had never been a fan of battered, deep fried fish. Well, I’m happy to report that this is anything but the heavy, oil ridden cod portions of my childhood. The fried fish has the merest flour dusting and is quickly fried in the freshest of oil.
What I love most about some of these places (my favourite being the Fishing cooperative in Rota), is the fact the catch is landed right by your side in the port. Local people come to buy fish to take home for lunch. Also, the fishermen hang out there too – so its got to be good, right?
You walk into a shop and order by weight. you leave your name and your order for fried seafood You leave with your fresh mariscos (seafood) wrapped in paper, having left your name and your order for fried seafood. Go to the bar. Grab a beer/manzanilla and take a seat. Open up your paper directly on the table and tuck in (no cutlery or accompaniments here!). All waste goes into a washing up bowl provided on your table.
Minutes later your name will be called over the loudspeaker, telling you your freshly fried hake/cuttlefish/dogfish/anchovies etc, etc are ready for collection. You then repeat the process, grab a beer, open up the paper, tuck in! Like I say, no fuss rules!!
Now, I’m not sure if there is a rule about this, but my tip is to start with cold fresh seafood, then move onto the fried varieties. The fresh seafood is fairly straightforward to order, as it is often on display. I would always start with a “quarto”, a quarter of a kilo and see how you go…
There will be many varieties of fish that defy translation or counterpart, so I think you really need to dive in. The prices are very reasonable as this is food for everyone.
My tip would be to order a “surtido”. This is a selection of all the varieties of fried fish on offer that day. Its meant for sharing and is very reasonably priced.
The rule of thumb, as with most things in Cadiz province (where English is not widely spoken), is be friendly and openminded. Be willing to try new varieties of fish you will not be disappointed and may find a new favourite!